July 7, 2019

Sunset in Cocodre Louisiana. I’ve got two more months of these before I head east.

It is early July and I am looking through my three to-do lists before I head to Morocco. I have one list for everything I need to do at work before I leave, another list for everything I need to do at home, and a third list for things I need to get in order to start my Moroccan project. Starting this blog falls under the “project,” list. I hope to use this blog as a space to tell you about my research on the Moroccan coast, and perhaps my travels beyond.

What? Morocco? When am I leaving, why am I going, and what am I going to be doing over there?

In early September, I board a plane for Rabat Morocco, via Atlanta and Paris. My plan is to spend the next 9 months studying sea-level rise and other changes to Morocco’s coastline. I think Morocco could a great place to study how shorelines change. I expect it to be different the muddy sinking coast of Louisiana that I’m used to, though it may have some similarities. By the end of my adventure, I hope to have a much better answer, which I intend to share will you all.  

From the perspective of a physical scientist, Morocco has a lot of pluses as a study location. I have long been interested in how weather systems blow winds and water across the ocean, which forces water onshore or offshore. As such, these winds plan an important role in coastal sea levels. Morocco is close to one of the major atmospheric pressure systems on earth, the Azores High (sometimes called the Bermuda High by folks on the western side of the pond.) This proximity to the Azores High makes Morocco a particularly interesting place for a scientist like me to work. It’s also easier to study water level changes in Morocco than in Louisiana. Since the Morocco’s coast sinks less that Louisiana’s cost- much of the water movement is due to just that the movement of water rather than the movements of both water and land as happens in Louisiana. 

There are other reasons to study Morocco’s coast. In Morocco, like in Louisiana, the coast play an important role in society. Several of Morocco’s largest cities are located along the coast, including Casablanca, Rabat and Tangiers. Fishing plays an important role in Morocco’s  economy, as does tourism. A good part of Morocco’s tourism is either directly tied to the coast (think visitors to its famed beaches) or indirectly tied to the coast (think visitors to nightclubs in Casablanca, or historical sites near the coast). Shipping plays an important role in Morocco too- the Port of Tangier is the 4th largest in Africa. Energy resources are important here – there are fossil fuel reserves on land and on the coast. Morocco also has lots of sun. GIven the abundance of solar power, Morocco is one of the few nations that is on target to reach its carbon-reduction goals set under the Paris accords. 

Like, Louisiana, many of Morocco’s coastal assets could be challenged by rising sea levels, and a changing shoreline. And like Louisiana, Morocco has an emerging community of scholars and thinkers who are focused on the coast. The two have much to learn from each other. In the spirit of international exchange, I hope to contribute to this conversation. My trip to Morocco is sponsored by the US Department of State, through a Fulbright Scholarship.

There is much more to tell you about this trip. I hope to tell you more about the people I plan to work with, the institutions they represent, the science of a changing sea, and the coastal cultures I encounter along the way. I don’t know everything that will happen on this adventure, but I do know that it is an incredible honor to have the opportunity I do. I am looking forward to every minute of it, and to telling you about it.

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