Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant. Photo courtesy Roger Winstead.

Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant. Photo courtesy Roger Winstead.

The power of a team cannot be underestimated.

In recent weeks, I have found myself reflecting on my first year with North Carolina Sea Grant. I readily recognize that each and every member of our team, including the many partners who have spent time meeting with me, have carried me forward to a greater understanding of the volume and depth this program already brings to our state.

Equally important is this team’s boundless passion to support individuals and communities — all who live, work and play on our coast. This is a clear indication that our program is capable and flexible. Our varied team members demonstrate keen abilities to engage in diverse activities to address natural resource challenges and opportunities that our coast offers.

The opportunity now is to take those next steps, look forward, look inward and reach outward to build on our team’s strengths.

For example, the coming year will bring exciting opportunities to broaden Sea Grant’s engagement with academic partners through a new Coastal and Marine Science Consortium that will include leaders of marine-focused programs across the University of North Carolina system and Duke University. This is a great opportunity to renew past collaborations and look at new challenges. It also meets one of the recommendations of the expert panel from the American Association for the Advancement of Science that recently reviewed UNC system marine science efforts.

Sea Grant also will focus this year on refining the roles, membership and level of engagement with our program’s advisory board — a group that is critical to our long-term success.

February 2014 will mark the start of a new set of two-year core research projects. Physical and social scientists, along with their graduate students from across the state, will bring their inquisitive skills to bear on subjects ranging from hazard modeling and predictions to oyster reef restoration, and water-quality testing to community development. Watch for the full listing in a future issue of Coastwatch, where we will even explain transcriptomic studies.

We look forward to working with our partners and ensuring even stronger integration among the research, extension and communication teams that will support the needs of our coastal communities.

On a personnel note, we expect to fill two openings on our staff. Soon we will have a new deputy director who, like me, will wear hats for both Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute. That search process was especially rewarding to see the caliber of professionals in tune with our program’s mission.

We also plan to fill an extension specialist position vacated recently when Marc Turano moved to an industry partner with offices at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. In his more than 10 years with Sea Grant, Marc’s expertise in aquaculture — including finfish and shellfish — had direct impact on many businesses, as did his work to improve blue crab shedding operations. He also managed state research programs that fostered collaborations among fishing and academic communities. We wish him the best.

You, our valued Coastwatch readers, also are key members of this team. I thank you for your ongoing feedback, hands-on engagement, and varied opinions that continue to strengthen our focus and direct our efforts in this state, the region and the nation.

From your family here at Sea Grant: Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

This article was published in the Holiday 2013 issue of Coastwatch.

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