CoastLines ECU Integrated Coastal Programs Newsletter - SPRING 2021

Corbett's Corner

"The World is your Oyster"

This Spring, the ECU Outer Banks Campus welcomed a new group of undergraduate students for the 2021 Semester Experience at the Coast. I opened my initial conversation with our students with this bit of advice, "The world is your oyster". I was trying to emphasize the unique opportunity they have to take face-to-face courses on such an incredible campus, full of experiential courses, internships and faculty ready to engage with them. The chance to take part in all of this even during the challenges associated with COVID! Take the opportunity, embrace it, make the most of it! They took the advice…we had a great semester with these 16 bright young minds! Several of the students participated in research with faculty on the coast, others were embedded in the community engaged with internships. ECU’s Outer Banks Campus was beginning to look more alive and we embraced it! Thanks to those students that trusted us with their health and education this spring…it was a pleasure to get to know you and welcome you to our coastal campus. As we look toward the growth of the academic and research programs on the coast, it is hard not to think back to the same phrase…truly, figuratively and sometimes literally, the world is our oyster!

Integrated Coastal Programs is making significant progress toward creating a thriving campus in Wanchese, NC. We have more than doubled the undergraduate and graduate populations during the last year, creating a vibrant atmosphere focused on learning, pushing new boundaries in education and research. Like any campus, the activity doesn’t end at the end of the spring semester…OH NO! Lots more to come this summer.

We are excited to welcome ten undergraduate students this summer from across our nation and Puerto Rico that are participating in an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). This unique interdisciplinary REU program will allow individual students to be an important part of a team working to study natural and built environments from diverse perspectives that span the natural sciences, engineering, and social sciences. Like a lot of what we take on, this REU program doesn’t fit the traditional mold…we are working across three institutions (University of Puerto Rico Arecibo, Clemson University in South Carolina, and East Carolina University) and have a focus on team science, allowing students to pursue an individual research project but collaborate with other students, faculty, researchers, and community members to integrate their work within a broader context.

We wouldn’t forget about our community in all of this growth. We have developed new virtual programs (Meet the Scientist and Kitchen Science) and summer camps are back!! Yes, you heard that right…we will be offering four summer camps in 2021! CSI’s summer camps take a fun approach to introducing our future scientist to the coast. It will be great to hear the chatter and laughs of these campers in July and August. As we reignite youth programs on our campus, we are also looking for new opportunities to develop pathways for high schoolers to join the ranks of ECU and our partner institutions. So, keep your eyes out for new academic-focused summer programs for high schoolers…we look to develop summer “accelerator” programs to give academically-focused high school students a chance to work directly with our faculty and learn more of NC’s coastal ecosystem!

All we are working toward can’t be done on our own…we need your help! As a friend and supporter of Integrated Coastal Programs and the Coastal Studies Institute, consider contributing to our mission in creating a vibrant coastal campus and growing opportunities for students to spend a semester or more on ECU’s Outer Banks Campus!


Step on the ECU Outer Banks Campus most any weekday, and in addition to the hustle and bustle of boats being loaded up and research being conducted, you’ll also likely find a class in session or students wandering about. In the last few years, the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) and ECU Integrated Coastal Programs (ICP) have stepped up their game on Roanoke Island. While there have been community programs for quite some time, the organizations are now starting to host more and more academic programs for students in pursuit of various degrees from UNC System schools.

At the beginning of each new school year, the Coastal Studies Institute hosts the UNC Institute for the Environment’s Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS). OBXFS is a semester-long program for UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates in which students take classes, go on field trips, participate in a local internship, and complete a group Capstone research project. The Capstone topic is always pertinent to issues threatening coastal North Carolina. Through the various experiences provided by OBXFS, the students are able to become completely immersed in interdisciplinary academics and the Outer Banks community, both of which provide a unique learning environment for participants.

“The OBXFS students learn about environmental topics from several different disciplinary perspectives, providing a real-world view of how disciplines are interconnected. They also apply their knowledge and newly learned approaches to the study of a complex natural resource problem through the Capstone research project and gain experience in research or an environmental job through internships with mentors in the CSI and Outer Banks communities. The semester program is meant to connect the dots between coursework and the complexity of real-world decision-making.”, explains Lindsay Dubbs, OBXFS Director.

