Scientists Trying to Preserve the Barrier Islands

The group of intellectuals headed to Horn Island to research the damage caused by hurricane Katrina.

Chief scientist of USM's Gulf coast Geospacial center in Ocean Springs, Gregory Carter says barrier islands' functions are extremely significant because they serve as just that a barrier.

"These barrier islands and barrier islands around the US are extraordinarily important. They do protect the mainland coast form the higher wave energies. They are also important in protecting bio diversity. They are important refuges for plants and animals," said Carter.

Hurricane Katrina dealt quite a blow to South Mississippi's barrier islands. William Smith who is a professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina says just about every aspect of these islands can help to ease the blow from hurricanes.

"There is an important role for example vegetation can play in stabilizing these islands and absorbing some of the energy of these storms," said Smith.

This group of researchers put together by the National Science Foundation are trying to figure out how barrier islands could be better managed to benefit humans, plants and animals.

"The ultimate goal is to provide in 5 years a sound scientific basis for the management of the barrier islands here and also around the United States," said Carter.

Carter describes the research process as painfully slow. So he is excited the planning process is finally getting off the ground just in the nick of time.

"Common sense tells you that the more frequent these storms are the worse off we are all going to be and certainly the worse off the barrier islands are going to be. These islands had quite a long time to recover after Hurricane Camille. Hopefully it will be at least that long or longer, if ever that we get another storm like Katrina," said Carter.

Carter says this research is monumental. There are numerous barrier islands that will benefit, off the coast of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Texas. The National Science Foundation funded this weekend's workshop.