As the sun sets on summer, the transition often brings a full schedule with the new fall semester, recruiting for our spring Semester at the Coast program, increased engagement at our Greenville campus, and hosting many different community events on our coastal campus. As we move from summer to fall, the OBX may be slowing just a bit, but we are bustling with activity on the Outer Banks Campus!
This fall is no different, and I even added several invited afternoon and evening lectures to my calendar. From the OBX, Greenville, Wilmington to Pinehurst, I have taken my passion for resilience and the coast on the road, and it has reminded me how important it is that we, the scientific community, translate our science and speak about it as often as possible. My recent lectures have reminded me that people are inherently curious and truly want to better the world in which we are so dependent. Yes, communities are interested in the science- how and why the climate is changing and its influence on the coast; but they also want that packaged with some solution-oriented ideas. I was thrilled by the response to these presentations and the conversations that followed.
One of the key messages I try to end on is that the challenges we face are serious, but certainly solvable. We have the understanding and the tools we need to start making changes…like most things, it starts with your voice and your choice! We need to talk to each other about the challenges, our concerns, and ideas for improvement. Our own choices in our individual lives do make a difference and will influence others.
I am proud of all the research we are doing across coastal systems in NC and around the globe. Our students are making incredible impacts with the work they do through internships and their own research. We hope you will share our story with a friend, participate in one of our upcoming events to learn more, or invite us to one of your events so we can continue the conversation!
As always, I thank you for your continued support and look forward to our next discussion.
Summer Camp Summation
Lunch boxes, water shoes, sunscreen, and more… All of these are items that summer campers at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) know to pack daily. An unexpected guest speaker, an afternoon storm, or even the spontaneous consideration for group preference, could mean a change in the schedule at the drop of a hat. While that may sound seemingly disruptive, truly, it only adds to the summer camp excitement each day.
During the fall and spring semesters on the ECU Outer Banks Campus, the halls are usually quieter as undergraduate pupils attend lectures and organized school groups participate in educational K-12 programming. Summers, on the other hand, feel a bit different at CSI. Children ages 10-15 years old fill the building with their boisterous chattering as they anxiously await to hear each day’s plan.
What will they study? Where will they go? Is it a boat day? The answers to these questions usually depend on the theme of the week. Over the course of each summer, CSI hosts eight weeks of camp with four different foci - coastal and marine biology and ecology; shipwrecks and maritime archeology; art and science; and oceanography, engineering, and sustainable coastal living. Each theme is offered twice during the eight weeks.
During Coastal Kingdoms, a biology and ecology-focused camp, campers explore Outer Banks ecosystems while they learn about local ecology and the interconnectedness of these marine systems. On the first day they learn about phytoplankton which are the primary producers and basis of the food web in many marine ecosystems. With plankton and their unique adaptations set as the foundation for the week, students then learn about other organisms and ecosystems. They visit the NC Coastal Federation for a lesson about oysters and living shorelines, hear from CSI scientists about fish adaptations and habitats, and take samples of local fish populations through various techniques including traps, seine nets, and hook-and-line fishing. Anywhere they travel, they take water quality readings and consider what makes healthy aquatic habitats. Finally, the campers round out their week by visiting Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge to search for bears, kayak the paddling loop, explore a freshwater wetland, and hopefully lay eyes on an elusive alligator or two.
Legends of the Atlantic, our shipwrecks and maritime archeology-focused camp, tends to draw a crowd of young history lovers and diving enthusiasts. While campers do not dive on a real shipwreck while in the care of CSI staff, the week is still immersive. On the first day, campers become familiar with the local boat-building history and industry, then design and build their own model boats to race. As the week progresses, they learn to search for identification clues on a mock wreck and can even make a wreck map of their own. Thanks to many CSI partners, campers have also had opportunities to connect with experts from NOAA’s Monitor Marine Sanctuary, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, and the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab. And what’s a ship-centric camp without boarding one for themselves? Not only will the campers cruise the Croatan Sound one day, but if they’re lucky, some of them may even get a chance to hop on a vessel in progress while visiting Bayliss Boatworks!
