CoastLines ECU® Integrated Coastal Programs Newsletter - Spring 2023

Corbett's Corner

Seems incredible that the academic year already rapidly slipped away into a beautiful commencement in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium™. I always enjoy taking part of this culminating East Carolina University® ceremony that celebrates the accomplishments of our students…it is even more exciting when many of those students have been a part of our growing program! Like the end of most academic years, I enjoy reflecting on what we have been able to accomplish and the opportunities we should pursue.

As I write, our Outer Banks Campus is buzzing with the activity of undergraduates from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, ECU graduate students, high school and university interns, school-aged day-campers and even a few new employees. Unlike many college campuses, we see an explosion of activity as spring fades into summer. The busy summer months are a culmination of many different research programs and opportunities.

It is also exciting to see many of the students that spent their spring semester participating in our Semester Experience at the Coast program actively pursue a summer experience. These students enjoyed an academic semester with us and wanted to remain for an additional research experience with our faculty, spending another semester on the Outer Banks!

Faculty, staff, and undergraduate students from all over the U.S. and Puerto Rico gathered for the Research Experience for Undergraduates orientation week in early June. The students will work on various research projects throughout the summer at CSI.

The unique programs offered at CSI create opportunity and provide real-world research experiences for young scientists. I am very grateful that we have many friends of CSI and ICP that are helping support the growth of these exceptional programs through their gifts and scholarship contributions. It isn’t simply about providing an incentive… these scholarships can make the difference on whether a student is able to spend a semester with us on the Outer Banks.

A recent Semester Experience at the Coast participant at CSI said, “The Coastal Scholarship made a difference in me coming to the Outer Banks because it helped provide funding. Without the scholarship it would have been more expensive to participate in the coastal experience than to stay on main campus. Due to receiving the Coastal Scholarship I was able to participate in the program and have an amazing semester studying on the Outer Banks.”

We can’t grow these unique programs without your help! I truly appreciate those that have given to our scholarship fund to help provide students the opportunity to spend a semester at CSI. Along those lines, I want to acknowledge the generous gifts and bequests of Cheryl & John Oliver and Robert & Jennifer Rippy. The Olivers provided a lead gift to ECU Integrated Coastal Programs in this year’s Pirate Nation Gives with a $25,000 challenge donation to encourage 25+ donors. We far exceeded that during the fundraising event, as did the Olivers with a follow-up $2.5 million bequest. This is a transformative gift and really shows the confidence in our mission and trajectory.

John (left) & Cheryl (middle) Oliver stopped by to show their support during CSI's annual Open House.

Like the Olivers, Bob & Jenny Rippy have made a significant commitment to ICP and CSI. The Rippys, who met decades ago on the Outer Banks while attending a semester-long program as undergraduates at ECU, have given $10,000 toward new scholarships for undergraduates to attend our Semester Experience at the Coast program. In addition, the Rippys have initiated a $250,000 bequest for continued scholarship support.

I am humbled by the generosity of the Olivers and the Rippys and thankful for their support and commitment in growing academic opportunities on our Outer Banks Campus! I hope you will consider joining them and invest in our future, the next generation of coastal scientist.

Thank you for your continued support…now, let the summer begin!

Reide Corbett

Student Section

A Semester Experience. A Lifelong Memory.

Not many students can say they are gaining hands-on experience, learning interdisciplinary skills, making lifelong friends, and studying all while at the beach. Yet at the Coastal Studies Institute on East Carolina University’s Outer Banks Campus, ECU students from many different majors, including Biology, Environmental Studies, Geology, Psychology, Anthropology, Geography, Marketing, and Criminal Justice, gather at the coast to have an unforgettable semester experience on the Outer Banks.

The 2023 Semester Experience at the Coast brought together sixteen undergraduates from a variety of different majors and class years.

From the Beginning

First impressions are almost always intimidating. However, the pressure is off with the way the Department of Coastal Studies’ (DCS) Semester Experience at the Coast Program is designed. Faculty and staff from DCS, ECU’s Department of Biology, and CSI spend the students’ first week of classes by taking the group around the Outer Banks to experience the unique ecosystems and culture of the area. Each day brings with it a new field trip and focus. During the week-long tour, the students learn what to expect as professors share how each location relates to their own research and course design. For those who have never visited the Outer Banks, the field trips offer a great way to explore the island and become familiar with the place they will call home for the semester.