Similarly, during the Spring semester, ECU and other UNC System undergraduate students have an opportunity to study at the beach through ECU’s Semester Experience at the Coast program that was recently initiated in 2020. While open to all students, the experience is especially designed for those with an interest in coastal studies, and the credits earned through the offered courses count toward the ECU Coastal and Marine Studies Interdisciplinary (COAS) Minor. In addition to classes, students often take on an internship with a local organization or an independent research project guided by a faculty member. Teamwork is often encouraged and required in many classrooms and labs, but great emphasis is also placed on individual development and preparation for further interdisciplinary learning and professions. The environment of the OBX Campus and surrounding area make it the ideal place to foster continued interest in coastal issues through the hands-on lab and field-based experiences.

“The Semester Experience at the Coast is a unique program that truly immerses students into the curricula that they have come to the Outer Banks campus to study. Students have an opportunity to actually visit and experience the habitats, people, communities and processes that are typically only presented within the pages of textbooks and readings”, says Reide Corbett, Dean of ECU Integrated Coastal Programs and Executive Director of the Coastal Studies Institute.

He continues, “We can provide the real-world analog in concert with more traditional classroom learning, and we are excited by the positive response from the students during the last two spring semesters. We are continuing to grow the spring program and intend to expand this interdisciplinary academic opportunity to include both the fall and spring semesters in the near future.”

While undergraduate students have their own designated semesters to be on campus, there are almost always graduate students around. The ECU Outer Banks Campus offers a unique, desirable setting for many participants of ECU’s Integrated Coastal Sciences Ph.D. (ICS) program. This research-intensive doctoral program blends natural and social sciences to best prepare students to work across disciplinary boundaries while addressing real coastal issues. The program exposes students to field work and places great emphasis on collaboration, while providing enough flexibility to allow students to choose where they would like to study (Greenville or OBX). Upon completion of their dissertation, students are well-prepared for careers with government agencies, private firms, nonprofit organizations or in academia.

“Wicked, complex problems at the coast take a team of researchers to solve. To be successful at solving these complex coastal problems, one needs to understand what kind of team to put together, what kinds of language to understand and speak, and what types of skills and datasets will need to be analyzed. Students get all of that training through our program. This coastal Ph.D. program trains the students to address complex problems from multiple perspectives and present them, from day one, to scientists and managers, then translating and communicating that science to a broad audience.”, says Sid Mitra, ICS Program Director.

Though each of the academic programs taking place on the ECU Outer Banks Campus differ, there is one very common, highly-emphasized aspect- they all have an interdisciplinary focus! Coastal studies, coastal issues, and coastal management are extremely complex and often have many overlapping facets. In order to produce the best results, it is imperative that our students are trained to tackle problems from multiple perspectives. By having an interdisciplinary training, students will be well-prepared to work with various stakeholders and researchers from many different backgrounds and will be able to contribute great things to their own fields and communities as well as society as a whole. These students are the next great generation of upcoming coastal scientists, educators, policy-makers, and managers.

Student Internship Reflections

An Experience for Growth and Maturity

by Chanel Sturdivant

As my spring semester in the OBX and first year at East Carolina University end, I have a lot to share about my experience. I am a junior-year transfer student from a community college earning a degree in biology with a concentration in Ecology. My transfer to ECU presented both opportunity and struggle. Research and internships are an important part of my degree path; yet the prospect of having to get as much practical experience while still doing well in classes all in a two and a half year time span intimidated me. Truthfully, it still does even now, but I knew that I had to start somewhere.

I heard about the Semester Experience at the Coast while touring ECU. Though I was interested, I didn’t think it was something I’d be able to do because I have ADHD and was scared to make mistakes. Despite my fears, as I settled into the end of my fall semester, my advisor mentioned the program again and told me what I could expect. After some contemplation and reassurance, I added the coastal studies minor (COAS) and was set for Manteo and the Outer Banks Campus in the spring. During the process, Dr. Reide Corbett, Dean of Integrated Coastal Programs and spearhead of the Semester Experience, offered me the opportunity to participate in an internship or assist in research, and eventually I met Mr. Aaron McCall, my first internship supervisor, and was placed with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) at the Nags Head Woods Preserve.

Since the start of my TNC internship, I’ve learned a great deal. Not only did it redefine the meaning of hard work, but it also taught me to be confident in what I observe and communicate. It also provided lessons of dedication, commitment, and discipline.