Shapes in Nature is the camp for those who see artistic beauty in the natural environment. Campers break out the paint and all sorts of mixed media to create science-inspired works of art. Each day in the Shapes in Nature camp begins with a short lesson about ongoing research at the Coastal Studies Institute and is usually followed by a field trip and a hands-on project. From the physics of ocean waves to the complex connections of food webs, campers find artistic ways to represent it all through methods like sculpture, photography, dance, and other visual arts. The week comes to a close with an art gallery showcasing all of the creativity and new knowledge gained throughout the week. Campers get the opportunity to show their parents and guardians, CSI faculty and staff, and visiting students around the gallery to explain their projects and detail the activities and lessons of the past few days.
Last but certainly not least, Sustainable Seas is a popular choice for campers interested in nature-based infrastructure, engineering and renewable energy. While it is good to help young minds understand scientific advances in coastal-related fields, it is even better to frame these findings in the context of sustainable living and fostering environmental stewardship. Over the course of the week, Sustainable Seas attendees learn what it means to be a resilient coastal community in the face of a changing climate and intensifying storms. Activities for these participants include building lots of hands-on models including engineered shoreline stabilization methods, wave energy converters, wind turbines, and microgrids. They even learn about decision-making at both the personal and community levels.
From budding marine biologists to archaeologists, artists, and engineers, Coastal Studies Institute summer camps offer an experience for every student.
“The experiential nature of our summer camps really sets them apart,” says Lauren Kerlin, CSI Outreach Associate and summer camp instructor. “Every lesson has a hands-on activity or field trip to follow which makes the learning experience that much more rich.”
In 2023, ninety-three individuals participated in camp programming. Some only came for one week, others came for four to ensure they saw it all. Some came from Dare County, and others traveled from as far away as the West Coast. Though each week and group looks different, some elements never change. Coastal Studies Institute summer camps offer a fun, inclusive, and exciting environment to make new friendships and learn about the coastal systems and habitats of the Outer Banks.
This year, twelve students have joined the program and will be taking classes together on ECU’s Outer Banks Campus. Coursework for the program is split between classes, internships, laboratory exercises, fieldwork, and field trips. In their classes, students will study laws and policies concerning coastal issues, as well as ecological processes and sustainable coastal management. Furthermore, students will complete a group research project, or Capstone, in which they study and research a topic to present their findings on at the end of the semester.
The topic of this year’s Capstone is focused on human perceptions of artificial light at night (ALAN), and its ecological consequences on the coast of the Outer Banks. The students will evaluate environmental factors; gather the opinions and attitudes of the Outer Banks community; and ultimately answer the questions of how ALAN has changed along coasts and in marine systems, its consequences for coastal systems, how people view ALAN and light pollution, and how it can be reduced if seen as a problem.
The students are looking forward to the experiences and opportunities that OBXFS has to offer. Abigail Montes de Oca, a sophomore biology major from UNC, says that being at the Coastal Studies Institute has given her a chance to step outside of her comfort zone and form connections with new people.
“It just honestly plays a big role in your character development to just go out and do something completely brand new,” says Montes de Oca, “and as for my education, it’s just teaching me more about a field that I’m interested in.”
She is also excited about her internship with the horticulture department at the North Carolina Aquarium. The Horticulture Department is responsible for taking care of and maintaining the native plants on aquarium grounds.
Montes de Oca is particularly focused on monarch butterflies and other pollinators that utilize the vegetated area. Her work includes pollinator surveys- where she looks in one specific area for any pollinators that may land on and pollinate a plant- or computer work- where she logs pollinator sightings to examine if any trends are present among the pollinated plants.
“I really wanted to take this semester to learn more about conservation and biodiversity, another one of my interests, so that when I do decide on a career path, I am satisfied that I gave everything I wanted to a try. So far, this experience has left a positive impact and honestly might make my decision a little harder in the future because I really do enjoy this type of work,” she shares.