“Going on the field trips the first week with Dr. Lagomasino was a great introduction to the Outer Banks, and it outlined how coastal processes impact coastal communities. I enjoyed learning about sediment sizes and how they correlate with longshore transport along the Outer Banks,” says senior geography major Luke Hutson.

For one of their field trips, Dr. Jim Morley took students to the Roanoke Island Aquarium to learn about coastal marine organisms and complete an interactive worksheet on biology.

Other perks

Aside from allowing students to live near the beach, the semester-long program on the Outer Banks campus has other advantages too. Through its small class sizes, the program gives students the opportunity to have a unique one-on-one experience with professors and classmates. These experiences are advantageous to students as they lead to stronger relationships with researchers and professors and offer students a space to share different ideas and problem-solving techniques.

Internships are another advantage that comes with the Semester Experience at the Coast. In addition to the courses students can take, there are also opportunities for them to participate in a semester-long internship either at CSI or with one of their community partners.

One such experience was Julia Callender’s internship with the education and outreach team at CSI. With their guidance, she gained skills to plan and prepare for K-12 programs and work with students. She even also learned a little about photography and helped document the undergraduate students’ time at the coast.

"This internship opened up my eyes to how important student education is and makes me want to pursue scientific learning in the future with special education,” shared Callender.

Another student, Owen Bergquist, interned with the North Carolina Coastal Federation. There, Owen worked with the staff in Wanchese to assist with oyster reef maintenance, outreach, and other various volunteer opportunities in Wanchese and on the Outer Banks.

“Working with this organization taught me a ton about how important oysters are to our coastal ecosystem and the people that live here. I have a newfound appreciation for the people who work to protect our coasts and keep them healthy,” reflected Bergquist.

Public education and outreach were among the common themes for Spring 2023 internships. Lulea Adams, Kaitlyn Rhodes, and Bryce Berwick each found their internship home at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island (NCARI). They experienced what it was like to care for aquatic animals and understand specific species and habitats. They then conveyed this knowledge during public programs at the aquarium.

“Working with NCARI has taught me the importance of the conservation of marine life. This has been a phenomenal opportunity to learn about beautiful aquatic life and educate the public on the importance of conservation,” said Adams.

While many of the students learned about the importance of ecosystems and shared that with others in the community, there were a few who chose a research-focus internship instead. Taniya Johnson and Thomas Shelton spent their internships collecting water samples from sites in Nags Head and performing water quality-related data analysis.

Water quality is directly tied to the surrounding environment and can also impact human health. Using technology such as remote sensing and parameter data, Johnson and Shelton, along with their mentors from ECU’s Water Resources Center, were able to evaluate the water quality to ensure it was suitable for human living conditions around the island.

Thinking about his future, Shelton remarked, “This experience has introduced me to an interest in hydrology and a potential job outlook, which is really important to me.”

At the end of the semester, the students that participated in internships gave presentations to their peers, faculty, and staff at CSI about what they did, what they learned, and how their futures will be impacted by their experiences.

“Hearing how much some of them learned during their internships made it hard to believe they only lasted four months. These students put in a ton of effort this semester and it was exciting to see how much it paid off – some of them even think they have found their career paths,” says Julie Kirn, a University Program Associate who helps to organize the program each year.

So, what’s the big deal?

Though not all students participated in research internships, all were exposed to the scientific method and study designs through their courses. As previously mentioned, a unique aspect of this DCS program that makes it stand out is the number of field experiences students can attend. Not only do the students receive time to explore curious places such as Avon, Rodanthe, Corolla, Oregon Inlet, and Buxton, but they also are able to gather data from sites all around them. The data they collect themselves can be taken back to CSI and helps form their class experiences moving forward, meaning each semester is unique from the next.

Students Colby Bond and Lulea Adams work together to collect water quality data from Croatan Sound.

For those looking for a change of pace, a chance to learn about the environment, and an opportunity for hands-on work, the Semester Experience at the Coast is a great choice. The stretching of comfort zones, the interactions in a small class setting, and the brief respite from the Greenville campus to be at the beach are not only great experiences but they are also guaranteed to help build lifelong memories.

