Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Mary-Louise Byrne

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


One of the characteristic features of the north shore of Lake Erie is its steep, eroding bluffs. Combined with an increase in human presence and pressures at the shoreline, the failure of these slopes has become hazardous. Over the past two decades alone, slope failures have been responsible for millions of dollars of damage to shoreline property, as well as the deaths and near deaths of a number of individuals. Despite the seriousness of this hazard, few studies have identified specific hazard areas and their associated risk of failure along Lake Erie's north shore, and other reaches in the Great Lakes. As a critical foundation to research described in the latter half of the thesis, this paper includes a lengthy, yet necessary, review of literature which is relevant to coastal slope failures. The nature, contributory factors, hazards and risks of coastal bluff failures are discussed. in addition to their occurrence within a global, and local context. Particular attention is given to the shorelines of the Great Lakes and Lake Erie. The literature review then examines methods of mitigating the bluff hazards and risks, including the use and benefits of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and hazard zone mapping. The focus of the paper is a description of GIS research recently conducted on the bluffs which line Erie’s northern shore between Port Burwell and Long Point, Ontario. Canada. The study utilizes a GIS to analyse factors which contribute to the bluff failures, and ultimately. To estimate the variance in risk to these shoreline failures, emphasis is placed upon the methods used to conduct this research, but a discussion of exploratory analysis, results, recommendations, and conclusions is also provided. Since the hazard of bluff failures exists far beyond the borders of this study site, Lake Erie or even the Great Lakes, the methods presented in the paper will provide a useful framework for conducting similar analyses on other coastlines subject to the hazards of bluff failure. The results of the report will be used to educate the public and governing bodies of the hazards and risks along the study reach, as a means of reducing this risk, including the future loss of lives.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season