Coastal North Carolina experienced significant weather events over the last twelve months. Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc down east, with winds reaching 106 mph and record-breaking rainfall of nearly 3 feet in areas. Hurricane Michael ravaged the Gulf coast of Florida and then, downgraded to a tropical storm, swept through northeastern NC, creating a 5-foot storm surge on the sound side. In early 2019, we experienced powerful nor’easters (one in April that even delivered snow), elevated pollen counts, and record high temperatures. In the face of these extreme weather phenomena, coastal communities continued to develop plans for long-term sustainability and to debate climate change, economics, and policy issues.
ECU, having always focused on the East, recognizes these and other challenges across our coast. The past 12 months we have been involved in developing the Integrated Coastal Programs (ICP), bringing together an interdisciplinary team of scientists and educators focused on coastal change. This team of faculty is involved in studying such aspects as: perceptions of change; the influence of policy-driven decisions on sustainability; event-driven physical changes; and community response to the impact of changing climate patterns.
ICP is the umbrella organization that works across all of ECU’s campuses to combine faculty and staff focused on studying the coast. The newly organized structure at ECU focuses on the entire coastal enterprise and includes ICP, CSI, DCS, and ICS. A veritable alphabet soup of acronyms you're likely to see again and again.
The Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), established in 2003 as a multi-institutional research partnership, is the flagship organization on ECU’s Outer Banks Campus. The Department of Coastal Studies (DCS) was established in 2018 and has been the principal focus of faculty growth during the last year, expanding from four to eight primary faculty. Finally, the Integrated Coastal Sciences (ICS) PhD program is a 2018/2019 reboot and upgrade of the long-established and interdisciplinary Coastal Resources Management PhD. Together, the new organizational structure and programs will change the way ECU engages in interdisciplinary coastal science across the university.
Opportunities abound for you, your friends, and family to get involved. Participate in our monthly public seminar series (Science on the Sound) at the Outer Banks Campus or online; sign your kids up for one of our many summer camps (2020); develop a field trip to the OBX for your students; consider teaching for, or promoting, our new spring Undergraduate Semester Experience at the Coast Residential Program; or come visit the Outer Banks Campus and meet with our faculty and staff to discover more about research and educational opportunities.
Follow us on Twitter (@coastalECU), Instagram (@coastalstudiesinstitute), and/or Facebook. It’s amazing how ECU has broadened its coastal portfolio from Greenville to the Outer Banks. Looking forward to seeing or hearing from you soon!
Starting in August, 2019:
- George Bonner (left) – Director, North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP). George will begin his duties on August 1, 2019. His position is a partnership with NCSU’s Department of Civil, Construction, & Environmental Engineering, funded by Academic Affairs and NCROEP. George has 30 years of experience as an Officer and Civil Engineer in the U.S. Coast Guard. During this time, George has worked with public and private stakeholders, many universities, and across all levels of government.
- David Lagomasino (top right) – (Department of Coastal Studies): Landscape Geomorphology, Ecohydrology, and Remote Sensing. Research combines geology, hydrology, and ecology to understand how the Earth's landscape responds to changes caused by natural events and rapid urban expansion.
- Kimberly Rogers (bottom right) – (Department of Coastal Studies): Coupled Human-Natural Systems and Coastal Processes. Research integrates quantitative and qualitative approaches, such as field measurements of sedimentation, computational models, and ethnographic techniques, to explore complex feedback between fluvial and coastal processes, global change, and human decisions regarding land use and infrastructure that are shaping deltas and their coastal environments.
Starting in January, 2020:
- Nadine Heck (bottom left) - (Department of Coastal Studies): Human-Environment Geographer. Research has an applied, quantitative focus and explores marine conservation and natural resource management issues that lie at the interface of ecological, social, and institutional systems using a mix of social science and geospatial methods.
- Jim Morley (right) - (Department of Biology): Coastal Ecologist. Fisheries ecologist who examines how climate variability and long-term changes in the ocean affect marine populations. Research also investigates habitat use and transitions between life stages in marine species.
- Siddharth Narayan (top left) - (Department of Coastal Studies): Coastal Engineer. Research focuses on the interactions between coastal engineering, ecology and morphology with an emphasis on coastal flood risk analysis and management.
For Kimberly, this is where it gets exciting. “I am a field scientist and I love going to those areas where you can see the processes happening in a place, where you can literally see the tides turning, and where people have learned over thousands of years how to adapt their livelihoods to the dynamics of the natural environment.”
“The captured imagery illustrates on a large scale how fast the world is changing, particularly along the highly dynamic coastline,” says David. “It puts things in perspective by presenting evidence of the interaction between natural systems and human and urban systems.”
Image on right displays land change from 2000-2018 in the area surrounding Oregon inlet. The scale is from red (land loss) to blue (land gain).
Field and Lab Experiences
Imagine a course of study where spending time outside is a requirement! Where the learning environment consists of a remarkable coastal setting surrounded by diverse freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems. The Undergraduate Semester Experience at the Coast Residential Program offers such an advantage. Located on ECU’s Outer Banks Campus, the program provides students with an interest in coastal resources, science, and management, the opportunity to immerse themselves in field and lab-based experiences.
- WHO: Open to undergraduate science and non-science majors. Earn a Coastal Science minor!
- WHERE: Coastal Studies Institute, ECU’s Outer Banks Campus
- WHEN: Spring 2020
- COURSES OFFERED: ANTH 2005 - Environmental Anthropology; COAS 2025 - Survey of Coastal and Marine Resources; GEOG 3420 - Remote Sensing of the Environment I; GEOL 1400 - Bays and Beaches Around the World: Geological Form and Function; GEOL 2600 - Analysis Techniques and Methods of Coastal Ocean Research; plus the opportunity to do hands-on research for course credit.
- Small class size (~20 students) and strong faculty and student interaction
- Classroom learning connected with active learning opportunities at the coast and real-world applications
- A remarkable coastal setting surrounded by diverse freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems
- Cutting-edge coastal research labs
- Credits count toward COAS minor
HOUSING: Students will live near the historic downtown Manteo area - 4 miles from campus and near ocean beaches and the site of the first English settlement in the New World. Housing costs will be comparable to those on main campus.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Reide Corbett, Dean, firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-475-5428
As the name implies, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) grows beneath the surface of the water, in shallow depths. Although these underwater grasses may seem to keep a low profile, they are incredible multitaskers, helping to sustain life within marine, estuarine, and riverine environments by providing:
- a refuge for small fish and shellfish to hide from larger fish predators;
- habitat for many species;
- absorption of wave energy and nutrients, producing oxygen and improving water clarity;
- settlement of suspended sediment in the water and stabilizes bottom sediments;
- protection for shorelines from erosion; and
- opportunities for fishing, crabbing, waterfowl hunting, wildlife study, and bird watching.
Meteorological and water data from observing platforms in the Currituck Sound, installed and maintained by the USACE Field Research Facility will provide information on how environmental factors — waves, turbidity, salinity, etc. — affect SAV distribution. “Broadly what we’re trying to do is understand the primary drivers of SAV distribution in the Currituck Sound, which has had significant change over the last three or four decades,” explains Dr. Corbett.
In the lab, researchers are conducting further analysis on sediment grain size to categorize bottom type and using water samples to measure total suspended sediment. Throughout the study, comparisons have been made to historical data from the 1950’s, 70’s and 90’s to identify changes in these parameters as well as shoreline changes through time.
The study continues until October 2019 and will play a role in developing and refining the mitigation measures to be taken by NCDOT in low salinity, water-dependent projects where SAV is a critical part of aquatic ecosystems.