A special thank you to Julia Callender for her contributions to this story.

New Opportunities Emerge for Semester Experience at the Coast Alumna

Christine Chan was a participant in the ECU Semester Experience at the Coast in Spring 2022. She interned in the Marine Geochemistry & Coastal Dynamics Lab under the direction of Drs. Reide Corbett and Paul Paris.

For some students, the Semester Experience at the Coast is alluring simply because of the space in which it takes place. For others, it offers a change of pace from the Greenville campus. But better yet, for students like Christine Chan, the program opens doors to the once unimaginable.

Now a rising Honors College junior, Chan entered the Semester Experience at the Coast as a second-semester freshman. As a biology and environmental studies double major and coastal and marine studies minor, the coastal-focused program, which takes place on the ECU Outer Banks Campus, immediately drew her in. During her time on Roanoke Island, Chan made long-lasting connections with her professors and even interned in the Coastal Studies Institute’s Marine Geochemistry and Coastal Dynamics Lab.

Chan only spent one semester in 2022 at CSI, but she credits her experiences there, plus her lifelong fascination with the ocean, for shaping her college career path since that spring semester in 2022. Through her internship studying the effects of beach nourishment on sea turtle nesting in Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, she gained hands-on field, lab, and data analysis experience. Chan is thankful for those opportunities, stating,

“I feel very lucky to have gotten that experience as a freshman, especially since I came in with no prior experience. Everyone at CSI was really helpful with getting me started and teaching me the basics of research.”

Her exposure to research and hands-on coastal science led her to apply for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC. Her project there included monitoring loggerhead nesting activity at Hammocks Beach State Park and researching the relationship between clutch size and carapace size. Between her time at CSI and at Duke, Chan realized a career in marine science could be attainable, and that she had many professors and mentors who would support her along the way.

While at the Duke University Marine Lab for an REU in Summer 2022, Christine received hands-on experience with sea turtles.

As if her first year in college was not exciting enough, Chan spent this spring abroad in Costa Rica. Earlier this year, she was also selected for the highly competitive NOAA Hollings Scholar program and for another REU opportunity, this time at the University of Delaware.

At the University of Delaware, Chan will work on a project that examines the effects of microplastics on estuarine shrimp, amphipods, and other invertebrates. She sees many parallels between the ecosystems and estuaries of Delaware and North Carolina.

“After taking more classes this year, I feel I’m more interested in estuaries and invertebrates- both of which support most marine life. The program at the University of Delaware had sites nearby where I could easily gain experience with that type of field work,” says Chan.

Her time as a Hollings Scholar only officially just begun with orientation in May. This winter she will have a few site and office visits to help as she and her mentors decide on best placement for an internship at a NOAA branch during Summer 2024.

Chan, only two years into her higher education career, has already accomplished so much and has even more to look forward to in the seasons to come. While her mentors at the coast are not at all surprised given her drive and determination, they are still impressed with her strides as a young scientist.

“Christine came to the coast with such a great attitude, ready to learn more, engage in research and use the time and opportunity at CSI to gain as much experience as she could,” shared Integrated Coastal Programs Dean Dr. Reide Corbett.

“She really flourished in this hands-on, experiential program. Certainly, we can’t take credit for all she has accomplished, and the list is long. However, we purposefully designed this program to give our undergraduate students an opportunity to not simply take classes but get real research experiences and explore coastal opportunities through the lens of natural and social scientists. Christine took the opportunity and ran with it, demonstrating the significance of programs like the Semester Experience at the Coast for making a positive difference in a student’s educational path.”

To other budding biologists and those interested in research, she offers the following advice.

“Always be willing to try new things and put yourself in situations you know nothing about. Truly, people won’t think you are useless if you are eager to learn. They want to help and see you succeed. It’s okay to be new.”

