Benefits and Challenges of U.S. Offshore Wind Development for our Coastal Communities: A Coastal Connections Discussion

By Ashley Gordon, Melanie Perello, and Steven MacLeod

While only two small-scale offshore wind projects are currently operational along the East Coast, the U.S. offshore wind market is quickly expanding. In the coming decades, as much as 26 GW of wind power could be generated within existing offshore leases between Rhode Island and Virginia. To consider how this may affect coastal communities, The Coastal Society’s most recent Coastal Connections session, held on February 26, 2021, focused on the benefits and challenges of offshore wind development. Moderated by Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island and Director of Extension with Rhode Island Sea Grant, a panel of experts highlighted the planning, economic, and environmental considerations associated with offshore wind project development for coastal communities, focusing on recent development along the East Coast.

Our panel of experts held a lively discussion, addressing questions about renewable energy and carbon emission life cycles, capacity building for supply chain and job creation, impacts to fisheries, benefits of regional partnership and marine spatial planning, and challenges for offshore wind development in other regions of the U.S.

You can watch a recording of the panel here, and highlights from each of the panelists’ presentations are provided below.

Mike Snyder, Ocean and Great Lakes Program Manager for the NY Department of State’s Office of Planning, Development, and Community Infrastructure

Mike Snyder provided an overview of the various types and scales of communities involved in offshore wind development. He recognized multiple challenges and opportunities that are nested across different scales related to fisheries, marine navigation, carbon emissions reductions, rate impacts to local taxpayers, recreation/public access, equity issues, and aesthetic impacts. In the state of New York, technical working groups have been created to address environmental, commercial, and recreational fishing, maritime, and jobs and supply chain considerations. Mike also emphasized the importance of an evolutionary approach to offshore wind development. (Presentation available here)

Matt Smith, Director of Offshore Wind for the Hampton Roads Alliance

Matt Smith discussed economic development opportunities associated with offshore wind. While the majority of the current supply chain capacity for offshore wind is in Europe, the Hampton Roads Alliance is focused on building a supply chain in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Matt reviewed the multi-year process for U.S. offshore wind projects, which includes siting and development, design and manufacture, construction and installation, and operations and maintenance. Two offshore wind projects, Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia project and Avangrid Renewables’ Kitty Hawk project, will be serviced by the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. These two projects combined are anticipated to provide power to 1.4 million homes, avoid about 10 million tons of CO2 emissions, and provide a $1.43 billion direct economic impact from construction alone on the regional economy. (Presentation is available here)

Laurie Kutina, Environmental Scientist at WSP

Laurie Kutina reviewed the environmental considerations associated with offshore wind development and the U.S. agencies and regulations involved, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She provided examples from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) New York Offshore Wind Master Plan, which charted a course to the procurement of an initial 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity for the state. Anticipated environmental benefits to New York include 5 million tons of greenhouse gas reduction and air quality improvements, particularly in New York City and Long Island. Laurie also discussed wind turbine visibility considerations. In New York, the turbines of the closest planned wind farms would be located roughly 14 miles offshore and would be barely visible. Laurie highlighted opportunities that exist to engage in the offshore wind development process, including the NYSERDA offshore wind outreach webpage. (Presentation is available here)

For more information on previous and future sessions, visit the TCS Coastal Connections webpage. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the Coastal Connections series, please contact us at TCSConnections@thecoastalsociety.org.

Marine Plastic Pollution from the Micro to Global Scale – A TCS Coastal Connections Discussion

By: Ashley Gordon and Steven MacLeod

As of 2015, it was estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean annually, which is about one garbage truckload of plastic per minute (Jambeck et al., 2015). This shocking statistic was shared to kick-off presentations at The Coastal Society’s November 12, 2020 Coastal Connections meeting, Plastic Pollution: Coastal and Marine Trends. Presentations from three panelists highlighted science, policy, and stakeholder engagement efforts related to coastal and marine plastic pollution. The session was moderated by Catherine Tobin, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts Boston, whose research focuses on the effects of microfibers on oysters.

