CCU Marine Science Professor and His Students Using New Technology to Conduct Research on Area Beach Erosion

Staff Report

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Paul T. Gayes, Ph.D., a professor of marine science and executive director of the Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies at Coastal Carolina University, is using a new Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner to conduct research on long-term beach erosion and renourishment efforts. Ever since Hurricane Isaias moved through the area, he and his students have been using the scanner to study how the beaches in North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, and Garden City have been impacted.

The LiDAR scanner, which gathers 300,000 data points per second, delivers cutting-edge depth-sensing capabilities, enables detection of objects, and builds 3D maps of surroundings in near real-time.

“This technology is a huge improvement over traditional techniques, especially in looking at vulnerability to flooding and level of protection afforded by the existing dune structures,” said Gayes, who has been studying beach erosion along the Grand Strand for decades. “Besides the considerable improvement in utility and some very interesting science applications, several of my graduate students are getting valuable hands-on experience with this technology.”

“To give students the experience to work with such equipment really sets us up for good jobs and a good career,” said Christina Boyce, a coastal marine and wetlands studies graduate student.

According to Gayes, the LiDAR enhances the Burroughs & Chapin Center’s cutting-edge technology that is used for diverse applications such as coastal erosion/flood modeling, oyster reef restoration, and living shorelines applications. He says the center’s research programs continue to focus on better observing and measuring of storm processes. The results of these efforts are communicated to key decision makers in the disaster planning and management areas.

The center also is collaborating with Florida Atlantic University’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering to develop a warning system for more accurate and timely detection and forecasting of inland and coastal floods, under a variety of precipitation systems. The technology will enable local and state governments to more effectively plan and respond to storms.

Click here for LiDAR video

Video footage is available upon request. Send requests to