Integrated Coastal Sciences Ph.D. Candidate Receives Prestigious Award

Allyson Ropp, a Ph.D. candidate, in the Integrated Coastal Sciences Ph.D. Program has been named to NOAA’s Dr. Nancy Foster Scholars Class of 2023. This multi-year award will support her doctoral education and dissertation research. Allyson’s research aims to characterize and evaluate the degradation of wooden shipwreck through the integration of archaeological, microbial ecology, hydrological, and geospatial methods. Using a WWI-era U.S. Shipping Board Emergency Fleet Corporation wooden steamship, Aowa, in the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, her research will leverage traditional and emerging technologies to quantify the shipwreck’s degradation over three years to better understand in situ wooden shipwreck preservation. This scholarship would not have been possible without the support of the Maryland Historical Trust, NOAA’s Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary, ECU’s Program in Maritime Studies and the Department of Biology, and her co-advisors Dr. Nathan Richards (Maritime Studies) and Dr. Erin Field (Department of Biology).

Facutly Highlight

Dr. Eric Wade

A social scientist with stories to tell.

What does a social scientist do? Depending on who one asks, the answers will vary. However, according to Dr. Eric Wade, an Assistant Scientist at CSI and ECU Department of Coastal Studies Assistant Professor, a social scientist might choose to study all sorts of topics related to society and social relationships. Generally speaking, though, the focus is usually on human thought processes, decision-making, and behaviors.

While Wade prefers to design his studies with conservation psychology at the forefront, it is not unusual for him to encounter anthropologists, sociologists, and even economists. As such, he describes himself as an “interdisciplinary social scientist”, and his interests lie in fisheries management and people’s use of marine and coastal spaces.

Wade’s profession has him on different schedules throughout the year depending on the season. During the typical academic year, he teaches courses, analyzes data, prepares manuscripts and grant applications, and communicates with research partners both in NC and internationally. However, once summer arrives, he focuses mostly on fieldwork- opportunities that allow him to travel, converse with fishers around the world, and collect data.

In his dream world with no limitations on money, time, resources, etc., Wade would ultimately live full-time in the places he works and would conduct a multi-country study to understand the drivers of illegal fishing. Facets of this dream, though, can be seen in his work. In one study, he assessed the readiness of countries in the Western Central Atlantic region to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. In a current project, he is studying how non-monetary drivers of decision-making like information-sharing practices influence fishing strategy decisions of fishers in Jamaica. Finally, in Belize, Wade is working with partners from the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism and the Wildlife Conservation Society to highlight the role of women in fisheries.

“The role of women in the fisheries is often overlooked, and the multi-dimensionality of their contribution to the sustainability of the fisheries sector continues to not be fully integrated into fisheries policies,” says Wade. “My colleagues in Belize and I are hoping to better understand the role of women in Belize’s fisheries sector, by exploring their social networks and management preferences.”

Wade sets up an activity for fishers and study participants.

While Wade has seemingly cast his own net internationally, he still has ties to North Carolina. He received his bachelor’s degree in marine biology from UNC- Wilmington, and he is currently working on a few different projects on the Outer Banks and for the State.

Close to campus, Wade is interested in safety at sea and has been interviewing fishers from Wanchese. For this research, he wants to understand how these fishers conceptualize safety and what that looks like in practice on their vessels. While this is an ongoing project, he suspects there may be a correlation between the ways fishers think about safety at sea compared to on land.

Wade is also the lead investigator for the social dimensions component of a study initiated by the NC General Assembly which has tasked UNC System researchers with reviewing the state’s fisheries and critical habitat management practices. Wade and his colleagues are gathering information about stakeholders’ thoughts on the current fisheries management approach in the state and how stakeholders themselves are engaged in the industry.

When he became a professor, Wade was encouraged to pursue research outside the realm of fisheries. Since joining ECU faculty on the Outer Banks Campus, Wade has had opportunities to expand his research in ways he never imagined. Recently, he began a joint study with Dr. Linda D’Anna, a research associate at the CSI, to investigate what and how people here and across the state think about marine renewable energy and the associated devices that may someday be deployed off our coast. Their work is funded by the NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program and will contribute to the program’s greater mission of creating renewable energy in a sustainable and economical way. CSI is well-recognized for its work on marine renewable energy; thus Wade saw it as a good opportunity to contribute to this growing field by looking at the social dimensions of the sector.

“The marine renewable energy [field] is new to me, but pretty exciting as not much has been done on the social dimensions of the field in the US, on the East Coast, and in North Carolina. There is a lot that can be done, and it has been an interesting undertaking so far,” he shares.

