MEOPAR Research Highlight: If Coastlines Could Talk

Coastal communities, such as those along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, have seen changes to their shorelines over a number of decades.

These changes are the result of several physical (heavy rainfall events, water levels, ice cover) and human-induced (land use change, shoreline protection measures) factors. Although coastlines are dynamic, meaning they are meant and expected to move and change, stretches of the Lincoln coastline are showing high levels of erosion even though they are located in areas not naturally susceptible to erosion. This is a concern that is all too familiar to those who live along the lake and have seen these changes first-hand. Land use changes, such as the addition of a road or a new house along the shore, are partly to blame for these changes. Climate change is also a contributing factor with greater frequency and/or intensity in extreme events, such as heavy rainfall, high winds, and earlier snowmelt.

Communities must therefore adapt in order to become more resilient to future impacts. It is also important to keep in mind that shorelines will continuously adjust to any changes that take place, whether those are natural processes or human activities. With increasing dynamic patterns of the shores, local residents and governments must have an understanding of the history of the coastline. Knowing what areas of the coastline are more susceptible to erosion and what may have caused these changes can help inform coastline management strategies to maintain shorelines and better protect against these changes.

MEOPAR Researcher and Brock University Master of Sustainability student Meredith (DeCock) Caspell recently completed a thesis project with the aim of analyzing coastline changes in the Town of Lincoln from 1934 to 2018 using historical air photographs. Physical and human-induced factors were then investigated as possible drivers of these coastline changes. The results of the research highlight the changes over time to several areas of the Lincoln coast that may be more vulnerable to erosion. It also posits patterns to help explain why these changes might have occurred. For example, higher erosion rates occurred between 2015-2018 compared to the other time frames. This could possibly be attributed to recent storm events impacting the coastline in certain areas, including the section of the coasts located near creek outlets such as 30 Mile Creek.

Caspell combined these photographs with historical maps and commentary to create the interactive ArcGIS StoryMap known as “If Coastlines Could Talk: A Story of Lincoln, ON.”  A StoryMap is a webpage that tells a story through pictures, maps, and words. In this case, it tells the story of the changing Lake Ontario coastline in the Town of Lincoln. To discover these historical changes, see time lapse videos of the coastline changing over time and other interesting visuals, and explore ideas for how we can move forward using a collaborative approach, you can visit the StoryMap on MEOPAR’s website.

The research team would love for you to share the StoryMap with interested friends and neighbours and to then provide your feedback and reactions directly to the team. You can submit your feedback anytime via email, at, or you can drop in to one of our virtual sessions to talk directly with one of the research members. These virtual events will take place on Wednesday Oct. 14 and Thursday Oct. 15, from noon to 1 p.m., and on Saturday Oct. 17, from 3 to 4 p.m.

These events are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please email to register and for event connections details.

For more information, please visit MEOPAR’s Community Outreach Events webpage.


Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog