Orrin H. Pilkey

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Orrin Pilkey
OPilkey R037.jpg
Orrin H. Pilkey
Born (1934-09-19) September 19, 1934 (age 83)
Nationality American
Alma mater Florida State University
University of Montana
Washington State College
Occupation Professor at Duke University

Orrin H. Pilkey (born September 19, 1934) is Professor Emeritus of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, at Duke University, and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) which is currently based at Western Carolina University.

Life and career[edit]

Pilkey received his B.S. degree in geology at Washington State College, his M.S. degree in geology at the University of Montana and his Ph.D. degree in geology at Florida State University. Between 1962 and 1965, he was a research professor at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island. He has been at Duke University since 1965, with one year breaks with the Department of Marine Science at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, and with the U.S. Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Pilkey began his career with the study of abyssal plains on the deep sea floor. As a result of the destruction of his parents' house in Waveland, Mississippi in Hurricane Camille (1969), he switched to the study of coasts. Pilkey's research centers on both basic and applied coastal geology, focusing primarily on barrier island coasts and the effects of shoreline stabilization and development, and sea-level rise. The PSDS has analyzed the numerical models used by coastal geologists and engineers to predict the movement of beach sand, especially in beach replenishment. In general, Pilkey argues that mathematical models cannot be used to accurately predict the behavior of beaches, although they can be useful if directional or orders-of-magnitude answers are sought. In the book, Useless Arithmetic, written with his daughter, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, they argue that the outcome of natural processes in general cannot be accurately predicted by mathematical models.[1]The Rising Sea, written with Rob Young, current director of PSDS, focuses on the global threat from sea level rise. The Last Beach sounds the alarm that recreation on many of the world's beaches is going to be a thing of the past. It explains that "the future of the world's beaches hangs in the balance, from big threats such as engineering, mining, and pollution, to activities that seem harmless, like driving on beaches." In many places, pollution is in the beach sand as well as in the water. Retreat from a Rising Sea, written with daughter, Linda, and son, Keith, highlights the need for moving back from the coast, a process that is already beginning in some parts of the world, such as Arctic barrier islands, atolls, and river deltas. The authors think that New Orleans and Miami, among other cities, are doomed. His most recent book, Lessons from the Sand, offers easy experiments for kids (and adults)to do while learning about beach processes. Orrin co-wrote this colorful book which is completely illustrated by his son and co-author, Charles Pilkey, an artist/sculptor.

Pilkey has received numerous awards, among them the Francis Parker Shepard medal for excellence in marine geology in 1987, and in 2003, the Priestly Award, for distinguished research in coastal geology and public service in policy formulation and education about America’s coastal resources, presented by Dickinson College, Pennsylvania. In 2012, Duke University honored Pilkey by naming a new research building for him at the Duke Marine Lab, Beaufort, North Carolina.

Other awards he has received include: 1983: Award, President of the SEPM, for outstanding service and contributions to the Leadership of the Society, from the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists 1983: SEPM Award, for dedicated service to the Society in the editing of the Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 1978-1982, from the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists 1986: Award, President of the SEPM 1985-86, for valuable contributions to the leadership and growth of the Society, from the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists 1990: Governor’s Award, for Conservation Educator of the Year, from the North Carolina Wildlife Federation in cooperation with the National Wildlife Federation 1992: Honorary Membership, The SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology, for Distinguished Scientific Achievement, from the Society of Economic Paleontologists and Mineralogists 1992: George V. Cohee Public Service Award, Eastern Section, AAPG, in recognition of the many accomplishments and untiring efforts in research and public education concerning the processes and geologic hazards in coastal zones, from The American Association of Petroleum Geologists 1993: James H. Shea Award, for exceptional contributions in the form of writing and/or editing of Earth Science materials, from the National Association of Geology Teachers 1993: American Geological Institute Award, for outstanding contributions to the public understanding of geology, for developing the 20-volume book series, Living with the Shore (with William Neal) 1997: Certificate of Appreciation, in recognition of outstanding contributions as Councilor, 1995–97, the Geological Society of America. 1999: Outstanding Public Service Award, for extraordinary contributions to achieving FEMA’s goals of reducing the impact of disasters on people and communities through mitigation, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 2000: GSA Public Service Award in Honor of Eugene & Carolyn Shoemaker, recognizing the enhancement of the public’s understanding of Earth Science, from The Geological Society of America 2001: Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, University of the South (Sewanee), Sewanee, Tennessee 2003: Priestley Medal, the Dickinson College Award in Memory of Joseph Priestley, for distinguished research in coastal geology and public service in policy formulation and education about America’s coastal resources, Dickinson College, Pennsylvania 2007: Pelican Lifetime Achievement Award, for outstanding environmental service, from the North Carolina Coastal Federation 2011: Dirk Frankenberg Oceanographic Award for Outstanding Public Service, from the Duke/University of North Carolina Oceanographic Consortium (DUNCOC) 2014: Distinguished Editor of the JCR, for 30 years of service on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Coastal Research (JCR); for providing invaluable support, guidance, and advice, and unfailing service that helped to make the JCR a valuable contribution to the coastal sciences; from The Coastal Education & Research Foundation, INC. (CERF), West Palm Beach, Florida.

