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

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

Small, strategic investments often result in significant long-term, positive impacts for North Carolina’s coast.

This issue of Coastwatch features several North Carolina Sea Grant-funded students who are conducting significant research to tackle challenging issues of coastal resource management — from fisheries to land-use planning. Supporting graduate students across the state are among the many ways that our program invests in the next generation of scientists and professionals who will guide North Carolina and the nation forward.

Our Sea Grant focus on science literacy starts within the state’s K-12 classrooms. That includes our marine education efforts, providing critical concepts and skills not only for teachers, but also for educators in aquariums, museums and nature centers. Terri Kirby Hathaway, Sea Grant marine education specialist, leads the work.

Next year, some of the brightest high-school students will converge on Carteret Community College. They will come from across North Carolina for the annual Blue Heron Bowl in February 2016. Even more will follow to attend the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in April 2016. We are longtime supporters of the state competition and are excited to help plan for the national event. Learn more at and

After projects with specific community colleges over the years, we are looking forward to broader engagement with that system. Our efforts could include technical training for specific jobs and research opportunities for students in the college transfer programs.

We also train undergraduate and graduate students to communicate science effectively through writing and speaking opportunities. You can see the results in their blog posts at and in Coastwatch stories. With our guidance, some students even are creating K-12 lessons based on their data.

On a broader scale, we support the annual State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium held each fall. Learn more about it at

Our goal is to help students build transferable career skills — becoming experts in critical reading and writing, and developing the ability to contribute as a team member within a group of people with varying interests and expertise. I certainly recognize that these skills, in addition to technical know-how, are key to leadership in any chosen career.

Therefore, our investments will help ensure that our state benefits from these leaders over the long run, regardless of whether these individuals stay in a coastal or marine profession. With our program’s limited fiscal resources, we place a high value on advancing student education, including growing their research experiences through minigrants.

Sea Grant partners within North Carolina and nationwide view our strategies as “best-management practices” that provide substantial short- and long-term returns. Thus, we are looking to increase these efforts in the coming year.

Our partners in expanding North Carolina Sea Grant’s educational investments will be thought leaders in your communities, across a range of industry, nonprofit and academic settings. We will be reaching out to those who are eager to leverage efforts together — because we collectively see the value of recognizing and nurturing these future leaders.

I encourage you to reach out to me at I would like to hear your thoughts on strategic ways we can expand our efforts in 2016 to partner with individuals and groups to enhance our investments in students of all ages.

During this holiday season, I value spending time with family and friends. Thus, I am pleased to celebrate with you all the treasures of the North Carolina coast, including those described in this issue and in all our work.

In closing, I will share my personal New Year’s resolution: Spending more time at the coast and on the water in 2016. I look forward to seeing you there!

This article was published in the Holiday 2015 issue of Coastwatch.

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