In my internship I learned to use my senses to problem solve, especially when it came to observational skills. As part of my internship, I worked to identify and remove invasive plants. Autumn Olives and English Ivy are two invasive species found in abundance on the preserve, Nags Head Woods. Not only did I work hard to first identify them, but a lot of heavy lifting was required to remove the Autumn Olives. Mr. McCall and I collectively tagged and spent a good amount of time on hands and knees digging to uproot the English Ivy’s woody vines.

The pink "tag" indicates the English Ivy should be removed from this tree in the next phase of work.

The hard work did not stop there either. Part of my internship was to learn more about being a steward of the preserve…so lots of different tasks were required. There was one particular day that I spent about an hour and a half painting an abandoned apartment to cover graffiti. After painting, I walked about half mile down another trail and spent the rest of my hours raking mulch over spots that had become too muddy for trail goers to maneuver over. In the end, I returned to my housing exhausted and in desperate need of a shower, but I had a blast.

My internship experience was fun and gratifying. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I have grown and matured in just the short four months I worked there. So, to any student who may be reading this, I encourage you to take on an internship while at the coast. It will be an experience for growth and maturity.

Where there's a will, there's a wave.

by Marco Agostini

My name is Marco Agostini, and I am a ECU senior Computer Science major with a minor in Coastal and Marine Studies. In the spring of 2020, I came to the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) as a pioneer of the Semester at the Coast Program. I had an incredible experience my entire time there, but unfortunately our semester was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I was determined to not let that be the end of my time at CSI. Eight months later I renewed contact with Dr. Reide Corbett and Dr. David Lagomasino, and we began to formulate plans for a potential internship opportunity for the spring of 2021. After many emails back and forth and hectic scheduling, we were finally able to confirm plans for my return to CSI in the spring. I was ecstatic!

I began my research internship over the winter break and moved back to the coast in January. Right off the bat it was a phenomenal experience. We were working with data from a new satellite known as ICESat-2, and I learned so much about remote sensing, data collection and analysis, and research in general. Our project was to use ICESat-2 to measure certain ocean and sound properties – particularly waves and water levels – in order to discover how coastal ecosystems influence wave power and ocean topography of the North Carolina coast and those around the world. Dr. Lagomasino was my primary advisor for the majority of the internship, particularly while working with ocean-side data and wave power, and I certainly benefitted from that one-on-one attention. Dr. Mike Muglia also assisted in this project and helped acquire a lot of our in-situ data from buoys, wind sensors and water level sensors

The internship was also a great opportunity to meet a number of professionals in the remote sensing and coastal studies fields. Dr. Lagomasino brought together a team of scientists and researchers from several organizations and backgrounds with similar projects. We met once a week to discuss our projects and any advancements, as well as to give feedback and suggestions. It taught me a great deal about networking and teamwork and how to give/receive constructive criticism- not to mention it was an excellent resource for help with my project.

My personal goals for my internship were to 1) gain experience in a field that has the potential to become an exciting career for me and 2) create a network of contacts in similar fields. I definitely feel like I accomplished both of those goals! Since starting college, I’ve been searching for career paths that combine both Environmental Science and Computer Science; and since remote sensing is such a fascinating blend of the two, this was a very valuable experience for me.

My internship has led to several other great opportunities, such as the ECU Undergraduate Research and Creativity Award which I applied for and received! This in turn prompted me to present at the ECU Research and Creative Achievement Week. It was all invaluable experience for me, and it resulted in extra funding for my research.

Both of my semesters at the Coastal Studies Institute have been extraordinary and have positioned me to make a career in this field a possibility. I highly recommend the Semester at the Coast program as an incredible interdisciplinary learning experience for environmentally-passionate students of any major.


All along it has seemed that Dr. Rachel Gittman’s career path has had an element of intersection. During her schooling she studied terrestrial then marine environments. As a consultant, she often experienced the tug between scientific fact and human want. Now in academia, Gittman is a Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) Research Associate and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, yet her projects often involve coastal engineering and adaptation. So how did she get to where she is today?

Gittman grew up in southern Virginia and eventually found herself studying terrestrial systems at the University of Virginia. After participating in undergraduate research opportunities and obtaining a degree in Environmental Science, she moved to Washington, D.C. for some “real world experience” and to become an environmental consultant. While holding the role for three years, Gittman had the opportunity to work with many federal clients on environmental management and compliance projects. Though the work was “interesting and versatile”, she felt that something was missing.