Nicholas Mallos provided an overview of the magnitude of the global plastic pollution issue. Mr. Mallos oversees the Ocean Conservancy’s global portfolio of work on marine debris as Senior Director of the Trash Free Seas Program. Even with current plastic reduction commitments from governments and industries, it is estimated about a cargo ship’s worth of plastics (by weight) will enter lakes, rivers, and our ocean daily by 2030, which equals about 53 million metric tons annually (Borrelle et al., 2020). Reducing plastic waste, increasing waste management efficiency, and expanding cleanup efforts are key actions recommended to reduce plastic pollution. This Ocean Conservancy video provides more information on recent plastic research, and Mr. Mallos’ presentation is available here.  

Fred Dobbs focused his presentation on microplastic pollution. Dr. Dobbs is a marine microbial ecologist and Chair of the Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at Old Dominion University. Microplastics (particles less than 5mm) can be manufactured, or result from the breakdown of larger plastics, and are ingested by marine organisms, including even deep-sea amphipods. Dr. Dobbs highlighted emerging research related to microplastics, including potential human health risks from eating raw oysters containing plastics harboring a pathogenic biofilm. Recent research has indicated marine plastics may disseminate antibiotic-resistance genes through biofilms, which serve as a habitat for bacteria and human pathogens. Dr. Dobbs presentation is available here.

Katherine Youngblood provided an overview of the Marine Debris Tracker app, a citizen-science, open-data initiative for collecting geospatial litter data. Ms. Youngblood is a Research Engineer at the University of Georgia New Materials Institute in the Jambeck Research Group and the Citizen Science Director of Marine Debris Tracker. This video provides more information on the Debris Tracker app, which has been used to collect data in multiple countries, including those along the Ganges River as part of the National Geographic Sea to Source expedition. A new Plastic Pollution Action Journal provides guidance for logging individual plastic-use and recommending actions to reduce plastic-use. Ms. Youngblood’s presentation is available here.

Following the guest speakers’ presentations, meeting participants posed questions related to the following topics:

  • Communicating the upstream impacts of plastic pollution.
  • Policies for addressing plastic pollution.
  • Recent trends in plastic pollution as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased personal protective equipment (PPE) waste.
  • Actions for citizen engagement, including reducing single-use plastics, researching local recycling programs, and talking to local officials.

For more information on other Coastal Connections sessions, including our recent February session focused on coastal communities and offshore wind development, check out the TCS Coastal Connections webpage. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the Coastal Connections series, please email us at TCSconnections@thecoastalsociety.org.  

References:

S.B. Borrelle, J. Ringma, K. L. Law, C. C. Monnahan, L. Lebreton, A. McGivern, E. Murphy, J. Jambeck, G.H. Leonard, M. A. Hilleary, M. Eriksen, H. P. Possingham, H. De Frond, L. R. Gerber, B. Polidoro, A. Tahir, M. Bernard, N. Mallos, M. Barnes, C. M. Rochman, Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution. Science. 369, 1515-1518 (2020).

J.R. Jambeck, R. Geyer, C. Wilcox, T. R. Sigler, M. Perryman, A. Andrady, R. Narayan, K. L. Law, Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347, 768-771 (2015).

Photo courtesy of Melanie Perello

The Coastal Connections – Professional Spotlight Sessions showcase TCS leaders

By: Steven MacLeod and Ashley Gordon

The Coastal Society’s Coastal Connections Web Conferencing Series was initiated in 2020 with two concepts: Trending Topic sessions and Professional Spotlight sessions. Here we focus on the first two Professional Spotlight sessions, which are members-only events featuring seasoned TCS professionals who share their career paths and provide career tips to student and young professional members. It is also a chance for the guest speaker to reconnect with other long-time TCS members.

The first Professional Spotlight session, which was the second session in the overall Coastal Connections series, was held on Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 5 pm (Eastern) using Google Meet. TCS member Rick DeVoe was the guest speaker. Rick, the recently retired Executive Director of the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, provided an overview of his professional career path, including his educational background, his experiences with the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, and his involvement as one of the earliest members of The Coastal Society.

Rick shared several professional tips, including the importance of communication skills, building a network, and finding a great mentor. He advised us to “be prepared for the worst, and the best will result”. Rick noted that Margaret A. Davidson – the honorary namesake for our TCS career development program – was an influential mentor for him.

Discussion following Rick’s presentation covered advice for identifying a professional mentor, the role of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium in coastal management, and coastal resiliency planning. For example, Rick noted the importance of restoring habitat in a way that accounts for predicted environmental conditions such as higher sea levels. We wish Rick all the best as he embarks on his retirement adventures!

