Beaches on the Edge


Beaches on the Edge

Dr. Kiki Patsch and Dr. Stacey Anderson

Interdisciplinary RSCA Collaboration

Beaches on the Edge

Kiki Patsch, ESRM & Stacey Anderson, English

Project Description: California’s coast is under threat, with over 80% of our beaches actively eroding.  Although most beaches are naturally self-sustaining, coastal development, flood control, sand mining, and other human interference have limited the natural ability of beaches and other coastal ecosystems to adapt.  Climate change and sea level rise exacerbate the situation. Our beaches need to be prioritized and managed as an ecosystem, much like wetlands.   

California’s beaches are the engines of growth for our tourist economy (>$5 billion in revenue) and act as natural buffers to storm surges. Beaches also play an important role in terrestrial and marine nutrient cycling and are natural biological filters, detoxifying coastal waters. Beaches provide habitat for many of California’s imperiled and endemic plant and animal species including the Western Snowy Plover and the California Least Tern, and are important for the breeding, migrating, and wintering of many other animals. In addition, beaches provide benefits to our health and well-being, and are places of cultural and anthropological significance. There are many lenses we can look through when we think about how to place value on the beach.

The purpose of this project is to take an interdisciplinary look at how and why we value beaches across disciplines. Understanding and communicating the value of the beach from these different perspectives may help citizens understand the significance and prioritize preserving our sandy beach environments in the face of climate change, sea level rise and the coastal pinch of development. Beaches are not infrastructure that can be managed and engineered like roads; they are threatened ecosystems and must be valued, managed, and prioritized.

Drs. Patsch and Anderson plan to interview an interdisciplinary group of faculty as well as community members at CI in the FIT studio to glean their perspectives on the importance of the beach. These interviews will be edited and published on a website with the goal of communicating the value of sandy beaches in California to publicize the importance of prioritizing the preservations of these important ecosystems. Our website will be modeled after and aim to capture the attention of a diverse and interdisciplinary population as we all look at the beach through the lenses of our peers. 

This project will bridge the Digital Humanities with the realm of Coastal Sustainability, drawing upon our respective strengths and mutual passions.

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