Dr. Qubin Qin
A Doctor for the Ecosystem
Traditional Chinese medicine and ecological modeling… seemingly not two things that have a lot in common. However, Dr. Qubin Qin can draw parallels between his hobby and his profession, respectively. Qin is an ecological modeler and coastal oceanographer by day, but, in his free time, he enjoys finding the science behind the holistic approach of Chinese medicine. His fascination with combining multiple facets to make a whole is something reflected in his career choice too.
Qin joined Integrated Coastal Programs faculty in August, but his journey to living on the coast took almost two decades. Qin grew up approximately five hours outside of Shanghai and did not lay eyes on the ocean until he was ten years old. In college, he studied geographical science and realized there were still so much more to discover about the ocean. Thus, he was inspired to enroll in a master’s program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Particularly satisfied with coastal living, he later pursued a Ph.D. at VIMS and remained there for a postdoctoral opportunity. As if it were fate, Qin finally landed at the ECU Outer Banks Campus in the summer of 2023. He recalls that the Outer Banks was the first place he visited when he arrived in the U.S. for his master’s program at VIMS.
Dr. Rosana Ferreira
A Visionary Program Director
Integrated Coastal Programs (ICP) is pleased to announce Dr. Rosana Ferreira as the next director of the Integrated Coastal Sciences (ICS) Ph.D. program. The ICS program equips students to solve complex coastal problems through multidisciplinary training, and, as an atmospheric scientist, Ferreira will bring yet another perspective to this approach.
Ferreira began her career at ECU in 2007 as a faculty member in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment (DGPE) and has a proven record of leadership and advocating for students. In her time at ECU, she has served as the Graduate Director of the ECU M.S. in Geography, the ECU Faculty Senator for Geography, Planning, and Environment, and on various other committees. Additionally, as an international, first-generation college student herself, Ferreira is “aware of the academic challenges faced by first-generation students, students with multicultural backgrounds, and international students.” She is organized, proactive, and ready to take on new challenges, all while maintaining compassion for students and their academic journeys.
Dr. Ferreira is eager to begin her work as ICS Director and, thus far, has enjoyed meeting ICS students and affiliated faculty.
"I am thrilled to be the new director for the Integrated Coastal Studies PhD program. This is an exciting opportunity to lead and contribute to the advancement of coastal research and education, and I look forward to working with students, faculty, and staff to explore the complex challenges and opportunities of our coastal environment, ecosystems and communities."
In the future, she hopes to add more atmospheric sciences into the ICS curriculum and mentor atmospheric science PhD students in the program. Her research, which focuses on the integration of observations and models of the atmosphere to study changing climate, is well-suited to fold into the interdisciplinary nature of the ICS program and has the potential for collaboration with other ICS faculty and students.
In the meantime, she is excited that ICS students will have the opportunity to fulfill one elective requirement through a course called Coastal Storms this spring. She and other faculty in DPGE and in the Department of Coastal Studies, will teach this course which will examine the meteorology of coastal storms and their social and ecological impacts on the North Carolina coast.
Whether it be funding, connections, research, or student support, Dr. Ferreira has her sights set on increased opportunities, and with that, the new growth for the Integrated Coastal Sciences Ph.D. program.
Members of the Oceanography & Marine Hyrdrokinetic Energy Lab recently ventured to Ocracoke to install a high-frequency radar transmit antenna. Once the radar is fully online with their network, the lab expects to have outstanding Gulf Stream Coverage every hour. The data received from this additional tower is crucial to understanding the Gulf Stream off of Cape Hatteras, and in turn, is highly valuable information for ongoing lab studies as well as NCROEP as a whole. In the long run, the expanded Gulf Stream coverage will help to make global climate models and predictions more accurate.
UMERC Conference in New Hampshire
NCROEP was well represented at the University Marine Energy Research Community (UMERC) Conference at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in early October.
- ECU students Jillian Eller and Cora McQuaid presented a talk and poster, respectively.