“I started to realize that many times compliance, management, and policy decisions weren’t really being made based on science. A lot of it was people saying, ‘Well, we think this is what is best.’ There wasn’t much scientific process associated with what I thought were important environmental management and policy decisions being made at the federal level.”, says Gittman.

She continues, “So I became interested in going to grad school because of what I perceived to be a disconnect between policy and management and then science. I had it in my mind that with a master’s degree, I could go back to consulting and really tie together science and management.”

Interestingly, other plans fell into place instead. Gittman fell in love with academia and decided to switch her focus to marine and coastal ecosystems. During her pursuit of the perfect-fit graduate program and the completion of her time as a consultant, Gittman found herself working on a living shoreline project, a shoreline stabilization method that utilizes natural and living materials instead of manmade structures such as bulkheads or jetties. Her involvement in the project led her to become interested in the cross-section of engineering and ecological restoration.

As she was accepted as a Ph.D. student at University of North Carolina’s Institute for Marine Sciences, it just so happened that coastal management and ecosystem protection was becoming a hot topic in North Carolina, and living shorelines were gaining momentum. In fact, her very first day of grad school, her advisors handed her the task of writing a proposal for a living shoreline in NC.

Through grad school and her post doc position at Northeastern University, Gittman has continued to focus on shorelines, marshes, and coastal ecology, but has also added ecological processes and some social science aspects to the mix as well. Though she lived in Boston for a brief period, she now finds herself again in Beaufort, but this time with a joint appointment with ECU’s Integrated Coastal Programs- Coastal Studies Institute and the Department of Biology.

It is especially within the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) that she has found herself collaborating across disciplines with other faculty members. Currently she is working on a project that intersects engineering and ecology with Dr. Sid Narayan, Dept. of Coastal Studies Assistant Professor and CSI Assistant Scientist. Narayan is a civil and coastal engineer by training, and together the two researchers are working to assess how boat wake may be influencing a restoration site in Taylor’s Creek located in Beaufort, NC.

The site lies along the Rachel Carson Reserve, which is highly subject to shoreline erosion, and is comprised of several 15 m long breakwater reefs constructed with material especially designed for oyster recruitment. Gittman, Narayan, and their grad students will monitor the site over time to assess 1) how the oyster reefs form 2) if they are comparable to a naturally occurring reef in a similar system and 3) how well the reefs provide protection for the marsh behind it. The third assessment will be determined by the amount of shoreline accretion or erosion that takes place. In addition to the ecological aspects of the study, the team hopes to quantify the wave environment in the creek setting.

“We hypothesize that the main force behind the shoreline erosion at the Reserve is boat wake,” Gittman explains. “Even though Taylor’s Creek is a no wake zone, it’s a heavily trafficked area with a new boat house and public boat ramp right across from our study site. Even though the boats are being driven slowly, there’s still some wake generated as they speed up, slow down, and turn around. All of the different boats in the area at a given time are mixing the waves, potentially compounding them and causing issues along the shoreline.”

One of the breakwater reefs constructed along the Rachel Carson Reserve. The town of Beaufort can be seen in the right corner of the background.

The combination of expertise highlighted through this project and others Gittman has worked on has made her thankful to be a part of ECU’s Integrated Coastal Programs. Her interests clearly straddle the line between coastal ecology and engineering, which sometimes leaves her feeling like she needs “multiple Ph.D.s” to understand and combat all of the challenges. It’s because of these feelings she encourages her students not just to get good lab and field experience early on, but to also push themselves.

In closing, Gittman reflects, “Don’t be afraid to cross interdisciplinary boundaries and ask questions that require expertise out of your comfort zone. That’s what we should all be doing- trying to find the collaborations to answer the wicked, complex questions. The solution might be simple, yet it requires a lot of thought from a lot of different perspectives to get there. And in my opinion, the interdisciplinary nature of Integrated Coastal Programs is one of the most interesting characteristics of the program. It’s a real strength of ECU, and I am excited to be a part of it.”


The Integrated Coastal Sciences, formerly known as Coastal Resource Management (CRM), Ph.D. Program has produced many successful alumni over the years. Among them is Dr. Susan Lovelace, a 2008 graduate who joined the program at the beginning of its second year.

After receiving a degree from North Carolina State University, Lovelace moved to Beaufort, NC for a 6-month position at UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences. She ended up staying in Beaufort for many years, falling in love, raising a family, teaching and then later working for the NC Estuarine Research Reserve.

