Shifting Sands on Petit Bois Island

Step 1: Understand the Issues

Petit Bois Island satellite image
Investigate Natural and Human Impacts on Petit Bois Island

Overview: Barrier islands have always changed shape and size through natural processes. But human activities have altered these processes.  Now, barrier islands like Petit Bois are shrinking. How fast is the island shrinking? What will happen if Petit Bois disappears? What solutions might slow or stop that process?

In this activity you will examine maps and satellite imagery to observe and document changes in Petit Bois island, and research options for addressing these changes.

Background: For more than 160 miles, the barrier islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore shelter the Gulf Coast shoreline.   Starting with Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola, Florida, and running west through Mississippi, ten narrow islands of shifting sand, dunes, and seagrass absorb the brunt of hurricanes, while nurturing sea turtles, shorebirds and juvenile fish. National Seashores are coastal areas managed by the National Park Service to protect natural habitat for the use and enjoyment of people.  Two of the islands in Mississippi – Petit Bois and Horn Island — are so wild, that Congress also designated them as wilderness in 1978. Federal law defines wilderness as

“an area where man is a visitor… who does not remain.”

Wilderness areas are places where nature is supposed to take its course, and people enjoy these places in their wild state.   But even in wilderness, human activities outside the area can unintentionally alter that course.