More than 200 experts from government, academia, industry and community groups gathered this spring for North Carolina’s coastal conference.

Chris Brown, Susan White and Tom Ross

From left, UNC Vice President Chris Brown, North Carolina Sea Grant Executive Director Susan White and UNC President Tom Ross discuss coastal challenges. Photo by Shaun King.

“The day had a broad focus on coastal ecosystems and economies,” explains Susan White, North Carolina Sea Grant executive director. Sea Grant organized the event for the University of North Carolina system. “The success of the event was having such a mix of participants, across the panels and the attendees,” adds Christopher Brown, UNC vice president for research and graduate education. The conference was April 16 at NC State University’s McKimmon Center.

The crowd included: researchers across many disciplines; local, state and federal officials; representatives of community organizations; independent business owners and industry leaders; and others interested in coastal topics.

“We were especially excited to have graduate students there to see the convergence of research results and hot topics, as well as emerging issues. These future leaders gained important perspectives from all the speakers and the networking time,” White notes.

coastal conference opening panel

The opening panel included, from left, David Eggleston of NC State University, Cameron Moore of the Cape Fear Home Builders Association, Phil Prete of the City of Wilmington and Rebecca Tippett of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Photo by Roger Winstead/NC State University.

An opening plenary identified demographic changes in the coastal region, along with examples of challenges and responses from the City of Wilmington as a local government, Cape Fear Home Builders Association as an industry, and the NC State Center for Marine Sciences and Technology as a university research partner.

Panel discussions focused on energy resources, coastal economies, healthy coasts and communities, hazard preparation and response, marine industry development, and coastal infrastructure.

coastal infrastructure session

The session on coastal infrastructure drew a full house. Photo by Katy Warner/NCDOT.

An evening program included remarks by UNC President Tom Ross, N.C. Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and Emlyn Koster, director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. In addition, various tools developed across the UNC system were demonstrated.

Videos, photos and presentations from the day are available online at

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

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