14 August 2022

How ‘smartphone scientists’ can help monitor coastal erosion

By Rebecca Hannant

East Riding Council has officially launched its Active Beacon project, inviting people to explore the coast and take pictures using a series of “photoposts”.

The scheme, supported by the University of Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute, seeks to understand and monitor coastal erosion. It is also linked to the Coastsnap project, a programme developed in Australia that uses citizen-submitted data to monitor how beaches and coastlines change over time.

In total, 26 posts have been placed around locations including Sewerby, Bempton, Hornsea, Withernsea and Spurn Point. Users are then encouraged to take photos and upload to social media using the hashtag name listed on each post.

The project also aims to get people exploring nature while actively improving their health and wellbeing. They are invited to travel to some or all of the points and walk in clusters on designated coastal paths. At each point, they are also encouraged to understand their environment and learn about the various habitats and how coastal erosion will affect the area.

From the photographs, researchers hope to understand how the environment is affected by seasonal changes, significant weather events and coastal erosion. The data will then be used to provide new insights on responses to changing weather and wave conditions and extreme storms. It will also be used educate schools, families and young people about the environment and its protection.

Councillor Jane Evison, portfolio holder for economic investment, growth, and tourism at East Riding Council, said: “During the pandemic our beautiful East Riding coastline became increasingly popular as residents and visitors to the area looked to increase their physical activity levels while taking in the breathtaking scenery.

“The Active Beacon photopost project looks to continue to promote this while also using the opportunity to monitor the serious issue of coastal erosion using the wooden art installations. I would encourage visitors to the coastline in the upcoming months to take part in the project and discover the stunning views on offer.”

Katie Parsons, lead researcher at the University of Hull, said: “These photopost installations along the East Riding coast combine getting outdoors with learning about our wider coastal environments and monitoring how they are changing over time.

“The project makes everyone with access to a smartphone a mini-scientist, collecting important data on coastal erosion processes through to the longer-term changes resulting from sea-level rise.”

The locations for each of the 26 posts can be found by using the what3words app or at visiteastyorkshire.co.uk.