Letter from the Executive Director

Fall 2023: New Team Members and Opportunities

image: Susan White.

Susan White.

Fall always brings a timely break from the year’s summer heat, and we can all hope for limited impacts from hurricane season as it winds down. Opportunities for hikes, biking, fieldwork, and excursions are all appealing again in these cooler months.

But first, on a tragic note, Murray Bridges, the “Crab Father of Colington,” died on August 22 after contracting a bacterial infection from an open wound exposed to brackish water. He was a long-time collaborator with North Carolina Sea Grant in advancing the soft crab industry in our state. His loss affects his Outer Banks community, the many people he mentored, and countless chefs and consumers who have enjoyed his bounty over the years.

Bacterial illnesses and fatalities — sometimes caused by the Vibrio bacteria through open wounds or by eating seafood — are preventable. Our fisheries and seafood specialists have compiled a list of recommendations about how to avoid Vibrio’s serious effects.

This summer, our North Carolina Sea Grant team and our many partners have been busy with projects in coastal communities, while also considering how new and longstanding collaborations will move forward sustainably. Our next two years of core research projects will include strong engagement from our extension team and growing initiatives with communities.

Through extension and the linking of local knowledge from communities with expertise from our state’s excellent public and private higher education institutions, research can expand from the field and lab and become integrated and applied in community settings. Applied science improves our state’s ability to address a range of coastal needs, and you can read how in this issue of Coastwatch — starting with Nick Corak’s article on prescribed burns.

image: FALL 2023 COASTWATCH MAGAZINE cover -- prescribed burn.In addition to new Sea Grant-supported work, our team actively pursues opportunities that focus on strengthening coastal resilience and ecosystems. It is my pleasure to welcome our newest team member, Mariko Polk, as our new coastal processes specialist. Her expertise and her clear enthusiasm and commitment to supporting our coastal communities are already resulting in clear, positive impacts.

We also anticipate adding two more new team members. A coastal public health specialist will expand our program’s capacity through partnerships and projects that directly support communities’ public health needs. In addition, a new Community Engaged Internship coordinator will facilitate a national Sea Grant program for undergraduate students from underrepresented and under-resourced communities, as well as providing additional support for related initiatives.

This fall, we also will offer several funding opportunities again — including Community Collaborative Research Grants in partnership with the NC Water Resources Research Institute and the William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science. In addition, we will partner with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and the Division of Coastal Management to support research that addresses state-specific needs.

Fall is always a wonderful time for communities to come together to celebrate — especially through seafood festivals and other outdoor events. We hope to see you out and about at these.

Meanwhile, if you have suggestions about how Sea Grant can support or collaborate with you, please let me know at snwhite3@ncsu.edu.

Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant

from the Fall 2023 issue