Contact

Bret M. Webb, Ph.D., P.E., D.CE
Professor
University of South Alabama
150 Jaguar Drive, SH3142
Mobile, AL 36688 USA
Phone: (251) 460-6174
Fax: (251) 461-1400
Email: bwebb@southalabama.edu

Research Positions

Currently seeking multiple graduate students to fill positions at the MS, PhD, and Postdoc levels. Research topics include: living shorelines, beach and tidal inlet dynamics, barrier island response to extreme events, groundwater impacts to coastal lagoons, and infrastructure resilience. Research assistantships are available. Click here for more information.

Current Research Assistants

PhD Students
Garland Pennison

 

MS Students
Kelsey Carpenter
Sean McQuagge
Elizabeth Winter
Jackie Wittmann

 

Undergraduate Students
Ian Cox

Former Students

MSCE Students
Patrick Hautau (2018)
Marshall Hayden (2018)
Kate Haynes (2018)
Justin Lowlavar (2017)
Bryan Groza (2016)
Kari Servold (2015)
Chris Marr (2013)
Richard Allen (2013)
Miyuki Matthews (2012)

 

Post Docs
Jon Risinger
Jungwoo Lee

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Mobile, Alabama –  The ability of communities to recover from natural and manmade disasters is strongly linked to the resilience of their infrastructure. That is why the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced yesterday that it has awarded a $20 million, five-year agreement with Colorado State University and 10 other partners, including the University of South Alabama, to establish the Community Resilience Center of Excellence. Click on the logo (top right of post) to link to the Center web site.

 

The goal of the Center is to develop a risk-based approach to evaluate potential strategies that improve the resilience of the built environment to natural hazards and other significant manmade disruptions.

 

The resilience tools that the Center develops will address known and frequent hazards, and gauge the ability of communities and the built environment to adapt to changing conditions and recover quickly from large-scale disasters.

 

The University of South Alabama’s Department of Civil Engineering will provide their unique coastal engineering expertise related to hurricane storm surge and waves. Drs. Bret Webb and Scott Douglass will help develop risk-based tools that address vulnerability and resilience of the built environment to coastal hazards like storm surge, waves, erosion and even sea level rise. Webb and Douglass recently authored nationwide engineering guidance for assessing the exposure and vulnerability of coastal transportation infrastructure to extreme events.

 

“With well over 50% of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of a coastline,” says Dr. Webb, who is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, “much of our nation’s critical infrastructure is vulnerable to coastal hazards and the expected impacts of long-term sea level rise.”

 

“What’s more troubling,” Dr. Webb continues, “is that demand in these coastal areas is increasing, putting more stress on our built environment and underscoring the need for improving the resiliency of our coastal communities.”

 

Dr. Scott Douglass, Professor of Civil Engineering, added, “Based on both experience and study, we understand that the built environment along our nation’s shorelines is highly vulnerable today, and will face increased pressures due to the expected impacts of climate change in the future.”

 

“However, the good news,” Dr. Douglass continued, “is that making our coastal infrastructure more resilient to frequent storm events today will also reduce their vulnerability in the future.”

 

With authorization from NIST to begin their efforts immediately, the multi-disciplinary research team, which also includes experts from California Polytechnic University (Pomona), Rice University, Texas A&M University (TAMU), TAMU-Kingsville, and the University of Washington, is expected to hold their first organizational meeting soon.

 

 

 

Our new wave-current channel is finally operational! We completed training and final commissioning of the facility early last week with a representative of HR Wallingford. Now we are just waiting for the surrounding renovations to be completed. Most mechanical work was completed last week and now they are fitting insulation and hanging drywall. The “flume room” and surrounding space should be finished out by the end of April. Until then, we are living in a construction area.

 

The channel’s capabilities are quite impressive. While it will likely take months to learn the nuances of our system, it is clearly capable of producing very clean waves.  The paddle’s active absorption system is really amazing and helps damp the reflected wave.

 

I have been somewhat hesitant to test the limits of the paddle, but that will surely change in the near future. The advisable limit for paddle acceleration is about 0.5G’s (4.9 m/s/s) and I think I have only tested up to about one-half of that suggested value.

 

So far I have experimented with the spectral, regular, and solitary-type waves. I was even able to generate a fairly steep wave that broke (spilling) off the paddle. The video below shows a low-amplitude (<10 cm), 2-s-period wave. Click on the triangle to play the video.

 

More updates coming soon, as well as an exciting announcement that may give  you the opportunity to come visit ‘South and see  our new facility first-hand!

 

 

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Last week I was honored to receive my Board Certification as a Diplomate of Coastal Engineering (D.CE) from the Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port and Navigation Engineers (ACOPNE). This certification demonstrates that I have specific technical expertise in civil engineering acquired through advanced education and training, as well as professional practice experience. In lieu of a specific licensing process that distinguishes specialized practitioners from general ones, this relatively new certification program (2009) plays an important role in elevating the competence of the civil engineering profession.

 

ACOPNE is one of three academies of the American Society of Civil Engineers participating in the Civil Engineering Certification process.  Board Certification through ACOPNE was established in 2009 to recognize those engineers possessing advanced knowledge, skill, and training in the fields of coastal, ocean, port and navigation engineering. The distinction of Board Certification and the credentials (diplomate status) that it provides represent one of the highest designations available to identify those civil engineers with exceptional skill and reputation.

 

Board Certification through ACOPNE requires that individuals be actively engaged in the practice of their specialized area of engineering, have obtained a baccalaureate degree in engineering, a master’s degree (or over 25 years of experience) in their area of specialization, and a professional engineering license. Click {here} to learn more about the ASCE Civil Engineering Certification academies and their requirements.

 

 

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Our installer from Armfield has made great progress in only nine days since unpacking on the 20th. Paul had a special helper this week, the flume’s designer Chris. These two gentlemen worked diligently and were able to complete assembly of the flume and glass, installation of the recirculation system and wavemaker, and preparation of the electrical control pedestals. After some additional plumbing we should be ready to put water in it next week.

 

Check back soon for additional updates. The area looks very much like a construction site right now, but I hope to have better pictures when everything gets cleaned up and organized in the coming weeks.

 

 

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Our visitor from Armfield’s UK office has been making fantastic progress on the construction of our new wave-current flume. Preferring to work in solitude, Paul has developed an outstanding method for lifting and positioning these very heavy flume sections using two hydraulic pallet jacks and timber cribbing.

 

The photo in this post (click to enlarge) actually shows progress as of Wednesday evening. You are looking at two fully assembled bed sections married to the discharge tank at the end of the flume assembly. Paul is working his way upstream, so to speak, one bed section and floor frame at a time. Assuming his progress continues at this brisk pace, we should have glass going in next week.

 

Stay tuned for more details…