Category Archives: Coastal Studies Institute

Researchers awarded $1.5 million grant to investigate the future of coastal communities

Andy Keeler, professor of economics at East Carolina University and program head for public policy and coastal sustainability at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute, is part of an interdisciplinary team of researchers investigating how public policies affect both economic decisions and the coastal environment.

Keeler is one of the researchers funded by a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant awarded to Dylan McNamara, associate professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography at UNC Wilmington.

McNamara will lead a group — from geomorphologists to economists — from seven universities to address the interactions of natural forces, economic decisions and public policies to determine how the environment and patterns of human settlement react to rising seas and related coastline changes. The NSF grant will fund the research for four years. The project is underway.

“Our team is excited to receive this grant as these resources will allow us to work together as a coherent multidisciplinary team, which is fundamentally necessary to understand the human-occupied coastline system,” said McNamara.

Researchers from UNCW, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Georgia, The Ohio State University, East Carolina University and the University of Colorado will create and investigate computer modeled coastal communities similar to those found along U.S. East and Gulf Coast barrier islands.

“We are heading into a critical phase where coastal communities will have to make important decisions about how they are going to adapt to the future,” McNamara said. “We are hoping we can inform some of that policy. The stakes are high for communities along every coastline as the recent storm tragedies highlight. Our goal is to understand the complex dynamics at play along human-occupied coastlines. So rather than reactively dealing with a disaster event, we aim to proactively understand the dynamics that so often lead to disaster.”

Keeler said one of the goals of the project is to better understand the factors at play in defending the coastline versus retreating from it.

“What we’re trying to do is use these example communities and some sophisticated modeling systems to see how different policies and outcomes affect that tipping point,” he said. “My particular interest is in the way we model infrastructure and public policy, and how they influence people’s choices.”

The results of the team’s research will provide insight into how real estate markets respond to complex changes in environmental conditions, public policies, scientific knowledge, and individual attitudes and values.

 

Contact: John McCord, jmccord@csi.northcarolina.edu

White to step aside as Coastal Studies Institute director

Dr. Nancy White, founding executive director of the University of North Carolina Coastal Studies Institute, has announced that she will step aside from that role, effective June 30, 2017.

White said that it was her goal to bring CSI to a position of sustainability. With the help of a dedicated board of directors, collaborative partnerships and community support, she said she feels that goal has been accomplished, and that the time is right to bring in a leader with new ideas and energy. 

White will continue to work with CSI as an East Carolina University principal research scholar, reporting to provost Dr. Ron Mitchelson.

Nancy White (photo by Cliff Hollis)

Nancy White (photo by Cliff Hollis)

“I have always emphasized finding and hiring really good people and then doing my best to empower their ability to work,” White said. “People are the core strength of any organization, and we have some of the best people I have ever worked with here. … The people who came to start CSI are pioneers and have given all they have to make CSI what it is and where it is today. I am proud of having had the privilege of working with them.” 

ECU is the administrative campus for CSI, which was founded in 2003 and includes member institutions Elizabeth City State University, N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Wilmington, as well as ECU. The CSI campus is located on Roanoke Island in Wanchese.

“Nancy White was the founding executive director of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute in 2003, and she has been a champion for coastal science and issues since that time,” Mitchelson said. “She has brought tremendous passion and expertise to that role, and her devotion to the region has yielded significant place-based research and educational opportunities.”

Mike Kelly, member and former chair of the CSI Board of Directors, said White played an invaluable role in transforming the vision for CSI into a reality and juggling a wide range of responsibilities along the way.

“We’re somewhat regretful that she’s leaving, but we’re glad that she’ll be here to pass on her knowledge so that the next person can build on the foundation she has laid down,” he said. 

A search committee will be appointed to interview and assess applicants for White’s successor as executive director, who will assume those duties on July 1, 2017.

CSI Foundation chair Bill Massey said White has been an outstanding advocate for CSI and its role in the community, focusing on science while balancing environmental and economic interests. 

“Her role has been not to divide and put stakes in the ground, but to help create a greater understanding of how the science we undertake can help to inform public policy,” he said. 

“ECU has embraced the multi-campus construct and has empowered it in ways that hadn’t been possible until it took on the leadership role,” said White. “Going forward, because of ECU’s leadership, CSI’s coastal programs and research will have impact potential of national merit. I can’t wait to see how it grows.”

–Jules Norwood