Category Archives: Geography

Riverbank erosion in Bangladesh

In North Carolina, coastal communities are faced with environmental change as water interacts with the land. Sea level rise and storm surges are the primary threats, but an understudied issue in Bangladesh may help provide N.C. coastal communities with a model for resiliency.

On the banks of the Meghna River, a village in Bangladesh uses a concrete block wall to protect the village from further river bank erosion. (Contributed photos.)

On the banks of the Meghna River, a village in Bangladesh uses a concrete block wall to protect the village from further river bank erosion. (Contributed photos.)

Citizens of Bangladesh live on a delta and also must contend with the power of the Meghna River, which flows in response to monsoon rainfall. While excess rains can lead to flooding in both eastern North Carolina and Bangladesh, riverbank erosion is a unique challenge for Bangladesh.

This multifaceted problem is understudied, but members of an expert panel funded by the National Science Foundation will address this issue at East Carolina University.

ECU will host “Geospatial Science, Human Geography and Atmospheric Science for Coastal Research: Understanding and Predicting Riverbank Erosion in Bangladesh,” at 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, in the Science and Technology Building, Room C-209.

Bangladesh coastal map

Bangladesh coastal map

Dr. Scott Curtis, ECU professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment and one of the event panelists, said, “In Bangladesh, people are caught between geologic and climate drivers and local land loss, which is permanent and can be so severe that entire villages may be wiped out in a year or two.”

During the event, panelists will discuss their interdisciplinary research experiences, focusing on the potential benefits of local adaptation measures and large-scale climate prediction for enhanced resiliency at the coast.

“Our project will add to the current understandings of vulnerability, resilience and adaptation related to coastal erosion,” said Curtis.

Curtis said the average erosion rate for the area they are studying in Bangladesh is 100 meters per year. If that was translated to the Outer Banks, he said it would be underwater in fewer than 50 years.

N.C. coastal map

N.C. coastal map

“The rates of erosion are much higher in Bangladesh than North Carolina,” Curtis said, “which means that social adjustments, recoveries and resettlements occur rapidly and may be a model for our area where accelerated sea level rise is predicted to be a consequence of climate change.”

Curtis will be joined on the panel by Dr. Bimal Paul from Kansas State University; Dr. Kahled Rahman from Virginia Tech; and Dr. Tom Crawford, professor and chair of the Department of Geography at Virginia Tech and former ECU faculty member, who will lead the panel.

The event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by The Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment as part of the THCAS Advancement Council Distinguished Professorship in Natural Sciences and Mathematics held by Curtis.

For additional information contact Curtis at

Seen here on the banks of the Meghan River, river bank erosion encroaches on farm fields.

Seen here on the banks of the Meghan River, river bank erosion encroaches on farm fields.


-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications

ECU team wins state geography bowl

The winning ECU team.

The winning ECU team.

Students representing East Carolina University at the North Carolina Geography Bowl won first place in this year’s competition Sept. 26 at UNC-Greensboro. The annual quiz competition tests student teams on their knowledge of college-level geography.

The ECU team defeated Appalachian State University in the title round and went undefeated (5-0) throughout the trivia bowl. It was ECU’s fifth first-place title since 1996, following their most recent win in 2008.



Zach Sefcovic, a graduate student in geography, was the highest scorer of the competition and was named the most valuable player on ECU’s team. The ECU team is coached by geography teaching instructor Scott Wade.

In addition to Sefcovic, the team includes students Jamie Heath (Managing Captain), Brad Sceviour (Competition Captain), Jaclyn Catania, Donnie Kirk, Nicholas Luchetti, Alex Moulton, Mark Nissenbaum, Jessica Van-Horn and Emily Fisher.

Top scorers from the state competition are invited to join the North Carolina All-Star team, which will compete against other southeastern states at the SEDAAG conference (Southeast Division, Association of American Geographers). SEDAAG this year is being held Nov. 23-25 in Athens, Georgia. Sefcovic was invited to join the NC All-Star team.

Top scorers from the SEDAAG regional competition will be invited to join the Southeast Region All-Star team, which will compete against other regions at the AAG (Association of American Geographers) annual conference. That meeting is in Chicago on April 21-25, 2015.

Scientist to discuss extreme space in ECU presentation

Award-winning author Dr. David Baker will present, “The Nastiest, Smelliest Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System” at 4 p.m. Sept. 15 in Room 2003 of the Bate Building at East Carolina University.

Dr. David Baker

Baker is chair of physics at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. His book, “The 50 Most Extreme Places in Our Solar System,” examines extreme phenomena on the earth and other planets, including violent thunderstorms, bizarre features of Venus and Jupiter and the potential for dangerous dust devils near the landing site of the Mars Phoenix spacecraft.

The book was awarded a 2010 PROSE honorable mention in Cosmology and Astronomy and selected as a 2011 Outstanding University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

A book signing will occur before and after the presentation.

Baker’s visit is sponsored by the ECU affiliate of North Carolina Space Grant, the NASA Astrobiology Institute and the ECU Department of Geography.

For additional information contact Dr. Scott Curtis at 252-328-2088 or


A book signing for Baker's book on extreme places in the solar system will be held at the event.

ECU scientists awarded $314,000 NSF grant

A new research project at East Carolina University should lead to improved climate forecasting for North Carolina.

ECU geography professors Dr. Tom Rickenbach and Dr. Rosana Nieto-Ferreira will examine how changes in the atmosphere control the manner in which rain and snow falls in the state and how those changes affect the state’s current and future climate. The study is made possible by a three-year $314,000 National Sciences Foundation grant funded by the NSF Directorate for Geosciences’ Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division.

In their grant proposal, the researchers noted that precipitation is a primary source of water for North Carolina’s rivers, soils and groundwater reservoirs. They said that studying the manner in which the precipitation arrives will help scientists understand how increasing population, climate change and land use patterns are affecting the state’s climate.

“Scientists and engineers are constantly improving our ability to measure how much rain and snow reach the surface. What we don’t understand as well is the manner in which that water is typically delivered to us,” said Rickenbach.

“That missing piece of the puzzle is crucial to knowing whether precipitation reaching the ground will help or hinder us as we lead our lives. Knowing how a given amount of precipitation reached us – as gentle widespread daily showers, intense isolated but brief thunderstorms, or heavy snowfall – determines how we can best harness it for our needs and whether we must protect ourselves from its impacts.”

Nieto-Ferreira said that scientists do not fully understand how the state’s fresh water resource responds to changes in the environment; more research is needed. She said, “We may then better understand how these variations in precipitation impact our lives, such as agriculture, urban runoff, coastal development and flooding.”

The scientists will conduct their research in three steps. First, every precipitation system that occurred across North Carolina over a three-year period will be identified and characterized using newly available high-resolution precipitation and three-dimensional radar reflectivity data sets. Next, the mode of delivery of the precipitation will be placed in the context of the prevailing wind and weather patterns of the atmosphere, based on archived maps and analysis. Finally, the climatology will be applied, with the goal of improving the interpretation of state-of-the-art model simulations of future regional climates.

The University of North Carolina Renaissance Computing Institute and the National Climate Data Center will partner with Rickenbach and Nieto-Ferreira to construct and analyze radar-based datasets tailored to the project.

For additional information about this NSF grant, contact Rickenbach at 252-328-1039 or, or Nieto-Ferreira at 252-328-0751 or