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2010 Honors Summer Research Fellow to Study Sinking in Venice, Italy

Loyola Marymount University junior Arkell Brian Burnap will travel to Venice, Italy, to analyze the methods being used to save the city from sinking. Although Venice has thrived for centuries, it now faces severe structural problems from increasing high waters and flooding.

“The tide levels have been rising above the first floors of many buildings, which are starting to deteriorate,” said Burnap, a 2010 Honors Summer Research Fellow and a civil engineering and math double major. “Some people are forced to live and work on the second floor of their homes or businesses. Seawater will continue to rise, but the question is how can we stave off these waters without dramatically impacting the city’s culture and commerce.”

Burnap will work in Venice from July 12 to August 6 with representatives from Consorzio Venezia Nuova, a governmental organization of Italian construction companies and local cooperatives and firms devoted to protecting Venice against high waters and sea storms, and to safeguarding the lagoon ecosystem. Working alongside engineers, researchers and activists, Burnap will gather data about the lagoon and the high tide. Also, he will study the potential effects of building levees or mobile flood gates and the impact that the proposed solutions might have on local businesses and the environment.

“This type of problem is going to happen more often because of global warming. I hope that we can learn from the previous mistakes made in Venice, and help provide the best solution for the ecosystem and for human interests,” Burnap said.

The idea for the research project originated from a paper Burnap wrote about Venice in an honors English course. He said he was excited to visit the place that he had done so much research about. “It’s a reflection 1½ years later. I’m going to see firsthand what I wrote about, and find out if there is anything different in real life versus my academic analysis,” Burnap said.

Each year, the LMU Honors Program offers several fellowships for summer projects conducted around the world. Fellows are awarded $5,000 to support research, travel, internships or tuition.

“Being an Honors Fellow gives me a unique opportunity to do research on my own. Most [undergraduate] research is done with a professor,” Burnap said. “I hope to bring back what I learn to the LMU community and enlighten students as to what’s happening in Italy.”

Posted, June 1 2010