As a site manager for the Rachel Carson Reserve, one of the things Lovelace learned was that “you can’t manage fish, but you can manage people.” This was a theme that continued to show itself through many of the grant proposals she wrote, and it made her interested in the human dimensions’ aspect of coastal management. While writing proposals, Lovelace also experienced a particular “inconvenience.” Because she herself did not hold a Ph.D. at the time, she was often having to find someone else to list as the primary investigator for the grants.

Around the same time that Lovelace began to look into Ph.D. programs that fit her needs, ECU was launching the CRM program, and it turned out to be a perfect fit for Lovelace. As she describes it, it was “a non-traditional Ph.D. program for a non-traditional student.” She continued to live in Beaufort, raising her family and still working full-time. For her, the research aspect came first and then she finished with classes.

“What drew me to the program at the time was the ability for me to make it what I needed it to be”, Lovelace reflects. The interdisciplinary nature of the program helped her to widen her coastal knowledge, and she jokes that it was like doing “three masters and a dissertation.”

So where is Lovelace now? About 6 and a half years ago, she took a position at the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium as the Assistant Director for Development and Extension. She has been at SC Sea Grant ever since, and just this year she was named the Executive Director of the organization. She was very excited to hit the ground running in what was a busy time this winter for SC Sea Grant. Her new position includes roles such as engaging stakeholders and building teams for research proposals and projects, and she attributes part of the success she’s experienced so far to the wide knowledge base she acquired from the CRM program.



In recent years, sea-level rise has become the topic of increasingly more conversations, and rightly so. Sea-level rise is just one of the many effects of climate change and has large implications for coastal communities and adaptations. Addressing this issue is even more urgent now as a new study, co-authored by Dean Reide Corbett, recently published in Nature Communications revealed that the average rate of sea-level rise more than doubled along the U.S. Atlantic in the 20th century compared to that from the years of 0-1800.

The study looked at sea-level change data over 2,000-year span from six different locations along the Eastern Seaboard. The researchers considered the driving coastal processes that occurred on the global, regional, and local scale, and found that the total rate of sea-level rise of 1 to 1.4 inches per decade during the 20th century was the fastest in 2,000 years. This study is the first to consider such an extensive period of time as others of its kind have been limited to the 20th and 21st centuries.

The sediment core sample to the right was collected to analyze the layers of sediment that have built up over the last few thousand years. Roanoke Island, a site of interest for the newly published study, fills the remainder of the frame.

Among the sites examined for this study was Roanoke Island, NC. Besides being a coastal community found in the middle of Albemarle-Pamlico estuary, the island is home to CSI and the ECU Outer Banks Campus, both of which are led by Corbett.

Not only is the study important because of its extended time frame, but it is also critical for understanding how the coastal processes driving sea-level rise have changed and could continue to change in the future. Additionally, the methods used could prove helpful for sites around the world. Finally, the broader understanding of drivers and the practical application of methods are imperative for informing regional and local decision-makers when it comes to planning and responding to sea-level rise.

At 2ft of sea level rise, much of Dare and Tyrrell Counties will experience inundation. [Photo generated by NOAA's Sea Level Rise Viewer Tool.]

“Coastal communities across the globe are having to make some tough decisions related to sea level rise. This study provides a better understanding of the sources of change, the processes that have led to the increased rate of sea level rise. It’s science like this, a collaborative approach to understanding our coastal challenges, that can help provide the information needed to make informed decisions and develop sound policies necessary to respond effectively to climate change along our coasts.”

While Corbett’s work was situated at ground-level, another CSI scientist has, interestingly, had his sights set on the sky to study the depths. Dr. David Lagomasino was recently part of a team that utilized remote sensing data from two different NASA satellites to produce highly accurate models of shallow, coastal seafloor topography, also known as bathymetry.

The novel study, which examined sites in the United States, Greece, and Bermuda, has great implications for future work. Bathymetric models are important tools used by decision-makers and stakeholders for a variety of things, including but not limited to, marine navigation, aquaculture, climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as coastal resilience and disaster recovery. Despite their importance, up to this point, accurate bathymetric models and maps have been hard to come by as manually mapping the seafloor, even in shallow depths, can be an arduous, challenging, and often expensive task.

By combining the openly available data from NASA satellite ICESat-2 and European Space Agency satellite Sentinel-2, Lagomasino and the rest of the research team found a means to make highly detailed maps and models (as seen above) more accessible to coastal communities around the world. The ease with which the maps can now be produced will allow future researchers more flexibility when it comes to analyzing coastal change over time.

