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Meagan E. Wengrove Interview
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Meagan E. Wengrove

Describe the project you’ll be conducting with your GWIS Fellowship funds. What do you hope to discover through this research, and how will the GWIS Fellowship help make this research happen?

Historically, in response to extreme events, coastal engineering solutions have looked toward sea-walls, revetments, and breakwaters for protection. However, during extreme events, traditional hard seawall and revetment barriers can create more coastal damage and increased urban flood elevations when compared to nature-based shorelines. Flexible and living shorelines are a new resilient nature-based alternative coastline buffer to traditional hard barriers, however the dynamic response of these systems to storm events is not well characterized.

My research will address the physics behind various design choices used in living shoreline sill alternatives that are robust to the extremes and still encourage natural ecological habitat. Many living shoreline practices use a slope toe sill to stabilize the foot of a flexible structure (such as plantings), however, guidance and reasoning behind using different toe materials and shapes is not well constrained both from an engineering standpoint and a habitat perspective.

In application, results from this effort will fill gaps in knowledge in living shoreline literature. One of the products of this research will be a living shoreline sill shape and material design guideline for coastal managers and engineers. Many eroding shorelines are on private property, so it is a challenge for officials/professionals working in this field to convey guidance to the community without the facts. With a guideline based in science, much of the anecdotal reasoning behind various sill options will be either confirmed or disproven, in turn making design practices for community resilience more robust.  

The GWIS fellowship will help me to complete a set of laboratory experiments using four different sill alternatives in conjunction with the Oregon State University Large Wave Flume facility, and subsequently make the results accessible. Additionally, work in living shorelines is related to my previous Ph.D. work in the physics of sediment transport, but at the same time it is a new avenue of research for me. The GWIS fellowship will give me a jump start into a new area of research that I am looking to build my career off of over the next several years.


What’s the coolest thing about your research and/or favorite part of your job?

The coolest thing about my research is taking and understanding the physics of a system and applying it to how it affects the every day at a scale that we can recognize. I think it is very important to relate our science back to understandable ideas that communities and people can ultimately use.


How did you end up doing what you’re doing? What was your path to becoming a scientist?

I have always been curious and have asked a lot of questions throughout my education, I believe that is what led me into science. As for coastal engineering… I’m from Colorado, so it was not time spent at the coast when I was young that got me into it! Growing up I was a competitive swimmer, and I continued to swim on the varsity team through college. I always have and still do love being in the water. In college I studied Civil Engineering as a bachelors student. I had the thought of doing structural engineering and becoming an architect until I took my first fluid dynamics course. I had no idea that there were engineers that worked with water and scientists that study water. I enjoyed the course so much that the professor suggested that I do a summer research project looking at stream water quality in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. After that summer I was hooked on water. From there I like to describe my career path as ‘moving downstream’. I did my masters research focusing on nutrient loading from sediment in an estuary, and my Fulbright and Ph.D. work looking at the physics of sediment transport on the open coast.

As I start as an Assistant Professor, I am looking forward to taking the skills I have gained to this point in my career and applying them towards understanding and designing resilient and nature-based coastal engineering solutions that can restore the robustness of our littoral systems while helping to protect our communities in a more sustainable way.


What do you like to do when you aren’t working on your science?

When I’m not doing science, I enjoy swimming, biking, hiking, skiing, and going climbing. I also enjoy art, such as painting and metal working. I of course like to spend time with my family and my friends. I have always been passionate about exploring new places and trying to learn from pieces of the culture of the places that I visit.


Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for girls and young women who wish to pursue a career in science?

Be persistent. Often you will come across obstacles in your pursuit of a career in science -- it might be a discouraging grade, a difficult paper review, or a failed grant or fellowship application. My words of encouragement are to learn what you can from the fall and get back up and try again. Tenacity with your pursuits can be just as important as the quality of your big ideas.

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