Coastlines and People Research Coordination Network



Innovations in Nature-Based Systems for Coastal Protection

Hosted by Estuarine Coastlines and People (CoPe) Research Coordination Network

Join us for the Innovations in Nature-Based Systems for Coastal Protection web panel series that brings together distinguished panels of experts to discuss projects that are at the forefront of nature-based coastal hazard reduction systems in the U.S. and around the world. Scientists, engineers, and managers working on these projects will discuss successes and lessons learned, including their planning and implementation and engagement with the community.

Each session will include short presentations from the panelists followed by interactive discussions with attendees. Together, these panels provide a state-of-the-art review of nature-based approaches to bolster coastal resilience.

Hosted by the NSF-sponsored Coastlines and People (CoPe) Research Coordination Network. Contact Dr. Ming Li at, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory,  if you have any questions.

About the Series

Built infrastructure, such as sea walls, levees, and bulkheads, has long been used to reduce shoreline erosion and protect coastal properties from flood impacts, but these structures weaken with time and can result in habitat loss. Natural habitats, including wetlands, barrier islands, sea grasses, oyster reefs and mangroves, provide co-benefits of coastal protection and a variety of ecosystem services. However, there is neither a clear understanding of the capacity of natural habitats to withstand extreme events nor well-defined breakpoints at which natural habitats fail to provide coastal protection, both of which are needed to inform design criteria for restoration projects and their use in shoreline-stabilization strategies.

Recently, there is growing interest in innovative hybrid infrastructure design that capitalizes on the best characteristics of both built structures and natural habitats to bolster coastal resiliency, such as the European “Building with Nature” and the US Army Corps of Engineers’ “Engineering with Nature” approaches. For example, living shorelines, which incorporate salt marshes and other natural habitats to help stabilize shorelines, have demonstrated success at many local sites. The time is ripe to assess the feasibility and potential of using nature-based systems to provide large-scale protection of coastal communities and infrastructure.    

This web panel series brings together distinguished panels of experts to discuss projects that are at the forefront of nature-based coastal hazard reduction systems in the U.S. and around the world.

Organizing Committee: Cindy Palinkas, Michelle Hummel, Philip Orton, William Nardin, Ariana Sutton-Grier, Lora Harris, Matt Gray, Ming Li

Beach Replenishments in Sand Motor (Netherlands) 

October 8, 2020
View Recording Here



Moderator: William Nardin (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)


  • Matthieu de Schippers (TU – Delft), Assistant Professor, Hydraulic engineering and geoscience
  • Alexander van Oudenhoven (Leiden University), Assistant Professor, Ecology and ecosystem services
  • Marcel Taal (Deltares), Researcher and Project Manager, Coastal and estuarine policy and management
  • William Veatch (USACE), Hydrologist, Climate preparedness planning and adaptation

The Sand Motor is an innovative intervention to protect low-lying coastal zone from sea level rise impacts. It involved 21.5 million cubic meters of sand extracted ten kilometers offshore and deposited along the coast, to form a hook-shaped peninsula of 128 ha, including a dune lake and a lagoon. This ‘mega-nourishment’ follows the Building with Nature approach.

The amount of deposited sand acts as a buffer against sea level rise. The approach reduces the frequency of disturbances of local ecosystems caused by regular sand nourishment interventions, while also providing new areas for nature and new opportunity for recreational activities.

Since the construction of the Sand Motor in 2011, the sand has indeed spread along the coast, with coastal accretion both to the south and the north. The San Motor was designed to provide sand replenishment for the Delfland Coast for the next 20 years.

Wetland Restoration in San Francisco Bay

October 20, 2020
View Recording Here



Moderator: Cindy Palinkas (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)


  • Dave Halsing (California Coastal Conservancy), Executive Project Manager, South Bay Salt Ponds project
  • Donna Ball (San Francisco Estuary Institute), Lead scientist, South Bay Salt Ponds
  • Heidi Nutters (San Francisco Estuary Partnership), Environmental Planner, Leads the Wetland Regional Monitoring Program
  • Doug George (NOAA), Physical Scientist, Physical dynamics and geomorphology of San Francisco Bay restoration projects

South Bay Salt Ponds is the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the U.S. West Coast, integrating restoration with flood management. In so doing, it creates critical habitat for a variety of species and allows use by the public for outdoor activities and environmental education programs. When complete, the project will restore 15,100 acres of industrial salt ponds to a rich mosaic of tidal wetlands and other habitats. The San Francisco Estuary Partnership was created in 1988 by the state of California and the US EPA, involving local, state, and federal agencies, as well as NGOs, academics, and business leaders. Its work involves many multi-benefit projects that protect and restore the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary.

Living Breakwaters in New York Harbor

November 5, 2020
View Recording Here



Moderator: Philip Orton (Stevens Institute of Technology)


  • Kate Orff (Columbia University), Founding Principal of Scape Design and Professor at School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
  • Joseph Marrone (Arcadis), Associate Vice President/Area Lead, Urban and Coastal Resiliency
  • Kyle McKay (USACE), Research Civil Engineer at Engineer Research and Development Center.

Living Breakwaters is an innovative hybrid coastal green-grey infrastructure project that aims to increase physical, ecological, and social resilience. The project is located in the waters of Raritan Bay (Lower New York Harbor) along the shoreline of Tottenville and Conference House Park, from Wards Point in the southwest to Butler Manor Woods in the northeast. The project area is a shallow estuary that has historically supported commercial fisheries and shell fisheries. In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated Staten Island’s east and south shore neighborhoods.

The integrated purposes of the Living Breakwaters project are three-fold:

  • Risk Reduction: address both event-based and long-term shoreline erosion in order to preserve or increase beach width; attenuate storm waves to improve safety and prevent damage to buildings and infrastructure. 
  • Ecological Enhancement: Increase the diversity of aquatic habitats in the Lower New York Harbor / Raritan Bay (e.g., oyster reefs and fish and shellfish habitat), particularly rocky / hard structured habitat that can function much like the oyster reefs.  
  • Social Resiliency: Provide programming that builds a community around education on coastal resiliency and ecosystem stewardship; foster and encourage community stewardship and citizen science, and increase physical and visual access to the water’s edge and near-shore waters for recreation, education, and stewardship activities. 

Texas Coastal Spine in Houston/Galveston 

November 17, 2020
View Recording Here



Moderator: Michelle Hummel (University of Texas at Arlington)


  • Coraggio Maglio (USACE Galveston), Chief of Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch
  • Kelly Burks-Cope (USACE Galveston) Research Ecologist
  • Tony Williams (Texas General Land Office), Environmental Review Coordinator
  • Meri Davlasheridze (TAMU-Galveston), Assistant Professor at Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science 

The Texas Coastal Spine project includes the examination and feasibility analysis of storm surge risk-reduction measures for the Houston/Galveston Region, Matagorda, and South Padre Island. The project aims to minimize economic damage from coastal storm surge, inland and Gulf shoreline erosion, loss of threatened and endangered critical habitats, and disrupted hydrology. This will be accomplished through a multiple lines of defense strategy that combines structural, nature-based, and non-structural aspects to form resilient, redundant, robust, and adaptable strategies that promote life safety. The project also identifies nationally significant environmental restoration strategies along the entire Texas coast. These ecosystem restoration projects focus on restoring fish and wildlife habitat, improving hydrologic connectivity, creating and restoring oyster reefs, and implementing sediment management. The project is currently in the study phase, with a record of decision scheduled for 2021.