Eyes from the Sky

Eyes from the Sky

Photo by Jenessa Duncombe


The radar tower stretches into the sky. Walking up the beach, Annika O’Dea and Alex Simpson point it out, a single structure overlooking the dunes. A kilometer away, its spinning top is just barely visible in the foggy October morning.

O’Dea and Simpson are doctoral students in the coastal and ocean engineering in Oregon State University’s College of Engineering, and they’ve come to a remote beach near Santa Maria Valley in Central California to study the coastal ocean. Their research group, led by Merrick Haller, associate professor of coastal and ocean engineering, uses remote sensing technology to capture interesting coastal phenomena, like rip currents or massive underwater waves that mix the water below the surface.

O’Dea and Simpson walk to a familiar spot on the beach just shoreward of the radar tower. Haller’s team installed two radar towers, one of which stands over 100 feet tall, along the California coastline as part of the Inner Shelf Dynamics Project. Six weeks into their field experiment, they set-up their research site for the day: two beach towels, notebooks, a bag of snacks, and a research drone. Now it is time for them to wait for the boat.

Keep reading at the Oregon State University College of Engineering website.

View my photo gallery from the project here.