Landscape Architecture

Galapagos Shoreline Mapping

This project is housed at the EMLab.


Coastlines are migrating upland faster than at any point in recorded history. As dunes, wetlands and coastal marshes roll back, the need for littoral adaptation and protection increases. In the wake of mounting climate volatility and demands for resilient infrastructure, landscape architects are increasingly called to engage in these valuable and vulnerable costal zones. Yet vast stretches of the coast across the world lack the basic data for understanding tides, surges, swells and other coastal processes. Landscape architects are thus required to be the authors of such necessary geospatial resources.


Surprisingly, one of the most scientifically studied sites in the world, the Galápagos Islands, lacks such data. As part of Karen M’Closkey’s 2017 Penn design studio in San Cristóbal Island (Galápagos, Ecuador), we reached out to INOCAR (The Oceanographic Institute of the Navy in Ecuador, similar to the USA’s NOAA) for tidal gauge data. Without a consistent and unified vertical datum, tides cannot be accurately referenced to the land. INOCAR, however, did not have this information. In response, they requested our assistance in the data collection and modeling. Using UAV technology and GNSS/GPS survey equipment, we mapped and modeled Puerto Baquerizo Moreno’s shoreline, including the gauge location. The georeferenced data will enable INOCAR to establish an accurate topo-bathy model and unified vertical datum for the islands’ tidal gauge. The population of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is projected to double in the next decade; therefore, this information is essential for modeling past and future storm surge, sea-level rise, and tsunami scenarios as it relates to urban growth and coastal resiliency.


Project details:

  • Landscape team: Keith VanDerSys, Karen M’Closkey, Michael Luegering, and Michael Tantala
  • Completion date: July 2019
  • Location: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Galapagos, Ecuador


Karen M'Closkey, Associate Professor
Keith VanDerSys, Senior Lecturer