Williams Wins Coastal Scholar Award

Writer: Angel Futrell
Contact: Bill Gibbs, 979-777-0171, billgibbs@tamu.edu

10-2009-williams-sizedAmy Williams, has received the Coastal Scholar Award from the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). She is a doctoral student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at Texas A&M University.

The association presented the award to Williams earlier in October at its annual conference in St. Petersburg, Fla. The award recognizes Williams' research on the impact of coastal sand dune erosion as a result of Hurricane Ike.

As part of the award Williams was named chair of the association's Science and Technology committee. She will travel to Washington, D.C., to help develop several policy position papers with the association's Publication Committee.

The Coastal Award is the 12th award Williams has won in an academic career that has led her to national expert status on coastline conservation.

William's interest in coastal environments began early in her college career. As an undergraduate, Williams studied at the University of Queensland, Australia. She took Australia's marine environment course and earned her SCUBA diving certification.

"This experience changed my life," Williams said. After studying in Australia, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in coastal sciences.

Williams earned a bachelor of science degree in natural resource management with a minor in marine science from Rutgers University. While at Rutgers she also earned a certificate in environmental geomatics-the study of remote sensing and geographic information sensing technology and its application to environmental resource monitoring and management-and also obtained a New Jersey teaching certificate.

After teaching biology at a high school in New Jersey, she moved to College Station to begin her graduate education at Texas A&M. She earned a Master of Science degree in forestry in 2007. Her master's level research focused on the impacts of coastal raking of Sargassum, a type of seaweed. She also studied the potential for Sagassum to be used as a fertilizer on sand dunes.

According to Williams, the most exciting part of the ASBPA award will be the ability to network with other graduate students and help write technical reports as the chair of the Science and Technology Committee.

"I haven't really gotten the opportunity to meet students with the same interests as myself," Williams said. "I want to help them to get involved with the ASBPA, because it is a great organization."

In her doctoral work, under Dr. Rusty Feagin, visiting associate professor of coastal ecology, Williams is investigating the erosion impacts of Hurricane Ike on the dune system in Matagorda using ground-based LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).

"Ms. Williams' research on Sargassum "seaweed" management has helped coastal managers in Texas, and around the world, to develop methods for sustaining our beaches for both ecological and human uses," Feagin said. "Since beaches in the USA are worth over $320 billion a year in revenue to our communities, more than all national parks combined, it is a significant issue.

"Her work on barrier island sustainability is critical to understanding why these islands are rapidly eroding," he said. "The fact that the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association has found her work to be at the forefront of coastal policy-making is a credit to her dedication to these issues."

Williams has three published peer-reviewed articles in Shore and Beach and the Journal of Coastal Research. She has also written three technical reports for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Texas General Land Office.

Williams said she plans to move back to New Jersey after graduation and pursue an academic career, focusing on coastal resource management.

"I really like the teaching aspect and hands-on impact of research and field work," she said. "I would like to get a post-doctoral position and later a professorship."

The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association was founded in 1926 to create an organized effort to combat erosion, a serious problem in many coastal areas.

Photo: Joan Pope, left, presents the Coastal Scholar Award Amy Williams. Pope is a member of the ASBPA Board of Directors and is program director for civil works with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineering Research and Development Center.

About the writer:
Angel Futrell is a junior at Texas A&M University, majoring in agricultural communications. She is a student worker in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.