Though each of his projects has different nuances, Wade credits, among other things, his background and training for the success of his projects and gathering data. His work allows people to share their stories and opinions openly. As Wade puts it, “Hearing their stories and learning from research participants is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.” He enjoys the relationships and mutual trust he continues to form and foster with stakeholders he encounters.

Though social sciences are broad, they are important because “people do affect ecological systems, and management policies and regulations for the protection of ecosystems rely on people’s adherence to them,” Wade says. “If we don’t understand how people think about and interact with these systems, we cannot promote sustainability.”

Wade, right, enjoys building relationships with people and seeks opportunities to help tell others' stories.

To highlight his perspective, Wade gives as an example the global initiative by the Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve 30% of the world’s land and waters by 2030. While that conservation is great in theory, he explains that an understanding of how people factor into that equation is needed. That 30% likely includes areas that contain people’s homes, where they make money, and where they find their identity. If there is no understanding of these crucial components and the ways that people are attached to these areas, a big part of the conservation equation is missing. Social science studies help researchers to highlight the stories of resource users and other stakeholders and give decision-makers proper insight into human-environment interactions.

The social dimensions of natural resources are still seen as a new and emerging field, and there is still plenty to be understood about the human dimensions of the world. To anyone interested in pursuing this type of research career, Wade offers the following advice: “Start by thinking about what aspect of the social world you are most interested in and what excites you the most. Take the time to build relationships and trust with people. Hear people’s stories. As social scientists, we get to help tell others’ stories to larger audiences.”

As for the future of Wade’s work and what it means for the Outer Banks, he wants to continue studying the roles of identity and place attachment for fishers and how these influence their decisions to remain in or leave the fisheries sector in North Carolina. These insights along with those from his ongoing studies can provide local and state policy-makers with ideas to motivate and ensure future participation in the industry.

Research Focus

Ocean Observing Array Coming Soon to NC

Three OOI Coastal Surface Moorings stand ready on deck as the R/V Neil Armstrong prepares for departure for a Pioneer Array deployment off the coast of New England. Each fully instrumented mooring weighs in at more than 8,000 pounds, making it necessary to carefully coordinate their movement on deck and deployment. Only one of these will be deployed in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight during the initial test deployment. Credit: Rebecca Travis /© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Waters off the coast of Cape Hatteras will soon become the new home of the Ocean Observatories Initiative’s Coastal Pioneer Array, a relocatable ocean observing system designed to be deployed for extended periods of time to collect ocean data.

Earlier this week researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute boarded the R/V Neil Armstrong in Charleston, SC, to begin test deployments in preparation for the installation of the Pioneer Array in its new location in the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB). Recently pulled from the ocean in September 2022, the Pioneer Array had spent the last 8 years off the coast of New England. The data it previously collected up north and will continue to collect off North Carolina makes it possible for researchers to identify both short-term processes and long-term trends in our changing ocean.

Once the array is fully operational in 2024, the data will be available online in near real-time to the public. This means that anyone who relies on reports of environmental conditions for commercial and/or recreational use will now have another tool to reference. The new move also excites CSI scientific staff as it will open doors to new research possibilities and partnerships in the region.

Offshore conditions can be brutal for moorings that remain in the water for six-month deployments. The new location for the OOI’s Coastal Pioneer Array is designed to withstand treacherous conditions, including extreme storms. Credit: ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Physical, chemical, geological, and biological data gathered by the Pioneer Array can be used to help track, predict, manage, and adapt to changes in the marine environment. Access to such data is highly valued by coastal researchers including those who work at the Coastal Studies Institute, and faculty members at CSI played an important role in having the Pioneer Array deployed off North Carolina once it left New England.

As any of CSI’s oceanographers would say, the expanse of water off the Outer Banks is a unique and fascinating place. This new location is the southern edge of the Mid-Atlantic Bight, or MAB. It is also where one might find the cold waters of the Mid-Atlantic Bight shelf water converge with the warmer, saltier waters of the Gulf Stream and South Atlantic Bight (SAB) shelf water; and it is where the edge of the continental shelf is closest to the coast, therefore making the position of the Gulf Stream slightly more predictable than in other places. Finally, it is near the two largest estuaries in the U.S.- the Chesapeake Bay and the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System. Thus, having the Pioneer Array deployed here will offer opportunities to collect data on a variety of cross-disciplinary science topics, including cross-shelf exchange and Gulf Stream influences, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, processes driving biogeochemical cycling and transport, and fresh-water outflows during extreme rain events.

