Coastal Engineering

Faculty Member: Dr. Jen Irish

We are motivated by the societal need to improve and protect coastal infrastructure from natural hazards such as hurricanes, Nor’easters, tsunamis, and long-term erosion. Nearly half of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast, with population growth in many cities. This coastal urbanization along with potential changes in storm climate and sea levels means that adaptive and sustainable engineering solutions must be sought to protect lives and livelihoods within the U.S. and abroad. Our research philosophy is to seek new scientific knowledge and engineering solutions to problems with high societal impacts using a combination of laboratory, field, and numerical methods. Our overarching research goal is to understand coastal dynamics to better predict risk to infrastructure by coastal hazards. We are engaged in research in the following theme areas:

  • Three-dimensional flow interaction with natural landscapes.
  • Impacts of climate variability, climate change, and sea-level rise at the coast.
  • Reliable coastal hazard probability and risk assessment.
Our research is highly interdisciplinary, intersecting with the geosciences, ecosystem sciences, and social sciences. Expected outcomes from our research include:
  • Improved coastal planning and management, to include infrastructure planning, land use planning, and damage reduction design.
  • Optimized design of sustainable flood and erosion protection, such as wetlands and beaches which promote ecosystem health while providing infrastructure safety.
  • Improved emergency warning, evacuation, and recovery operations.
Please visit www.coastal.cee.vt.edu for a full description of coastal hazards and engineering research and opportunities at Virginia Tech.
Damages on Tutuila, American Samoa following the 2009 tsunami (photo by Irish as part of the ASCE COPRI assessment team)

Damages on Tutuila, American Samoa following the 2009 tsunami (photo by Irish as part of the ASCE COPRI assessment team)