Contributions to Science & Engineering
Since its formation, the cornerstone of the FRF’s contribution to coastal research has been its long-term measurement and data collection program, that stretches back to 1977 and make the property the best studied beach in the world. The continuous record of wave, water levels, currents, beach topography, and nearshore water depths is the longest record in the world. The observation technologies have evolved through time and many state-of-the-art coastal instruments have been deployed and evaluated here using the FRF’s baseline data for comparison.
The facility is especially well known for hosting several of the large collaborative field experiments that shaped our early coastal engineering and science knowledge advancements. These large field experiments have taken place since the early 1980s (e.g. SUPERDUCK in 1986 or SANDYDUCK in 1997) and have brought together researchers from across government (investments from USACE, USGS, ONR, etc.), academia, and the globe to advance the state of coastal processes knowledge. In addition to contributing novel experimental results and coastal processes knowledge, these initiatives have provided coastal scientists and engineers with one-of-a-kind opportunities to actively share and implement ideas face-to-face, fostering collaboration, community, and scientific discovery. The facility has acted as a critical part of many different graduate students’ research studies and is frequented by field trips from nearby universities, helping to launch the careers of tomorrow’s coastal engineers, scientists, and managers.
Today’s collection of equipment showcases the diversity of coastal infrastructure that FRF staff have utilized, ranging from the specially designed Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB) to the video observation tower and directional wave arrays that continually monitoring the shoreline and surf zone. Today, the FRF continues to develop observation technology that improves our ability to measure coastal processes and morphology response. The variety of applications and challenges that this research has demanded of FRF staff have expanded the logistical experience and expertise of its staff in conducting research and development in the surf-zone. FRF staff pride themselves in being able to deploy instruments in precise locations and to design mounts in a way that ensures the instruments are recoverable and stable.
Between theses major experiments and the wide variety of the FRF’s other research activities, the FRF has played a significant role in advancing nearshore science. The broad variety of long-term monitoring and field experiments have allowed the scientific community to gain significant insight many different aspects of coastal phenomena. Open access to the FRF’s collection of datasets allows for many different uses and applications, expanding the study and use of the data far beyond its original collectors. Research by USACE staff, associated researchers, or engineers and scientists citing FRF data have covered topics ranging from sediment transport to the discovery of shear waves. As numerical models continue to grow in scale and scope, the FRF’s mission remains as critical as ever to underscoring coastal concepts and laying a foundation for model assessment.
These research successes all come with the goal of improving the approaches and technology employed by USACE as it tackles America’s different management challenges. FRF is an essentially proving ground for the instrumentation and software that different USACE districts go on to rely on. The FRF continues to evolve with changing technology and demands and its staff will continue to work hard to provide value to the nation in the years to come.
This history section has been principally based on "The Corps of Engineers' Field Research Facility: More Than Two Decades of Coastal Research" by William A. Birkemeier and K.Todd Holland, which contains more details and references for those who would like to learn more about the FRF’s history.