Coastal Geology of Cape Cod

Please answer the following essay questions and assemble your data analysis report following the instructions below. Submit your work as a single Word documentor PDF in an e-mail attachment. You will lose one letter grade for each day after the 6/5 deadline.  Prepare a single document, including within it all data plots, data tables, figures, and a reference list for any resources (internet, books, articles, etc.) that you consulted in preparing your report.Do not send separate documents, excel spreadsheets, etc.

You must compile everything into one Word document or PDF.

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Although fieldwork was a team effort,final write-ups must be your own, independent work.  Academic Integrity policies described in the Bentley Student Handbook (p. 59-69) apply, and you will be held accountable for violations. (

In addition to e-mailing your final report, you must also submit your field notes. You may drop off your notebook at my Bentley office/mailbox (Lewis 111 or 114 – Martha Keating, NAS Assistant), copy the pages from your notebook and send them, mail your entire notebook, or scan the pages and e-mail as a PDF (be sure to include all pages and make sure every page is readable). Whichever you do, be sure to keep a copy for yourself, in case the one you send gets lost in the mail. Remember – your field notes are worth 20% of your course grade, so don’t forget to send them! (Keeping a backup copy is your responsibility – We will not accept “lost in the mail” excuses.) You should mail your field notes to me at this address:

Field notebooks must be received in my mailbox (snail mail, drop-off, or scan &email) by

Wednesday, June 8th.

 Part 1.  Essay questions. You will need to use your field notes, textbook, and are encouraged to do additional research, if needed, to help answer the questions.

  1. In what ways do beaches change seasonally? How do they change in response to storms? What is longshore current, and what determines its strength and direction?
  1. We saw barrier beach inletsCoastguard Beach, Fort Hill Overlook, and at Chatham Lighthouse/Chatham Beach. You can also see them on maps and Google Earth views. Describe the ways that inlets change through time and the forces acting on them.  Provide one argument FOR and one argument AGAINST efforts to stabilize inlets in a preferred location.
  1. You observed and sketched groins in Nantucket Sound at Red River Beach inHarwich, MA. (a) What was the direction of the longshore current, as indicated by the sand accumulation against the groins?(b) What was the direction of the longshore current on the day we visited, as indicated by the approaching waves? (c)  Are those two indicators of longshore current consistent? If not, explain why they are inconsistent.


  1. Why does a single groin often lead to a series of groins along a stretch of beach?


  1. Why do you think we saw so many groins along beaches in Nantucket Sound, but none along the Atlantic coast?


  1. We saw a house that had been moved in order to prevent it from falling onto the beach at Ballston Beach (Atlantic side, Cape Cod National Seashore). Assuming it was allowed, would you recommend building a concrete wall along the base of the dunes to protect the house? Why or why not?


  1. What will Cape Cod look like in the year 2100, if sea-level rises 1-2 meters? What will Cape Cod look like in 500 years?  Describe the likely evolution of the Cape and identify the most likely location of the first natural water passage to cut across the entire Cape.


  1. In the early to mid-1900s salt marshes in coastal communities were commonly filled in to provide buildable land. Why was that a bad idea?  Describe the importance of salt marshes in coastal environments.


  1. What are the main sources of energy that do “work” in the coastal zone (see question 2)? How do these vary from the Atlantic (National Seashore), to Cape Cod Bay, to Nantucket Sound? Why are they different along each coastline?


Part 2.  Analysis of Cape Cod coastal field data.


Prepare a written report detailing the coastal field data that you collected during the field trip. Create the report as though you are a consulting scientist investigating the relationship between beach profiles, sediment origin and size characteristics, and coastal energy. Your report will be 5-10 written pages, plus figures, graphs, maps, data tables, and references. Be sure to cite any resources (internet, books, articles, etc.) that you consult in preparing your report.  Any citation format is okay, as long as it’s consistent.  Within the report, you should address the following topics:


  1. Plot beach profiles for the following beaches that you surveyed: Sandy Neck, First Encounter, Nauset, Coast Guard, Newcomb Hollow, Ballston, Race Point, Red River 1 & 2 (both sides of the groin) and West Dennis beaches. Be sure to label the axes (with units, as appropriate) and title each profile with the beach name and coastline (Cape Cod Bay, Atlantic Ocean, Nantucket Sound).You should format the axes so they have the same vertical and horizontal ranges (except for First Encounter Beach, which is so much wider than the others). Provide the Dateand GPS coordinates (if available) for each profile



  1. In a detailed report, describe the beach profiles (shape, width, steepness, etc.), sediment sources, coastal landforms, and coastal energy for the different beaches studied. Describe how coastal energy impacts the observed/measured characteristics of the beach profile. Discuss how those parameters compare among the different beaches and within the three main water bodies surrounding Cape Cod. Organize your report in three major sections, listed below. Within each section you should have sub-sections focusing on each beach studied.


Major sections:

  1. Cape Cod Bay
  2. Atlantic Ocean – Cape Cod National Seashore
  3. Nantucket Sound


Your report will be enhanced if you include maps showing the location of each site, data tables for profiles, location info, wave and tide info, and anything else that gives the reader information about your data set and analysis. The format and structure are up to you, but your grade will reflect the ultimate organization, readability, completeness, accuracy, and overall presentation of the information.


Reminder – your final report should have figures, graphs, tables embedded in the report. Do not submit separate Excel files for the data and graphs.


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