Coastal Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise

Thursday 3:40pm-4:00pm Weeks Geo: AB20
Teaching Demonstration

Session Chair

Shelley Whitmeyer, James Madison University


I would like explain the rational behind the development of the assignment, reviewing sea level rise and the Coastal Vulnerability Index. Then I would have the attendees complete the activity. I can bring iPads with me.


Over the next century sea level is likely to increase 26-82 cm (IPCC 2013). This increase in sea level will leave some highly populated, sensitive coastal areas vulnerable to rapid geologic changes. It is important for students to understand how these hazards can be evaluated. This activity guides students through an evaluation and comparison of two sites, Sand Ridge VA and Kennebunkport ME. The evaluation is structured after the Coastal Vulnerability Index published by the USGS. This structured analysis incorporates coastal slope, wave height, sea level rise, historical erosion rates, and geomorphology.

The data for this activity is shared with the students on iPads. Mobile technology is an easy way to share geospatial data with students. The technology is extremely easy for the students to use and presents minimal technical challenges. If iPads are not available for the class, students may use their smart phone. The ERSI app used to view the data is free and compatible with Apple or Android products. The data for this assignment is hosted on ArcGIS Online. This online map was created by the presenter for this activity and is publically available.


The target audience is undergraduate non-science majors. The activity has been used in an oceanography course. The activity could easily be adapted for geology majors or high school students.

Why It Works

This activity engages students with multiple authentic data sets. The students easily access all the data through an online map presented on a mobile device. Students are also challenged to determine the which parameters control the shoreline stability.