Geology professor promotes beaches

Which is more important, the beaches or the buildings? This is the question that has inspired the research done by Bill Neal, professor emeritus of geology, and a team of other scientists, on coastlines around the world.

From family vacations on the coast of North Carolina to field trips to the Lake Michigan shoreline as a geology major at Notre Dame University, Neal has always shared an invested interest in the beaches most people only dream to set foot on.

Working with a team of other researchers, Neal co-authored a number of books that are part of a series, “Living with the Shore.” The books are not based on original research but, instead, considered “science for the citizen,” he said. The books are written for the general public, homeowners, or people interested in living on the coasts. He said the books focus on coastal hazards and the loss of sand and shore due to the building of homes and sea walls on the coast.

“The books are an attempt to inform the public on just how sensitive the coast is to all these different processes,” said Neal. “It makes you wonder if beaches are becoming an endangered species.”

Neal’s most recent works include How to Read a North Carolina Beach, Atlantic Coast Beaches, Living on the Shores of Hawaii and The World’s Beaches.

Neal has spent time in Hawaii, Portugal, the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of South America, and the U.S. coastline. “We’ve gone to all these different places and talked about the hazards but — the truth is — we’ve got a lot of enjoyment out of just going to the beach and exploring,” said Neal.

Neal realizes understanding the fundamental processes of beaches can help people know any beach, and he said there are still so many left to be explored. “There would be a market for similar books on the Michigan beaches and maybe down the road I’ll give that a shot,” he said.


Page last modified February 13, 2012