"Being able to measure bathymetry from space will allow us to regularly monitor changes to the seafloor. Though these measurements can not necessarily be done in areas where there is lots of sediment in the water, it can be done in remote locations and for countries that may not have the capacity to collect expensive sonar data.", shares Lagomasino.


The North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) has had another successful year under the direction of George Bonner, Lindsay Dubbs, and Mike Muglia. NCROEP is currently partnering with the Department of Energy (DOE) for two exciting projects and an abundance of research is ongoing at many of our partner institutions. Keep reading below for more on NCROEP's work this spring.


Desalinated Water Coming to a Pier Near You

It’s the final countdown to DRINK stage of the $3.3M Waves to Water Prize, now less than a year away, and the Coastal Studies Institute, Jennette’s Pier team is getting ready to rock and roll! While the remaining contestants are currently creating their wave-powered desalination systems, our crew has been busy coordinating with the Department of Energy (DOE) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to ensure everything is in place for the big show at Jennette’s Pier in April 2022.

Most recently, the folks at CSI and Jennette’s Pier orchestrated a test article deployment at Jennette’s Pier in April. To say the deployment was no small feat would be an understatement. All in all, there were close to twenty people involved, from drone flyers and crane operators to divers and marine craft drivers! The test article was a large buoy, crafted by team members at CSI, which had to be lifted and dropped over the side of Jennette’s Pier and anchored into place about 100 yards from the pier. The buoy then had to stay in place for five days and be retrieved. And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the deployment and retrieval had to line up with a good weather window, a period of minimal wind and calm seas.

The yellow test article buoy deployed by the CSI team in April 2021 stayed anchored off of Jennette's Pier for five days.

Despite so many things needing to be done and aligned, the deployment was a huge success from start to finish, and the team was able to accomplish the main goals for the project by demonstrating a safe and effective device deployment and retrieval, as well as a strong anchoring system to hold the buoy in place for an extended period. In fact, we were successful in spite of our “weather window” including a short period with winds in excess of 40 mph whipping up the ocean in the area!

“The excitement that Jennette's Pier and CSI were selected by NREL and DOE to host the Waves to Water Prize in 2022 continues! It was thrilling to see the plans our team has discussed and carefully made successfully play out in real life last week. We are proud to apply our coastal expertise and skills to the exploration of solutions to clean energy and drinking water challenges.”, shared NCROEP Associate Director Dr. Lindsay Dubbs.

The excitement Dubbs mentioned was not only palpable across the team, with members of the public feeling it too.

“It was great to witness the level of interest from the pier guests who just happened to be visiting on the deployment and retrieval days. Many asked great questions that allowed us the opportunity to start a conversation about the Waves to Water Prize and, ultimately, marine renewable energy devices, the partnership between the Coastal Studies institute and Jennette’s Pier, and the work of the NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program.”, said Jennette’s Pier Director Mike Remige.

In the coming months, CSI and Jennette’s Pier team members will continue to meet with DOE and NREL to further map logistics in preparation for the upcoming DRINK phase, and the organizations will also schedule another test deployment in December. For the most up-to-date information about Jennette’s Pier and CSI’s role in the Waves to Water Prize, be sure to follow CSI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


Supporting Energy Resilience on the Outer Banks

In the Fall issue of Coastlines, we announced that CSI and the NCROEP, in conjunction with the Energy Production & Infrastructure Center (EPIC) at UNC-Charlotte, had been chosen as a regional partner for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Program, also known as ETIPP. Through the program, DOE and its national and regional partners seek to provide remote and island communities with technical assistance to expand their energy solutions by reducing costs and power disruptions. Over the last several months, communities from all over the U.S. applied for the program, and in late April, eleven of those communities were selected.

Among the eleven chosen for the first round of technical assistance were the Town of Nags Head and Ocracoke Island! Nags Head hopes to explore renewable energy options to help secure 48-72 hours of back-up power source for first-responder facilities during natural disasters, while Ocracoke will begin to prepare for a future that could include an electrified ferry fleet.

"As a community partner in the Department of Energy's Energy Transition Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP), we are excited about the opportunities to assist coastal communities in accelerating clean energy solutions and enhancing grid resiliency. In addressing Nags Head's and Ocracoke Island's unique challenges, there will be valuable lessons learned in building resilient solutions for other islands and remote communities.", states George Bonner, Director of the NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program.

