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

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

True engagement takes time and commitment. It takes a driving issue — a specific need or set of needs — to galvanize resources, energies and bodies. It takes the art of discussion, critical negotiations and prioritization. It requires the execution of a series of concrete actions conducted by a multitude, not just a single party, to start down a strategic path that will lead (hopefully!) to the desired outcome.

My last note to you described our renewed commitment to engaging and supporting the activities of the North Carolina Sea Grant Advisory Board. This month, Sea Grant is hosting a research symposium as significant step, in a series of strategic initiatives, to seek stronger, renewed and sustained engagement with the range of stakeholders the program has served for decades. In addition, Sea Grant is seeking new partners who have a growing interest in collaborations that focus on the state’s coastal resource science and outreach needs in new ways.

At the time this magazine went to press, more than 150 people had registered for the day-long event that will highlight specific research applications to coastal needs. Facilitated group discussions will identify current and emerging research and outreach needs across our coastal communities. Those conversations will suggest ways that Sea Grant and a range of partners can proactively align resources to address a growing suite of complex science and community issues that require more than one approach — and certainly more than one entity.

I am pleased with such a positive response to our request for engagement, including individuals from local governments, federal and state agencies, academic institutions, environmental consulting firms, nonprofit organizations and interested citizens. Graduate and undergraduate students, who will be joining the discussions and be part of a poster session, are a welcome perspective and source of innovative ideas.

The day will start with thoughts and challenges from Margaret Davidson, acting director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. In addition, she is the director of NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in Charleston, S.C., and previous director of the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium.

Her keynote speech will set the stage as we share highlights of our research portfolio and consider how we move forward with our partners to address critical topics.

Ongoing discussions throughout the day will be valuable to our participants, as well as the continuing evolution of North Carolina Sea Grant programming. Certainly, we will benefit from feedback that will guide our resource investments. I anticipate that Sea Grant will provide new competitive funding opportunities to jump-start work in our focus areas.

This is the first of many “listening sessions” that Sea Grant will be facilitating, in big and small groups, across the state to capture other partnership perspectives and priorities.

We will share our report of the discussions with you in the coming months. However, if you were not able to join this discussion, please feel free to reach out to me with your perspectives on critical ongoing and emerging issues. Send your comments to

This letter was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Coastwatch.