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  • FIELD TRIP - Shifting Sands: The Wilderness Breach at Fire Island National Seashore

FIELD TRIP - Shifting Sands: The Wilderness Breach at Fire Island National Seashore

  • November 20, 2021
  • 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
  • 72


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It's time for a field trip to get some fresh air!

And it's free!!

Following her 18 November Webinar presentation on this topic, this trip will be lead by:

Ms. Kaetlyn Jackson

Natural Resources Specialist - National Park Service

Aerial view of the breach on Fire Island.

Abstract: The Breaches are channels connecting ocean to bay which form during powerful storms. These natural barrier island features can come and go over time. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy created a breach within the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, a federally-designated wilderness area on the eastern end of Fire Island National Seashore. The wilderness breach occurred in a narrow, low-lying area that is historically prone to breaches. This part of the barrier island is called “Old Inlet,” because in the 1800s, a breach occurred here that remained open for approximately 60 years before closing through natural sediment transport processes.

When it opened, the breach displaced sand from the barrier island into Great South Bay. Waves reworked the sand into flood and ebb shoals, accumulations of sand that occur on the bay side (flood) and ocean side (ebb) of the breach. Over time, these shoals will serve to widen the island, provide platforms for the growth of new salt marsh or other habitats, and enhance the resilience of the barrier island to future storms and sea level rise. The breach has caused localized erosion immediately to the west. However, the ebb shoal that formed on the ocean side has remained relatively small and stable, indicating that the breach is not interrupting the sediment transport system. Sediment continues to move west along the ocean shoreline with littoral drift.

Details: On Saturday, 20 November, we will meet at 09:00 am in the southwest corner of the Smith Point County Park parking lot nearest the traffic circle and Fire Island ranger station. 

Please be on time and dress appropriately, the weather can be quite different along the south shore than landside. The group will leave on the approximately 1.75 mile walk to the Wilderness Breach at 09:15 am sharp.

Once there, we will observe the current configuration of the breach and low tide, and Ms. Jackson will discuss the breach, studies completed to date and potential future changes due to natural geologic processes. Social distancing protocols are recommended but we will be outdoors, and hopefully great fall weather with a gentle breeze.

We expect the group will be back to the parking lot by approximately 12:30 pm.

*Bio: Ms. Kaetlyn Jackson is a Natural Resources Specialist/ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Compliance with the National Park Service.

Ms. Jackson has a Bachelor of Science Wildlife Management and Conservation, Masters of Science Biology/ Disease Ecology.

Ms. Jackson has been with the National Park Service since 2008 and worked as a Biologist and Park Planner at Fire Island National Seashore for 13 years. She joined the Denver Service Center, an office of the National Park Service, as a Natural Resources Specialist in 2021.

Ms. Jackson is a native Long Islander, she grew up going to south shore beaches and hase a deep love for the dynamic environment of our barrier islands. One of the highlights of her career was being the project manager of the Wilderness Breach Management Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement that used on-going research to inform the National Park Service to keep the breach open in the federal wilderness area after Superstorm Sandy. She loves sharing with others what makes our natural spaces so special.


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