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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., July 2, 2020—Rónadh Cox, Edward Brust Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Williams College, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The three-year, $340,000 grant will support her research on how boulder beaches respond to storms and how they change over time.
Boulder beaches record wave action on stormy coastlines, but surprisingly little is known about them. Cox’s NSF-funded project, titled “Boulder Beaches: The Understudied Archive on High-Energy Coasts,” aims to increase understanding of their dynamic evolution. The study focuses on 22 sites in Ireland, which has a wide range of boulder-beach settings, so that the results will be applicable to other locations world-wide. Using a combination of state-of-the-art aerial photogrammetry and hands-on field measurements, she will determine how factors such as wave energy, coastal geometry, topography, geology, and boulder sizes control beach morphologies. As the first multi-parametric study of boulder beaches and how it responds to storms, Cox’s project, which will engage students in every phase of the work, will be the most comprehensive examination yet undertaken of this dynamic and long-ignored environment.
“The moment is ripe, because as sea level rises and high-energy wave attack on coastal infrastructure becomes more frequent, there is a growing need for studies of high-energy coasts, both to understand coastal response to storms and coastal hazards, and also as a resource for engineers as they work to improve coastal protection approaches,” Cox said. “As the main depositional record of wave action on rocky coasts, boulder beaches should be playing a central part in this conversation, but the lack of data and understanding have prevented their integration into coastal geomorphologic thinking. I’m particularly excited to involve Williams students in this work, and I have an excellent rising senior, Aria Mason, who has already begun research on the project.”
Cox’s research interests include sedimentology, sedimentary petrology, geochronology and planetary geomorphology. At Williams since 1996, she has taught courses on oceanography, geochemistry, planetary geology, and earth resources, among other subjects. Her work has been widely published and cited. She received her B.Sc. from University College Dublin, Ireland, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s approximately 2,000 undergraduate students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. The college is also home to roughly 100 Master’s students enrolled in its renowned graduate programs in Development Economics and the History of Art (the latter offered in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute). Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.
Published July 2, 2020