From the Executive Director

Season-to-Season Successes

Susan White, executive director of North Carolina Sea Grant

Summer was wonderfully busy here at North Carolina Sea Grant: kicking off new research awards, announcing new student and faculty funding opportunities to keep us moving forward, and expanding our team’s collaborations with communities across the coast and the state.

In this issue, you will learn more about our partnerships and the impacts from new collaborative projects. And you can follow all our news and blogs at We just cannot fit all the great work of our partners and team into this magazine!

Recent months also brought changes in our extension team. Jessica Whitehead moved to new duties as the state’s first chief resilience officer for the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resilience within the Division of Emergency Management. Also, Chuck Weirich is joining the National Sea Grant Office in Silver Spring, Maryland. There, he will coordinate national aquaculture programs.

I am so pleased to see our team members move into strong leadership roles at state and federal levels. We look forward to their new and expanded programs and audiences as they bring their research and outreach skills to new challenges. This fall, North Carolina Sea Grant will be recruiting for two extension positions, one in aquaculture and the other in coastal resilience, to continue the great progress that Chuck and Jess brought to our program.

North Carolina Sea Grant also is pleased to welcome a new advisory board member, Beaufort Mayor Everette “Rett” Newton. He brings not only a local government viewpoint, but also perspective from serving 28 years in the U.S. Air Force. He also has a research lens as a doctoral candidate at the Duke University Marine Laboratory, focusing on marine robotics and remote sensing.

This summer our team also had the pleasure of hosting a researcher and two undergraduate students from Florida A&M University for a 10-week Summer Research Team for Minority Serving Institutions program, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). NC State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture co-hosted the visit. The DHS Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill coordinated the program.

Social scientist Michelle Dovil and her students, Tia Maxwell and Tenesha Washington, rapidly became part of our Sea Grant team. They developed and delivered a robust research project focused on perceptions of risk related to climate in Wilmington and Elizabeth City. We benefited greatly from their research findings and engagement, including discussions regarding how to widen and strengthen recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in the sciences.

Their work culminated in a Washington, D.C. presentation of their findings to DHS. I anticipate welcoming them back to present additional findings during the North Carolina Coastal Conference this November. Working with Michelle, Tia and Tanesha reinforced North Carolina Sea Grant’s ongoing commitments to actively expand our engagement and awareness of opportunities to improve programming in our grants work and in support of where we live, work and play.

And now, I am more than ready for this Fall season! Crisp mornings with lower humidity and the back-to-school thrills of students arriving on campuses — and back at elementary school, in my family’s case. Students are excited to learn, connect with new people, and see how individually and collectively they can contribute to the success of something they find valuable.

For some, it may be an introduction to hands-on research. Others will be engaging in and finding a home within a new community, learning about historical influences, and expressing themselves through the arts.

Opportunities for learning are endless. I find the start of new school year full of contagious energy that helps affirm and inform our work across the state. Speaking of which, make plans now to join North Carolina Sea Grant and many leaders from local communities, state and federal agencies, academia and nonprofits for the 2019 N.C. Coastal Conference in Wilmington. All the details are here.

I look forward to our having a productive fall season with you all — and to seeing you in Wilmington in November. Meanwhile, if you have ideas or thoughts about the conference or our programs, please feel free to reach out to me directly:

Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant

photo courtesy of

from the Autumn 2019 issue of Coastwatch