“The Coastal Studies Institute is excited about the observations that will be made from these instruments, allowing us to better address climate change influences in the coastal ocean, and improve ocean/weather/storm forecasts through data sharing. Beyond just the instruments in the water, the new partnerships and collaborations created as part of this deployment will provide the ability to better engage this socio-economically diverse region, with disadvantaged groups more impacted by sea level rise and climate change compared to many coastal regions. This broad network of partnerships across the region will provide a mechanism to drive knowledge to action”, says Dr. Reide Corbett, Executive Director of the CSI.

The full suite of Pioneer Array instruments will not be installed until 2024, but this spring, two different test moorings were deployed.

Schematic drawing of the Pioneer MAB moored array to be deployed off the coast of Nags Head, North Carolina. The full array, to be deployed in the spring of 2024, will consist of ten moorings at seven different sites (three sites contain mooring pairs). For the test deployment, one Coastal Surface Mooring will be deployed at the Central site and one Coastal Profiler Mooring will be deployed at the Northeast site.

A Coastal Surface Mooring (CSM) was deployed 30 meters, or nearly 100 feet, deep at 35o 57.00’ N, 75o 07.5’ W. This mooring is designed for deployment in the shallow, near-coastal environment and is built robustly to withstand harsh conditions associated with the area. It includes instruments that will collect data at the sea surface, at 7 meters (approximately 23 feet) deep, and at the sea floor. The area is marked with a surface buoy which also has wind turbines and solar panels for power generation and antennas to transmit data to shore via satellite.

The second of the two test moorings is a Coastal Profiler Mooring (CPM) which was deployed at 600 meters depth, 36o 03.80’ N, 74o 44.56’ W. This mooring has a Wire-Following Profile which houses various data-collecting instruments and moves through the water column along the mooring riser, continuously sampling ocean characteristics from about 23 m below the surface to 23 m above the sea floor. The CPM also contains an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler to measure ocean currents over the same region of the water column traversed by the profiler.

The mooring data will be evaluated during the deployment and after recovery to determine whether any modifications are needed to the mooring designs. The plan is to deploy the full array in the spring of 2024.

While all this information certainly makes scientists excited, the data will be available for anyone to view online and use once the full array is in place and operational. “This new Pioneer Array location in the MAB offers many opportunities for scientists to obtain data to further their research and will provide better insight into conditions in the area for a variety of stakeholders,” says Dr. Al Plueddemann, Project Scientist for OOI’s Coastal and Global Scale Nodes group at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), which is responsible for the operation of the Pioneer Array. “We welcome researchers, educators, and industry members to reach out to us to explore ways we might work together to maximize the usefulness of the data.”

Furthermore, members of the public might find this data useful when it comes to making plans for water-related work and activities, such as offshore fishing. The moorings will provide near real-time information that will include environmental conditions at the site.

In April, Dr. Al Pleuddemann gave a public update on the relocation of the Pioneer Array at the Coastal Studies Institute as part of the Science on the Sound lecture series. There he discussed the Pioneer Array infrastructure, instrumentation, and what is planned for its move to the waters off of the North Carolina coast. A recording of the presentation can be found below.

An earlier version of this article first appeared on coastalstudiesinstitute.org in February.

North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) News

Tagging Team

Dr. Samir Patel (middle) from the Coonamessett Farm Foundation recently led a sea turtle tagging effort off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC with support, in part, from NCROEP. The loggerhead and Kemp's Ridley sea turtle behavior information gathered with the satellite tags deployed by Dr. Patel and colleagues will help Dr. Dubbs, Associate Director of the NCROEP, to understand the risk of interaction between adult sea turtles and future marine energy installations off the NC coast.

Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Program (ETIPP)

Dr. Linda D'Anna (second left) and NCROEP Director George Bonner (center) visited the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in May for the ETIPP Annual Meeting. CSI is serving as an ETIPP Regional Partner for the Southeast. The meeting provided an opportunity for knowledge sharing across the NREL, Regional Partner, and Community network.

