Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil & Environmental Engineering


Civil Engineering

Committee Director

Gangfeng Ma

Committee Member

Thomas Allen

Committee Member

Donna M. Bilkovic

Committee Member

Mudje Erten-Unal

Committee Member

Bret Webb


Living shorelines integrate structural and natural features to stabilize the shoreline, through reduction of erosion from the wave climate, while keeping the connectivity between land and aquatic ecosystems. With increasing sea levels, living shorelines have the potential to adapt to changing conditions when compared to armored shorelines due to maintaining a level of interconnectivity between land and water. However, to reduce the ecological tradeoffs associated with any type of shoreline erosion protection project that alters the natural state, the design should seek to minimize structural components to those necessary to provide the protection needed for upland habitat to survive erosive forces for the project design life. For this study, field data were collected at the Captain Sinclair Recreational Area marsh sill living shoreline project in southeastern Virginia. Wave data were collected along two profiles, one across a sill structure and one across a gap between two sills to analyze the wave attenuation properties of the structure and vegetation components of the living shoreline project. Following quantification of the wave attenuation services of this project, the data were used to calibrate a Non-hydrostatic WAVE model, NHWAVE, for additional numerical analysis regarding structure crest elevation and sea level rise. The study showed that the structure profile of the marsh sill design was quite effective at attenuating wave energy across the spectrum, with some frequencies better attenuated than other frequencies. The results of the numerical portion of the study revealed that NHWAVE was able to calibrate well with the landward and marsh gauges from the field study and show that the vegetation portion of the living shoreline design has a greater impact on wave energy attenuation than the crest height of the structure when the latter is reduced in elevation. The numerical modeling assessment also showed the capacity of the living shoreline to adapt to potential sea level rise scenarios for the next 30 years and still provide considerable wave attenuation services.


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