September 19, 2016

Sandy Beach

Sandy Beach

The dynamic systems of the sandy beach community are constantly in flux. Climate change and associated alterations of beach ecology and geomorphology are studied through our classes, independent researchers, and capstone students. Through this research and education, we have been able to have a continually growing database of over 30 beaches across southern California.

Dr. Clare Steele and her students examine and identify sandy beach infauna in Conservation Biology.

El Matador beach, where students conduct bi-annual infauna surveys across the beaches of Southern California.

Students in Conservation Biology class go out to the beach to run sandy beach infauna transects.

Student Research Highlights

Alumni Tevin Schmitt

An Ecological Comparison of Southern California Sandy Beach Health

My capstone was focused on the invertebrate ecology and biodiversity of southern California beaches. I personally wanted to study California beach ecology because our coast is an important asset for the state’s economy and for its simple, aesthetic beauty. I chose to study beach invertebrates because they are easy to study, they are abundant, and they are a good indicator of beach health along our coast.  In order to study and compare different beaches along the southern California coast, I recorded different sources of anthropogenic stress and enumerated/identified beach invertebrates found along five transects of each beach. My study found that beach grooming, grading, and nourishment had significant negative impacts on invertebrate biodiversity. I also found that cyclical variation in climate (El Nino) causes a reduction in invertebrate populations. Understanding beach invertebrate ecology and impacts to coastal systems is essential for continuing the biological and aesthetic resources of California’s coast. Protected species rely on invertebrates for food during migration and breeding. The protection of these species provides an umbrella that protects vast areas of coastline from further development and degradation. The well-being of coastal ecosystems will allow future generations to continue to enjoy California’s iconic beaches.

Alumni Patrick Costa

Monitoring coastal erosion rates at Port Hueneme beach


Sand along a beach is a response to the equilibrium of longshore current accretion and erosion. Manmade structures, such as harbors, sand spits and jetties alter this equilibrium. Two harbors and a submarine canyon disrupt the equilibrium at Port Hueneme Beach, California, requiring biannual nourishment to sustain the presence of a sandy beach. In January 2015 the City of Port Hueneme dredged 1.72 million m³ (2.25 million yd³) of sand from Hollywood Beach to Port Hueneme Beach. I monitored the change of beach sand overtime. This research details an investigation of nourishment impacts and littoral drift rate at Port Hueneme Beach. Detailed measurements of shoreline tracks, profiles, sediment and photo comparisons were taken to analyze the rate of littoral drift. Swell direction and wave height were other accountable factors contributing to beach change. Biodiversity counts of sand-dwelling infauna were taken to address the impacts of nourishment to this beach’s ecology. My results show seasonal variation in littoral drift and a reasonable similarity to the predicted average annual littoral drift rate. I found nourishment did impact the heterogeneity of sand-dwelling infauna.