Manager Climate Corps
Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center

Quantifying historic and current shoreline change for selected priority areas on Hawaiʻi Island to determine appropriate shoreline setbacks in the face of rising sea levels

graduate student controls a drone lifting off to record coastal imagery
Drones acquire coastal imagery that when combined with hisotric photos and LiDAR imagery allows researchers to quantify historic erosion rates and estimate future impacts of sea level rise. Photo Credit: Rose Hart, UH Hilo

Case Study Published on Research Project in January 2020 Due to Its Direct and Lasting Impact on Management

Link to Project's Final Report (June 2018)

Project Summary: Despite its vast coastline and unique coastal ecosystems and resources, Hawaiʻi Island has never had a comprehensive shoreline assessment of coastal vulnerabilities or any systematic monitoring of long-term shoreline change rates. Consequently, Hawaiʻi Island is in a weak position for adapting to the potential impacts of sea-level rise (SLR), building community resilience, and conserving key coastal resources and environments. This project seeks to quantify historic and current coastal erosion rates for selected priority areas on Hawaiʻi Island. Existing shoreline records, including historic aerial photographs and LiDAR coastal surveys, will be combined with new coastal imagery and three-dimensional data sets collected from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and other survey platforms to determine past and current shoreline change rates. These data will then be merged with SLR projections and other geospatial layers to estimate future impacts. The priority areas for this study represent a variety of coastal environments at different stages of development, including sea cliffs (Honoliʻi), low-lying and subsiding coastal lava fields (Kapoho), and calcareous beaches (Hapuna).These data will provide a visualization tool for communities and county workers to understand local impacts of SLR and consider necessary adaptations.

Primary Contact and Masters Graduate Student: Rose Hart (rosehart@hawaii.edu)

Faculty Advisor:

  • Ryan Perroy , Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo

Committee Members

  • Steven Colbert , Assistant Professor of Marine Science, University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
  • Charles H. Fletcher III, Associate Dean and Professor, School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
  • Bethany Morrison, Planner, County of Hawaiʻi

Project Start Date: August 2016
Project Completion Date: May 2018

Manager-Based Coastal Erosion Research Photo: Informing coastal planning and development - Rose Hart (left) and Ryan Perroy (right) co-lead this stakeholder-driven project estimating erosion rates of distinct substrates on Hawai'i Island. Photo Credit: Hart

Project Information

Published as a Case Study on US Climate Resilience Toolkit (January 2020)

Final Report (June 2018)

Progress Report (November 2017)

Project Overview

Project in the News

CNN Reports on UH Hilo Field Team Tracking Lava Flow from the Night Sky (June 2018)

Excellence Award from the Institute of Mathematics for Industry at Kyushu University, Japan (Oct. 2017)

UH Hilo Stories article (April 2017)

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Partner Agencies

UH Manoa

University of Guam

Department of the Interior


Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center

Contact MCC Staff

  • Sharon Ziegler-Chong: University Consortium Lead
  • Phone: (808) 933-0759
  • Email: ziegler@hawaii.edu

The MCC partners with the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Graduate Program at UH Hilo and is a part of the larger tri-university consortium of the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center (PI-CASC).