- George Bonner (NCROEP Director), Linda D'Anna (ECU), and Lindsay Dubbs (NCROEP Associate Director) led workshops on various topics.
- Mike Muglia (NCROEP Asst. Dir. of Science & Research), Wes Williams (NCSU), and Safeer Kahn (UNC-Charlotte) each gave presentations.
While in the area, they also visited UNH's Living Bridge Tidal Turbine (pictured). The trip provided great opportunities to share research with colleagues from other universities and members of the Atlantic Marine Energy Center, of which CSI is a founding partner.
Renewable Energy Representation
The Coastal Studies Institute Education and Outreach team has traveled near and far to share about renewable ocean energy.
In July, Parker Murphy attended the 2023 National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) Conference in Bellingham, WA, where she led a workshop entitled Electric Currents & Energizing Waves. Workshop participants built model wave energy converters using basic parts and received instructions for implementing the activity into their own renewable energy lessons.
In October, Lauren Kerlin, along with Murphy, spent a day in Roanoke Rapids, NC, at the Center for Energy Education's Solar Fest. There they talked to elected officials, industry professionals, and school children (pictured) about NCROEP and different types of renewable ocean energy technology.
CSI Education and Outreach team members enjoy teaching those both young and old, and they look forward to upcoming opportunities at CSI and in other communities.
Introducing Samantha Hamilton
Samantha Hamilton started her position as an administrative assistant at CSI in May. For the previous five and a half years, she served as the assistant to the undergraduate director of the ECU English department where she worked closely with advisors and students. Samantha has a passion for history and classical literature, and one can often catch her sitting outside and reading most days during her lunch break.
Samantha grew up in Las Vegas and is the third of ten children. She joined the Army Reserve while still in high school and switched to active duty about a year later. She spent 12 years in the military as a logistics manager and moved to Greenville in 2017 after leaving the Army.
Samantha has a 10-year-old son named Tobias, a dog named Ichabod, and three cats- Leonidas, Gorgo, and Jubilee. She loves being out in nature and makes Tobias come along most of the time. Together they run, hike, camp, and head to the beach as often as possible.
Extend the fun of NC Oyster Month past October with CSI as we continue to offer family-oriented programs during the months of November and December. Exploring Oyster Ecology is an educational opportunity for families with children aged 5 and older to learn about the Eastern Oyster and its vital role in our estuaries. Participants will get an up-close look at live oysters, investigate the organisms they interact with, and head home with a craft, too! This program will finish with time to decorate an oyster holiday ornament. Events will be offered on November 15 and December 13 from 3:30 to 5:30 PM at the Coastal Studies Institute. The cost of the program is $10 per participant and pre-registration is required.
ECU Outer Banks Campus Tours
Guided tours of the ECU Outer Banks Campus and Coastal Studies Institute are now offered on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM. Visitors will be guided through the main Research Education & Administration building to get an overview of our unique academic programs, education and outreach initiatives, campus, and diverse research laboratories and their current projects. The cost of the tour is $5 per person and pre-registration is required.
Science on the Sound
Science on the Sound Lecture Series returned in September for the academic year, and Kathie Dello, State Climatologist and Director of the NC State Climate Office at NC State University, gave the first presentation entitled, It’s Hot Y’all: Data-Driven Decision Support from North Carolina’s State Climate Office. Science on the Sound is a free event series hosted on ECU Outer Banks Campus and the public is encouraged to attend. The programs are also always live-streamed on our YouTube channel. Save the dates now for our upcoming lectures on December 14, January 18, February 15, March 21, April 25, and May 23, each at 6 p.m.
North Carolina Renewable Energy Challenge
The Coastal Studies Institute, in conjunction with Jennette's Pier, is excited to once again host the annual North Carolina Renewable Energy Challenge. This year the event will be held on March 23, 2024. This day-long competition will feature both wind and ocean energy divisions for upper elementary (grades 4 & 5), middle, and high school student teams. Both wind and ocean energy divisions will compete in device testing, present to a panel of judges, and take part in renewable energy instant challenges.