Letter from the Executive Director

Responding to Urgent Challenges

As this issue of Coastwatch goes to press, a pandemic and long-standing injustice and racism are colliding, resulting in protests and great unrest across our nation and in our communities. Many North Carolinians have experienced individual and community anxiety, anger, and sorrow. In grieving for the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor — among so many others — we see persistent discrimination in our own state.

Our team continues to strive to contribute to an equitable and inclusive community. Through the work of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workgroup we try to embed these values in our expectations and daily operations. Action and education are critical for long-term success, and all of us can play important roles. The time is always — not just now — to show by example, to recognize inequalities and to find opportunities to build a just society that respects and values  all people.

Susan White

Susan White

We also want to recognize the significant contributions of health care providers, teachers, grocery clerks, and many other frontline workers and community members who have continued to support  North Carolinians’ needs throughout the spring. We are grateful for your service and hope your workload eases. Thank you.

I often discuss North Carolina Sea Grant’s leading role to increase the environmental and economic resilience of our communities. Resilience often is defined as the ability of a community to recover after a significant disruption. We are all too familiar with recovery from hurricanes and inland flooding. Recent challenges have brought collaborations to strengthen the resilience of individual properties and businesses, as well as ecosystems and communities.

Our ongoing experiences with COVID-19 offer parallels to extreme weather impacts. Significant short-term impacts already have been identified in terms of health, economies, and community infrastructure — with the understanding that longer-term impacts are yet to come. A successful framework for community resilience requires long-term engagement and investments, along with current empowerment to bring change, and new resources to lead the response.

Through our long-term extension expertise and presence across the coast and inland, we continue to advance community resilience.  In this new 2020 context, our program rapidly developed online portals to support educators, parents, businesses, and communities during the state’s early stay-at-home orders, as well as into phased returns. Our efforts included coastal-focused educational resources for K-12 classwork at home and resources for seafood consumers and industry professionals. Visit North Carolina Sea Grant’s COVID-19 Resource Hub.

Many kudos to our team and partners for their innovation and ingenuity to provide critical information during these rapidly changing times. In this issue of Coastwatch, you will even find tips for freezing fish and shellfish if you are limiting your shopping trips, along with always-popular recipes from our Mariner’s Menu blog: MarinersMenu.org.

Good news includes ongoing and newly funded research. These opportunities to share the latest science and its applications across our coast and throughout our coastal watersheds provide a window on our support for resilient coasts and communities. We are particularly proud of contributions from our student researchers, who are becoming the change leaders we need to move forward.

This summer season undoubtedly will look, and feel, a lot different than past years for your family and community. Some things, however, do not change — including the need to be as prepared as possible. For example, our beach safety efforts have a new theme: “Rip Currents: Know Your Options.” Clip out the poster inside the back cover, take it with you when you head to the coast, and share it broadly. The hurricane season also is upon us. Review plans and preparations for your family and community at readync.org.

We always appreciate your support. Many thanks to our numerous community heroes, known and unknown, as we continue to work together through these changing and challenging times.

And, as always, feel free to send me a note: snwhite3@ncsu.edu.

— Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant

from the Summer 2020 issue of Coastwatch