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NC Coastal Conference Keynote Speakers to Describe Ecosystem and Economic Resilience

Note to Media: If you are interested in covering the 2019 Coastal Conference, please contact Katie Mosher,, 919-515-9069.

Public and private sponsors join forces to support this year’s conference.

Michelle Covi, photo by Aileen Devlin

Keynote speakers for the 2019 North Carolina Coastal Conference know the state well, but also bring outside perspectives. Michelle Covi from Old Dominion University will describe challenges faced and lessons learned in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Timothy Gallaudet, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will offer perspective on resiliency provided by a strong Blue Economy.

“Resilience is a word that often highlights response from or preparation for storms — but we also we also see a broader sense of resilience, including in our coastal ecosystems, economies and communities overall,” explains Susan White, executive director of North Carolina Sea Grant, which is hosting the conference. The event will take place Nov. 19 and 20 at the Hotel Ballast in downtown Wilmington.

Covi, who speaks on Tuesday, Nov. 19, is on faculty at Old Dominion and is an extension partner for Virginia Sea Grant. She conducts research and outreach activities for climate adaptation and coastal resilience efforts for Virginia’s coastal communities. Her research areas include sea-level rise risk perception and communication, public participation in adaptation planning processes, and other engagement and outreach practices. She co-organizes the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise/ Flooding Adaptation Forum, a quarterly meeting of adaptation stakeholders, and has served on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Environmental Justice. While earning her doctorate in coastal resources management from East Carolina University, she focused on sea level-rise risk communication and policy, including working on several North Carolina Sea Grant projects.

Timothy Gallaudet
Timothy Gallaudet

Gallaudet, who speaks Wednesday, Nov. 20, is a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral, who has served the U.S. Department of Commerce as the assistant secretary of oceans and atmosphere since October 2017. His current duties include leadership in NOAA’s efforts to power the nation’s economic elements related to ocean and coastal topics, the “Blue Economy.” He previously served as oceanographer of the Navy and commander of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command. His experience also reflects weather and ocean forecasting, hydrographic surveying, developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and assessing the national security impacts of climate change. Other roles have included leading teams of Navy sailors and civilians performing diverse functions, such as overseeing aircraft carrier combat operations, and planning and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts.

Dozens of additional speakers will cover ocean, coastal and watershed research and outreach topics in panel sessions, lightning talks and posters.

White also offers special thanks to the conference sponsors. Four provided the highest level of support: the University of North Carolina System; NC State University’s Office of Research and Innovation; the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Office of Research.

Other sponsors include: the N.C. Biotechnology Center, NOAA’s Southeast and Caribbean Team, East Carolina University’s Integrated Coastal Programs, the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, and the North Carolina Water Resources Research Institute. White adds she also is pleased to have a sponsor that notes the role of music, humanities and arts in the lifeblood of our coast: King Mackerel and the Blues are Running, the legendary musical that will be celebrating a key anniversary in 2020.

This week also will focus on future leaders, as Sea Grant is a co-sponsor of a regional Coastal Careers Workshop. The Coastal Society is leading the series to honor the late Margaret A. Davidson, who was a mentor to White and countless members of the coastal workforce. She also was the keynote for Sea Grant’s first N.C. Coastal Conference.

For registration information and updates, visit