The second Professional Spotlight session (and fourth session in the overall series) was held on Thursday, December 17, 2020 at 4 pm (Eastern) through Zoom. The session featured TCS member Lisa Phipps, the North Coast Regional Representative for the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. Lisa discussed a career path that began with fisheries research for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. She then shifted to work in multiple levels of government in Oregon, including positions as a mayor and a judge, after she obtained a Master’s in Environmental Policy with a focus on coastal zone management from Vermont Law School. In her current role, Lisa works with coastal communities to supports the implementation of statewide planning goals.

Lisa shared lessons that she has learned, encouraging us to be adaptable and willing to try a new career/life path when faced with roadblocks. She noted that “sometimes what you thought was the destination is simply a stopover”. She summarized with a Winnie the Pooh quotation: “Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”

Discussion following Lisa’s presentation touched on the value of seeking a job based on a desired type of work and/or geographic location to help ensure a rewarding experience. Lisa emphasized the importance of listening to and truly considering multiple stakeholder perspectives when working towards a conclusion. Lisa noted that some of her most satisfying experiences involved directly helping to improve the life of one person at a time. To receive invitations for future Professional Spotlight sessions, please be sure your TCS membership is current. Join or renew at the TCS website: Membership – The Coastal Society.

TCS and CERF Team Up for a Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshop

By: Tom Bigford

November 4, 2020, marked our second joint coastal career workshop with the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). This year we partnered with the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society and Southeast Estuarine Research Society, the CERF regional affiliates for the Atlantic and Southeast states and territories.

Our common interests made for lively keynote talks (one by TCS President Steve MacLeod on being a private consultant and a society officer) and six breakouts on personal and professional skills (one lead by TCS Board member, and former CERF Board member, Geno Olmi on federal service). Together, the program offered career insights and optimism to students and recent graduates. There are jobs out there for stellar applicants with polished personal skills! See more detail at TCS MAD Program.

This workshop was smaller than most but that did not dampen enthusiasm.  Ben Fertig, AERS President and a speaker, wrote “Great workshop, nice job!!” and offered to be a mentor to interested registrants. Mike DeLuca, a Senior Associate Director in the Rutgers University Office of Research and a speaker, said “I truly enjoyed chatting with the students . . . at the MAD event. Thanks for including me.” Sage Riddick, a Duke graduate student, got the student registration fee by joining TCS. Nicole Marks, a recent graduate of the University of Delaware, said “I really appreciated the honesty of the presenters. I’ve heard about the perks of working in the different sectors before but a lot of people have a tendency to leave out the not as exciting details.”

As the workshop closed, Ben Fertig mentioned that AERS would welcome a workshop at its 2021 joint meeting with the New England Estuarine Research Society. I think we have an annual tradition!

Finally, HUGE thanks to East Carolina University’s Office of Continuing Education (Jolie Ann Busby and Ashley Cox) for their help on the Pathable platform, TCS Board members Tricia Hooper and Kim Grubert for their assistance, our CERF, AERS, and SEERS sponsors for accommodating TCS in their conference schedule, and East Carolina University professors Joe Luczkovich (past AERS President) and Enrique Reyes (current SEERS President) for their insights throughout the entire process.

TCS to Host Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Development Program Virtual Workshop

Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 8:00am-12:15pm EDT

By: Tom Bigford

MAD Coastal Career Development Program Virtual Workshop

Date/Time: Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 8:00am -12:15pm EDT

Interested in kick-starting your coastal or ocean career? TCS’s virtual workshop will offer you key tips and advice straight from the professionals.

Venue: This workshop will be a virtual Zoom event, in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration: Opening October 26 at the EventBrite link below.

Overview: As part of the Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Development Program, The Coastal Society (TCS) will host this half-day virtual workshop designed to provide valuable skills and information to the next generation of coastal and ocean practitioners, particularly college students, recent graduates, and early-career professionals. This will be the 11th event in the MAD Program series, launched in 2018. Information on past events is available on the MAD Program web page.

Final Program: This event will feature personal insights from seasoned professionals on pathways to coastal-related career options in the governmental, private, and non-profit sectors. We’ll also focus on honing skills and sharing tools to boost your career – job searches, resume preparation, virtual interviews, networking, and more. View the final program here.

Registration begins October 26, 2020 at the Eventbrite link below.