In the months to come, both communities will each meet with CSI and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) team members to identify community needs and establish a path toward becoming more energy resilient. The final product will come in 2022 and will be tailored to each ETIPP community.

NC State CORE Lab

Let's go fly a kite.

NCROEP promotes collaborative research across its partner institutions, and there is currently a lot of excitement surrounding an ongoing project in the Control and Optimization for Renewables and Energy Efficiency (CORE) Lab at NC State University. The lab, which is led by Dr. Chris Vermillion, is researching, among other things, tethered marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy devices.

In the CORE lab, one of these devices comes in the form of an underwater “kite”. The kite is tethered to a floating platform and is designed to gather and store energy produced by currents coming from multiple directions. This spring, the lab team is testing a kite prototype in the NC State pool, and if all goes well, they plan to begin open water testing in Fall 2021.

Left: A "host computer" helps members of the labs control and monitor their tests. Right: The kite (bottom right corner, video below) is tethered above. The two floating blue structures at the surface pull the kite along the length of the pool.

Vermillion explains, "Owing to their ability to execute high-speed cross-current motions, underwater kites can generate substantially more power per unit mass -- often an order of magnitude more -- than traditional fixed devices. Energy is harvested either through on-board rotors or cyclic spooling motion. This makes kites an attractive techno-economic solution for many applications, including Blue Economy applications such as autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) recharging, along with harvesting ocean current energy from resources such as the Gulf Stream."

The schematics above illustrate how the kites could be tethered to most efficiently harvest energy from underwater currents.

"The underwater kite design, control, and experimental validation work is a truly multidisciplinary study spanning device design optimization, advanced control, hydrodynamic analysis, resource and techno-economic assessment, fabrication, instrumentation, and testing. This sort of research, which brings together critical expertise from such a diverse range of domains in order to realize impactful ocean energy research, lies at the heart of the NCROEP mission."

The kite projects being led by NCSU have so far been supported by NCROEP, NSF, DOE, & DARPA, and included collaborations with CSI, University of Maryland, Florida Atlantic University, and Martin Defense Group. The kite system represents only one technology out of a portfolio of tethered energy system technologies being developed at NCSU.



COVID-19 caused the Coastal Studies Institute to adapt our community programs to strictly online offerings starting in Spring 2020 and lasting into Spring 2021. Of the those we have provided, perhaps one of the most successful has been the “Meet the Scientist” series, a monthly live-streamed event. The virtual community program has allowed viewers to get to know some of the world-class coastal scientists at ECU and among our partner institutions, and it’s given us the opportunity to introduce the public to the people behind the science being done along our shores and across the world.

Starting in November 2020 and continuing almost every third Thursday of the month since, Dr. Reide Corbett, CSI Executive Director and ECU Integrated Coastal Programs Dean, has sat down to “chat” with coastal North Carolina scientists. Topics covered so far have included ecology, biology, physics, and coastal processes, and an upcoming installment will bring George Bonner, Director of the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program, to the hot seat.

With plenty of humor and life advice always in the mix too, viewers of all ages are sure to glean something from each session.


The Coastal Studies Institute is thrilled to once again offer in-person summer camps in 2021! While the pandemic put a hold on things last year, the CSI summer camps are back and better than ever. This year CSI will offer two revamped alternating program themes for the weeks of July 12- August 6 for campers 10-15 years of age. The cost for one week of camp is $285. Each day begins at CSI at 9AM and ends at 3:30 PM.

The Coastal Marine Biology & Ecology Camp has already proven to be a popular choice with both sessions (July 12-16, July 26-30) selling out in under a week! Campers participating in this program will learn about the make-up of coastal habitats and the animals that call them home through hands-on labs and field trips as well as fun sessions with local marine biologists and ecologists. This camp is a great way to experience our beautiful coastal ecosystems and why they are so important!

The fun and learning continue during the weeks of July 19-23 and August 2-3 with our second offering, Oceanography & Marine Science Technology camp. Campers participating in this program will learn about oceanographic and coastal processes through the lens of technology and interact with scientists who use the tools daily. Activities for this program will include remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and renewable energy device building & testing, drone programming & flying, underwater glider contests, trying on dive gear, and so much more. There is just one spot left in this program, and it won’t last long. Be sure to secure it for your child soon!