Mud and Sand

Last updated: 08 November 2011

In this week's programme Adam takes a closer look at two things we take for granted, yet they protect our coasts from erosion, prevent flooding and provide a hugely important habitat for wildlife: mud and sand.

Broadcast Tuesday 8th November at 7pm

Listen to the latest programme online

Ripple Tank, Bangor School of Ocean Sciences

Last week at Porthkerry in the Vale of Glamorgan, a landslip left part of a cliff scattered on the beach below and fifteen caravans suddenly found themselves teetering precipitously on the cliff-edge. The dramatic pictures on the news were a reminder that shorelines are dynamic, mobile places - and rising sea levels and major engineering projects could exacerbate that, making parts of our coastline as temporary as a sand castle on an incoming tide.

In this week's Science Café Adam Walton visits Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences where a team of scientists are trying to model how rising sea levels and human activities - for example a new generation of tidal energy turbines - could shift sand banks and mudflats and alter the shape of our coasts.

Dr. Jaco Baas

He meets Dr. Jaco Baas, Principal Investigator for COHBED, a major research project which is assessing how ripples are formed by the action of waves and tides on mud and sand. These can be the small ripples that we see on beaches when the tide goes out or sandbanks hundreds of metres long which help protect the coast from erosion by the sea.

Adam talks to Dr. Simon Neill about the effect of major engineering projects on the distribution of these protective sandbanks. Simon is currently developing a computer model of a proposed tidal power farm near the Skerries off the coast of Anglesey and he hopes that this model will show how the farm could affect the long-term distribution of sediment. And we meet Dr. Alan Davies, Professor of Physical Oceanography at Bangor. He leads COSTMO, the Coastal Sediment Transport Modelling Group and he discusses the implications of climate change and human activities on the mud- and sandbanks which are our natural coastal defences.

Dr. Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink at the Connecticut River

In today's programme we also cross the Atlantic to visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Science Cafe reporter Jeremy Grange talks to Dr. Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink about the Global Rivers Project which is looking into exactly what rivers are carrying to the sea. And he meets Dr. Paul Morris, a former student of Bangor's School of Ocean Sciences, who's investigating how all those minerals, nutrients and pollutants are transported across the oceans.


BBC News: Porthkerry Caravan Site Landslide

COHBED: Sticky Mud and Ripples

Tidal Energy Farms

Coastal Sediment Transport Modelling

WHOI Global Rivers Project

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