CSI is currently working with communities in Nags Head, Ocracoke, and the Microgrid of the Mountain in Puerto Rico. This program delivers technical support to help island and remote communities address energy challenges and build resilience.

Water Power Week

NCROEP leadership, researchers, and students recently attended the National Hydropower Association's Water Power Week in Washington, DC. This provided a valuable collaboration opportunity with partners from the Atlantic Marine Energy Center (AMEC) and leaders in marine energy from industry, academia, and the Department of Energy.

The conference also included DOE's Marine Energy Collegiate Competition. Dr. Lindsay Dubbs served as a judge for the Collegiate Competition in reviewing oral and written presentations from 19 student-led teams. Students from NC A&T and UNC Wilmington competed in this year's competition and a team from UNC Charlotte was selected to compete in the 2024 competition.

While at Water Power Week, Dubbs also served as a speaker on a panel called “A Collaborative Approach to Successful Project Permitting: Balancing the Real and Present Need for Marine Energy with Protecting the Environment."

International Workshop on Western Boundary Current-Subtropical Continental Shelf Interactions

Dr. Mike Muglia presented his lab’s efforts to examine Gulf Stream meander-scale variability off Cape Hatteras at the International Workshop on Western Boundary Current-Subtropical Continental Shelf Interactions held in Savannah, GA, in May. Muglia's project is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, and NCROEP. They are utilizing surface current measurements from an array of high-frequency radars on the Outer Banks coast to measure how the Gulf Stream “wiggles around” off Cape Hatteras. Understanding Gulf Stream variability in that area is essential for shelf-deep ocean exchanges, climate modeling, search and rescue efforts, and even finding good offshore fishing locations.

North Carolina Renewable Energy Challenge Recap

Currents circulating. Wind blowing. These were both simulated at the 2023 North Carolina Renewable Energy Challenge held at the Coastal Studies Institute in early April.

Each spring, CSI, in partnership with Jennette’s Pier and KidWind, hosts the annual event in hopes of exposing more and more young minds to the growing sectors of renewable energy. Not only do humans hope to divert reliance on fossil fuels to renewable sources instead, but the job markets for wind, solar, and water power are continuing to expand.

A student watches a monitor to see how his team's device performs in the wind tunnel.

Through programs presented by CSI and in preparation for the half-day competition, students from all over North Carolina learn all about electricity and renewable energy. Where does it come from? How does it work? What are the benefits? What are the obstacles? These are all questions that the competing students may first ask and then must familiarize themselves with the answers. But that’s just the start.

The students who participate in the Challenge, either individually or in teams, are also tasked with designing and building their own renewable energy device. For this year’s competition, students could choose between wind energy and ocean current energy. For both categories, teams had to create a turbine, made for their respective mediums, that would spin a small generator and thereby produce electrical energy.

First Flight Middle School teacher Liz Gray and students Foster Downing and Sarah Wisden, all of team Riptides, stand in front of their device mounted to a metal frame before it was placed in the recirculating flume for testing.

Cape Hatteras Secondary, Manteo High, First Flight Middle, Waters Edge Village School in Corolla, Currituck County Middle Schools, and Douglas Byrd High in Fayetteville, NC, were represented in the event; and a total of nine wind and four ocean current teams participated.

Each team had a chance to test their device and go before a panel of judges comprised of three industry experts. Their device performance and the judges’ technical interviews were factored into each team’s final score. Teams also received points when they participated in Instant Challenges- hands on activities set up throughout the building to help them gain a better understanding of different renewable energy sources.

A team competing in the wind category brings their device before the panel of judges.
In one of the Instant Challenges, teams were tasked with creating wave energy converters, or WECs, from Tinker Toys to be tested in a small table-top wave tank.

Between testing, and judging, and Instant Challenges, there was still time, of course, for fun and chit chat. All morning students could be heard laughing and seen skipping around the building, all the while interacting with their mentors and other teams from around the region. Once the activity areas closed, and pizza arrived for lunch, it was time for the keynote address.

