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Sophia Rosenberg

Graduate Student | Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering | North Carolina State University

2022 – 2023 Global Change Fellow

Statement of purpose:

My name is Sophia Rosenberg and I am currently on track to earn my Master of Science in Civil Engineering, specializing in coastal engineering. While I am currently studying to become an engineer, my undergraduate background is in environmental science and biological conservation. I hope to combine my two degrees going forward in my career, working as an engineer that specializes in nature-based shoreline protection strategies that contribute to resilient coastal communities under future climate change scenarios. I hope to have a hand in expanding natural solutions in shoreline protection projects, which help provide numerous benefits to the surrounding ecosystem, humans included!

What piqued my interest in my current graduate program was the opportunity to work on a long-term monitoring project that tracks shoreline erosion and dune morphology over time and its effect on the vulnerability of the NC 12 highway in the Outer Banks. Having spent every summer growing up visiting the Outer Banks, I was excited to work on a project I have a personal connection to. I love it because it’s an ever-evolving system and seeing how the barrier island and its dune system have changed over the lifetime of the project is interesting to see!

Description of research:

For my master’s thesis, I plan to further our understanding of how a new adaptation strategy by NCDOT will affect the future state of a section of barrier island within the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in Dare County, North Carolina. The NC12 highway is a critical transportation corridor for the communities on Hatteras Island, and has been identified as highly vulnerable to overwash and breaching events at several places along its extent on Pea Island. One particularly vulnerable section, located along a narrow stretch just north of the town of Rodanthe, is frequently overwashed during even small storms. Due to its high vulnerability status, NCDOT must frequently reconstruct the dunes bordering the road after storms pass through the area to protect access to the highway. To mitigate these issues, NCDOT is constructing a bridge that bypasses this section entirely. After completion of the bridge, NCDOT will remove approximately 2 miles of highway pavement that falls within the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, and halt further management of the dunes in the area. Using a 2D numerical modeling approach, I plan to model how the morphology of the area may respond in the future under hypothetical future storm conditions, without the presence of the road and frequent dune reconstruction. With a lack of constant human intervention, we expect to see increased overwash and a greater risk of breaching in the area, and a return of the island to a semi-natural state over time.

Contact Information:


Faculty Advisor:

Elizabeth Sciaudone (Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management, NCSU)