The Expert: Beverly Goodman, Ph.D. ||| Geoarchaeologist, NG Emerging Explorer
The project: You’d expect 100-foot-tall waves to leave behind a clear path of destruction. You’d be wrong. To identify past events—and predict future ones—Goodman collects the smallest of clues: grains of sand.
“Traditionally, scientists searching for evidence of a past tsunami look for marine deposits on land. But after the chaos of a giant wave, people return home fairly quickly. They rebuild. They clean up. Evidence of the event is erased. So instead of looking on shore, we go underwater. Using an aluminum irrigation pipe connected to a pneumatic hammer, we take core samples from the seafloor. We then identify unusually large layers of deposits—indicating a single, violent event—and analyze the sand grain size to estimate wave height, the magnitude of the event, and when it happened. We feed that information into tsunami databases. Models are only as strong as the data you put into them. The more we know about past tsunamis, the better we can predict coastline risk.”