John Harker, Lead Fisheries Outreach Coordinator for Avangrid, delivered the special presentation of the day. Specifically addressing the students, Harker discussed the current state of wind energy and the future of renewables in the US. Avangrid, a sustainable energy developer nationwide projects, including an upcoming offshore wind farm located 27 miles off the northern Outer Banks, was a sponsor of the NC Renewable Energy Challenge for 2023.

Avangrid Lead Fisheries Outreach Coordinator John Harker delivers the keynote address to the teams, and their coaches and parents.

And the final to-do for the day? Announce the winners! Prizes were awarded to the top teams in each age division and category.

Maili McManus, who competed solo, was the top performer in the high school wind division. In the middle school wind division, teams from Waters Edge Village School took home both first and second place. Team Name secured the top prize over Bottle Cap by only four points. In addition to the mementos the winning wind teams took home to mark their success, they also received an invitation to compete at the national KidWind event held in Colorado in May.

Maili McManus, Manteo High School. Top prize, High School Wind.
Team Name, Waters Edge Village School. First place, Middle School Wind.
Bottle Cap, Waters Edge Village School. Second place, Middle School Wind.

As for the ocean energy winners, The Beavers from Douglas Byrd High School claimed the top prize for students in 9-12 grades. In the middle school ocean energy division, The Flappy Turtles from Currituck County took the lead over second-place team The Gunyuns, of Cape Hatteras Secondary School, by just one point.

The Beaver, Douglas Byrd High School. Top prize, High School Ocean Currents.
Flappy Turtles, Currituck County Middle Schools. First place, Middle School Ocean Currents.
The Gunyuns, Cape Hatteras Secondary School. Second place, Middle School Ocean Currents.

The North Carolina Renewable Energy Challenge would not be possible each year without the support of volunteers and donors. Each of the areas mentioned above requires extra hands to run efficiently and provide appropriate instruction; and through generous donations and support from sponsors such as the NC Renewable Ocean Energy Program and Avangrid, CSI can offset supply and travel costs for teams. As with any event, it is one that takes time and planning for it to come together; however, it is well worth it to be able to provide an extra-curricular outlet for students to learn about the future of renewable energy.

Fresh Faces

Introducing Julie Kirn

Julie joined the ECU Outer Banks Campus team as a University Program Associate this spring. In this role, she helps to coordinate the Semester Experience at the Coast program and the summer Research Experience for Undergraduates. She also oversees student internship logistics and helps with K-12 programs.

Julie is a Virginia native but spent several years living in Columbia, SC, after graduating from the University of South Carolina and before moving to the Outer Banks in 2020. Prior to her position at CSI, Julie most recently worked as a saltwater aquarist working with corals, tropical fish, and Syngnathids, as well as aquarium aquaculture.

"I have a huge passion for fish but my very favorite animal is my dog, Tonks," shares Julie.

When she isn't not working, Julie loves spending time outside and is always looking for new trails to walk with her husband and their beloved dog. Together they have the goal of visiting every state park in the Carolinas!

Julie has already been a great addition to the team through her support of undergraduate students during their time at the ECU Outer Banks Campus and helping them make the most of their internships with community partners and faculty here at CSI.

Community Calendar

Evening in the Estuary Family Program

The Coastal Studies Institute is excited to launch a series of family programs in the upcoming warm months. Evening in the Estuary programs include a boat ride through the Croatan Sound to a marsh island to wade the shallow waters, survey the sandy shores, and explore the grassy uplands. Participants will learn about estuarine biology and ecology, investigate plant and animal adaptations, seine for critters, and more. Evening in the Estuary programs will be offered on July 27, August 24, and September 214 from 4:00-6:00 pm. These programs are open to the public and are suitable for elementary and middle school-aged children accompanied by their adult(s). Spots are limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The program cost is $20 per person. For more information, and to register, please contact Lauren Kerlin at kerlin22@ecu.edu or via phone at 252-475-5451.

Science on the Sound

Our Science on the Sound Lecture Series will resume in September! Until then, you can get your coastal science fix by viewing our Science on the Sound archives. Recently uploaded was "Red Wolf Revitalization: Current Status of the Red Wolf" presented by in June by Joe Madison, US Fish and Wildlife North Carolina Program Manager for the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

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