It’s time to hit the water! Our ocean, sounds and lakes are beckoning families and friends during precious breaks from school and work. Time slows down on the water, offering opportunities to sit and fish, or eat, or just be with one another to catch our collective breath.

Summer is a great time to explore — and to enjoy this edition of Coastwatch that provides a breadth of topics for your reading pleasure. You can learn of post-Hurricane Florence efforts to support community recovery and future preparedness, or you can check out fishing tips. But relax and read from the comfort of your hammock, beach chair or rocking chair. I’m right there with you.

If you — or your family and friends — head to the coast this summer, please take time to review beach and surf safety details wherever you stay. Know if that beach uses warning flags, and if so, what those colors mean for swimming conditions. Many communities offer surf zone safety classes and provide updates on social media.

Take note of where lifeguard stations are located. It’s always best to swim at a protected beach during hours when guards are on duty. Rip currents can be a problem any time of day on any beach — tragic lessons learned already this year.

Check out the poster inside our back cover of this issue. It provides tips to avoid rip currents, and how to escape if you get caught. Go ahead: Tear it out. Then share with friends and family.

These signs are up and down the coast. The National Park Service has added more than 200 new signs in recent years. So, too, have many beach towns and community partners who realize that preparedness and knowledge increase everyone’s awareness, safety and ability to relax at the beach.

North Carolina Sea Grant team members have spent decades as part of a national beach safety task force. In fact, local and national efforts by Spencer Rogers, our coastal construction and erosion specialist, recently were noted as he received an award for employee excellence in NC State’s Office of Research and Innovation.

As a Sea Grant extension specialist for over 40 years, Rogers gives his all to provide research-based information to coastal property owners, government agencies, designers and building professionals. His expertise also includes constructing more resilient coastal homes and buildings.

We also are proud of Jessica Whitehead. In early June, she starts as chief resilience officer for the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency in the N.C. Department of Public Safety. Jess brings 11 years of service experience in working with Sea Grant — here in North Carolina and nationally, and earlier in a joint role serving both Carolinas.

Her new team has impressive goals to bring varied partners together to develop solutions that enhance the resilience of communities and the natural environment, while creating safe and affordable housing solutions. We look forward to working with, and learning from, Jess in her new role.

We are in the midst of planning for the 2019 North Carolina Coastal Conference on Nov. 19 and 20 in Wilmington. Save the date and join this discussion. Drawing upon the success of previous events, sessions will include partners from academia, state and local government, industry, non-profit entities, and local community members. Speakers will discuss research and outreach that address current and expected needs on topics such as storms and climate; community and ecosystem health; fisheries and aquaculture; and planning and economics.

To propose a conference presentation or poster, visit the conference website. For broader program suggestions or to join us as a cosponsor, contact me at

Thank you for being a part of our Sea Grant family this summer and all year as we, together, explore and learn about North Carolina’s natural resources and the great diversity of communities where we live, work and play.

This article was published in the Summer 2019 issue of Coastwatch. Click here for reprint requests.