Coastalcare.org is a web site that focuses on coastal and beach issues and educating the public about protecting the world's beaches. Articles by Pilkey found in the Coastal Care Beach-of-the-Month features include South Nags Head, NC (O.H. Pilkey, N. Longo, and J.T. Kelley); Beachfront Development along the Pacific Coast of Colombia: A good thing? (O.H. Pilkey and W.J. Neal); Cemeteries In The Sea (O.H. Pilkey and W.J. Neal); What the Sands Tell Us: A Look Back at Southeastern US Beaches (O.H. Pilkey and W.J. Neal); Dog Island, Florida (O.H. Pilkey and N. Longo); Pongara Beach, Gabon (O.H. Pilkey and J.A.G. Cooper) and Presque Isle: Lake Erie, Pennsylvania (O.H. Pilkey and N. Longo).

Pilkey has published more than 250 technical publications and 45 books, as well as appearing in several documentary films, including "The Beaches Are Moving" (1992, University of North Carolina Center for Public Television); "Living on the Edge" (1996, a 1-hour production by Environmental Media, Inc.); "Dynamic Shorelines" (2009, Part of Physical Geology online (distance learning course), produced by Dallas TeleLearning, Dallas County Community College District (Texas); "Shored Up: When Human Nature and the Force of Nature Collide" (2013; a Ben Kalina film); and "Sand Wars" (2013, a documentary film based on the mining of sand from beaches; produced by Guillaume Rappeneau and directed by Denis Delestrac).

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Pilkey, C.O.,and O.H. Pilkey. 2016. Lessons from the Sand: Family-Friendly Science Activities You Can Do On A Carolina Beach. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 221 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., L. Pilkey-Jarvis, and K.C. Pilkey. 2016. Retreat from a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change. New York: Columbia University Press. 214 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., and J.A.G. Cooper. 2014. The Last Beach. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 264 pages. ISBN 978-0-8223-5809-1
  • Pilkey, O.H., W.J. Neal, J.T. Kelley, J.A.G. Cooper. 2011. The World's Beaches: A Global Guide to the Science of the Shoreline. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 283 pages.
  • Cooper, J.A.G., and O.H. Pilkey (eds.). 2012. Pitfalls of Shoreline Stabilization: Selected Case Studies. New York: Springer. 333 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., and K.C. Pilkey. 2011. Global Climate Change: A Primer. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 142 pages. ISBN 978-0-8223-5109-2
  • Pilkey, O.H., and R. Young. 2009. The Rising Sea. Washington, D.C.: Island Press. 203 pages. ISBN 978-1-59726-191-3
  • Neal, W.J., O.H. Pilkey, and J.T. Kelley. 2007. Atlantic Coast Beaches: A Guide to Ripples, Dunes, and Other Natural Features of the Seashore. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 272 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., and L. Pilkey-Jarvis. 2007. Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future. New York: Columbia University Press. 230 pages. ISBN 978-0-231-13213-8
  • Pilkey, O.H., T.M. Rice, and W.J. Neal. 2004. How to Read a North Carolina Beach. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 162 pages. ISBN 978-0-8078-5510-2
  • Bush, D.M., W.J. Neal, N.J. Longo, K.C. Lindeman, D.F. Pilkey, L.S. Esteves, J.D. Congleton, O.H. Pilkey. 2004. Living with Florida's Atlantic Beaches, Coastal Hazards from Amelia Island to Key West. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 338 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., and M.E. Fraser. 2003. A Celebration of the World's Barrier Islands. New York: Columbia University Press. 309 pages.
  • Bush, D.M., N.J. Longo, W.J. Neal, L.S. Esteves, O.H. Pilkey, et al. 2001. Living on the Edge of the Gulf: The West Florida and Alabama Coast. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 340 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., W.J. Neal, S.R. Riggs, C.A. Webb, D.M. Bush, J. Bullock, and B. Cowan. 1998. The North Carolina Shore and Its Barrier Islands. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 318 pages.
  • Mason, O., O.H. Pilkey, and W.J. Neal. 1996. Living with the Alaska Coast. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 348 pages.
  • Bush, D.M., O.H. Pilkey, and W.J. Neal. 1996. Living by the Rules of the Sea. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 179 pages.
  • Pilkey, O.H., and K.L. Dixon. 1996. The Corps and the Shore. Washington, D.C.: Island Press. 272 pages.
  • Kaufman, W., and O.H. Pilkey. 1979. The Beaches Are Moving: The Drowning of America's Shoreline. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 336 pages.


  • Pilkey, O.H., R. Young, A. Coburn, and N.J. Longo. 2012. "Rethinking Living Shorelines." http://www.wcu.edu/WebFiles/PDFs/PSDS_Living_Shorelines_White_Paper.pdf
  • Thieler, E.R., et al. 2000. "The Use of Mathematical Models to Predict Beach Behavior for U.S. Coastal Engineering: A Critical Review." Journal of Coastal Research 16(1):48-70.
  • Pilkey, O.H., J.A.G. Cooper, and D.A. Lewis. 2009. "Global distribution and geomorphology of fetch-limited barrier islands." Journal of Coastal Research 25(4):819–837.
  • Stutz, M.L., and O.H. Pilkey. 2011. "Open-ocean Barrier Islands: Global Influence of Climatic, Oceanographic, and Depositional Settings." Journal of Coastal Research 27(2):207–222.


External links[edit]