Coastal erosion for 6-year-olds

Third-year Coastal Geomorphology students Peter Darvell, Lauren Campbell, Liesbeth Borburgh, Zane Panousley and Matthew Long have their work ‘judged’ by six-year-old guests Marley and Koa.

The science behind the likely battering facing Queensland’s beaches this summer might be beyond your average six-year-old, but a USC academic wants to ensure proposed solutions to coastal erosion are not.

USC Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography Dr Javier Leon has invited two Prep children to help him assess whether his Coastal Geomorphology students keep their science talk simple when they make presentations tomorrow on potential ways to protect the region’s beaches.

Dr Javier Leon said it was a fitting time for his students to be studying coastal erosion, as the current La Nina climate pattern looks set to bring more flooding, storms and cyclones.

“We have just come out of a very quiet time in terms of storms but now we are entering what is predicted to be a very active period,” Dr Leon said.

“More storm events will impact on coastal areas and, with steadily rising sea levels, extreme events that used to be rare are happening more frequently.”

Dr Leon said the aims of the undergraduate course were for students to better understand coastal hazards and to present possible long-term sustainable solutions.

“Unfortunately, coastal erosion and sea level rise is going to get worse and there will come a day when current solutions, such as coastal armouring or beach nourishment, won’t be suitable or cost-effective,” he said.

Dr Leon said his six-year-old son Koa and Koa’s friend Marley would be in the audience to help informally assess the university students’ presentations.

“One of the most important skills for scientists nowadays is how to communicate science to the general public who will be affected by the changes we know are happening,” he said.

“With the state of misinformation, mistrust and fake news going around, it is essential that true science can cut through.

“My students’ challenge will be to explain it so that a six-year-old can understand and want to be part of the solution.”

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