Checking Out SandSnap: ERDC's Crowdsourced Sand Grain Database

July 18, 2022

Join the SandSnap team next time you hit the beach!

On this episode, host's Peter Ravella and Tyler Buckingham welcome Dr. Brian McFall and Dr. Shelley Whitmeyer to the show to talk about SandSnap, a cool new citizen science tool that they developed to help advance the understanding of sand grain size along the American shoreline, and beyond. Geophysical coastal models rely on sand grain characteristics, which can vary significantly up and down the coast. By collecting images of beach sand (with a US coin for size reference), the SandSnap algorithm can provide nearly instantaneous grain size analysis. The image, its GPS location, and the corresponding grain size data are then saved in a publicly accessible database for modelers to use to better predict coastal processes. Brian and Shelley talk us through the creation of SandSnap (which began as an email authored by Shelley), how they are improving the accuracy of the system, and how broad public participation in SandSnap can help improve our scientific understanding of the Nation's coasts.

Brian McFall is a coastal engineer at the U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center (ERDC) with an expertise in wave mechanics and coastal morphological evolution.  While working for ERDC he has also created the Sediment Mobility Tool (SMT) which calculates how often sediment in a nearshore berm will be mobilized and where it is likely to go.

Shelley Whitmeyer is an assistant professor as James Madison University where she teaches coastal science.

It's a great show, only on ASPN!

Show Transcription
This transcription was generated by a computer. Please excuse any errors.
Peter Ravella & Tyler Buckingham

Peter and Tyler joined forces in 2015 and from the first meeting began discussing a project that would become Coastal News Today and the American Shoreline Podcast Network. At the time, Peter and Tyler were coastal consultants for Pete’s firm, PAR Consulting, LLC. In that role, they worked with coastal communities in Texas, Florida, and North Carolina, engaged in grant writing, coastal project development, shoreline erosion and land use planning, permitting, and financial planning for communities undertaking big beach restoration projects. Between and among their consulting tasks, they kept talking and kept building the idea of CNT & ASPN. In almost every arena they worked, public engagement played a central role. They spent thousands of hours talking with coastal stakeholders, like business owners, hotel operators, condo managers, watermen, property owners, enviros, surfers, and fishermen. They dived deep into the value, meaning, and responsibility for the American shoreline, segment-by-segment. Common threads emerged, themes were revealed, differences uncovered. There was a big conversation going on along the American shoreline! But, no place to have it. That's where CNT and ASPN were born.