Dr. Norbert Psuty, Director  



National Park Service

Dr. Psuty's research is conducted primarily in the Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network (NCBN) within the National Park Service (NPS), under the Seamless Network initiative.

seamless network

Our team has been working with the National Park Service to monitor the shoreline of coastal areas within the park system. We have developed a shoreline monitoring protocol to be adapted by the NPS and by other agencies as well.

Shoreline & Sediment Volume Surveys

At several National Parks and Wildlife Refuges along the northeast coast, we collect topographical data using Trimble Real-Time Kinematic Global Positioning System (RTK GPS) equipment.

Our team is primarily responsible for gathering data at Gateway National Recreation, which spans 3 separate units in the New York Harbor area: Sandy Hook, Jamaica Bay, and Staten Island.

The three types of surveys we conduct throughout the year:

1D survey1-dimensional:
shoreline location
For 1-D surveys, we walk the wet-dry high tide line (swash line) to track the movement of the shoreline. We use a Trimble GeoXT GPS unit which collects a data point [X (latitude) and Y (longitude)] every 5 seconds.

2D survey2-dimensional:
dune/beach profile
For 2-D surveys we have a series of set profile lines which transect the shoreline. Using the Trimble RTK survey equipment, we walk each profile line, taking points every 5 meters. The RTK collects X, Y, and Z for each data point.

3D survey3-dimensional:
volume/sediment budget
3-D surveys are similar to 2-D surveys with the addition of several more profile lines. We have the RTK equipment take points every 7 seconds. This enables to us to have information on the sediment budget of the dunes. The wheel ensures that the height of the GPS is constant throughout the survey.

1-D Survey
Gateway National Recreation Area
: Jamaica Bay Unit
Plumb Beach, Brooklyn, NY

Erosion after a storm in October 2009
T. Silveira conducting a 1-dimensional survey to obtain the location of the location.
A graphic representation of the movement of the shoreline between Spring 2009 and Spring 2010.

1-D Survey
Gateway National Recreation Area
: Jamaica Bay Unit
Breezy Point/Riis Park, Brooklyn, NY

T. Silveira walking the "swash line" or high tide line for a 1-D survey.
A graphic representation of the movement of the shoreline between Spring 2008 and Spring 2009.

2-D Survey
Gateway National Recreation Area
: Staten Island Unit
Great Kills, Staten Island, NY

The pilings are the remains of a bathhouse that was washed away in the late 90s. The shoreline continues to erode several feet each year.

Great Kills Erosion
A park employee uses the RTK equipment to collect data that will help us determine the rate of erosion at the site near the old bathhouse.
Great Kills RTK survey


Other National Parks adapting our Shoreline Monitoring Protocol

Assateague Island
National Seashore, MD

The island, with sections managed by both NPS and FWS, is known for its herd of wild ponies that inhabit the beach.





A park employee conducts a 2-D survey nearby.

2D survey

Fire Island
National Seashore, NY

Areas of Fire Island have been heavily developed which prevents the dunes from evolving and migrating inward.

In the photo, we see that next to the house, the dune has migrated freely but where the house is, the dune is no longer functional.

Fire island house

Cape Cod
National Seashore, MA

Some of the dunes at Cape Cod are actively eroding.

cape cod


Management Applications

Our surveys and the information we collect from them help the park make decisions about structures that may be endangered by erosion and storm damage, as well as making use of beach nourishment projects.


Psuty, N.P., and T.M. Silveira, 2011. Monitoring Shoreline Change Along Assateague Barrier Island: The First Trend Report. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 64.

Psuty, N.P. and T.M. Silveira, 2011. Tracking Coastal Geomorphological Change: An Application of Protocols to Collect Geotemporal Data Sets at the National Level in the US. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue 64.

Psuty, N. P. and Silveira, T. M., 2009. Trend in foredune crestline displacement, Fire Island National Seashore, New York, USA, 1976-2005. Journal of Coastal Research, SI 56 (Proceedings of the 10th International Coastal Symposium), 15 – 19. Lisbon, Portugal, ISSN 0749-0258.

Shoreline Change Along Fire Island National Seashore: 2007-2008


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Last Updated: 7 January 2015
Original pages by Lindsay Modugno, Jeff Pace, and Dan Lidor.