REGISTER

Further Information: Contact Tom Bigford at tebigford@gmail.com if you have any questions. 

Our Coasts Have Lost a Visionary Ocean Leader and Entrepreneur

By: Tom Bigford

We have lost a true coastal hero. Dr. Biliana Cicin-Sain, a pioneer in international marine policy and an advocate and mentor for many young women ocean conservationists over the last 50 years, passed away on September 1, 2020.  

Biliana was a contemporary of other visionaries in the early decades of coastal management, including TCS members Bob Knecht—an honoree for TCS’s “Robert W. Knecht Award for Professional Promise,” an award given to a rising professional in the field of ocean and coastal management who best emulates his vigor, dedication, vision, and generosity—Bob was also Biliana’s husband; Marc Hershman—professor and director at the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs and long-time editor of the Society’s official journal, Coastal Management; Mike Orbach—past TCS President and former long-term director of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment; and Margaret A. Davidson—past TCS President and honoree for our “Margaret A. Davidson Coastal  Career Development Program”. She was among the few who developed early courses for coastal management studies in the 1970s. Biliana specialized in international coastal issues, often hosting graduate students from around the world in her roles as director of the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy and professor of Marine Policy at the University of Delaware. She was also editor-in-chief of the international journal Ocean & Coastal Management

We in the coastal community owe much to Biliana. In her role at the University of Delaware she taught and mentored many who have now risen to be current leaders in our field. She will be missed by all, but remembered with a huge smile and an even bigger heart.

To read more about Biliana’s distinguished career, click here.

TCS Launches the Coastal Connections Web Series with a Focus on Diversity

Coastal Connections presenters Dr. Brandon Jones, Dr. Corey Garza, and Dr. Noelle Chao, respectively.
By: Ashley Gordon and Steven MacLeod

The Coastal Society held its first meeting in the Coastal Connections Web Series on Friday, August 7, 2020. The Coastal Connections series includes two session types: Trending Topics and Professional Spotlight. The inaugural meeting on August 7 was a Trending Topics session about Improving Diversity and Equal Representation in Coastal Planning and Education Activities. The topic was selected to advance recent TCS Board of Directors initiatives to combat racism and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in TCS activities and the coastal sector at large.

  • TCS volunteer Trystan Sill, Resiliency Education Coordinator with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, was the moderator for the web meeting. Trystan introduced the guest presenters: (1) Dr. Brandon Jones, National Science Foundation, (2) Dr. Corey Garza, California State University – Monterey Bay, and (3) Dr. Noelle Chao, Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy.
  • Dr. Brandon Jones delivered the first presentation, providing an overview of systemic racism impacts on the STEM field and how sociological problems affect participation by minority groups in the STEM field. Dr. Jones recommended critical self-reflection and encouraged the development of cross-racial relationships. Dr. Jones highlighted the importance of mentoring, support, assistance, and allyship, and providing opportunities for people of color to tell their own stories and have their own spaces.
  • Dr. Corey Garza gave the second presentation, focusing on examples of different programs supporting diversity in the geosciences and lessons learned. Dr. Garza is on the Board of Directors for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. He provided an overview of SACNAS student support through the Geo-Futures program. Dr. Garza also highlighted the Monterey Bay Regional Ocean Science Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity, and shared an inspiring story about a former student, Paris Smalls, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. in oceanography through the MIT/WHOI Joint Ph.D. program. Dr. Garza also directs the NOAA Cooperative Science Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, that is designed to train a diverse future workforce for NOAA.
  • Dr. Noelle Chao delivered the third presentation, describing her efforts related to congregational engagement in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Dr. Chao provided an overview of the Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy’s RiverWise Congregations Program, which focuses of mobilizing faith communities to embrace an ethic of Creation Care through installing stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) on congregational properties. The RiverWise Congregations Program engages underrepresented communities in actions for clean water, and Dr. Chao highlighted that 30 congregants have been trained as Master Watershed Stewards and 21 Congregations have installed BMPs. Dr. Chao recommended that when engaging with communities, it is important to listen with an open heart and mind, be patient and keep your word to build trust, and let the community guide the action.
  • Following the guest speakers’ presentations, Ms. Sill facilitated discussion with support from Ashley Gordon of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. Meeting participants posed questions related to the following topics:
    •  The development of mentorship programs to reach college students and K-12 students to help them learn about and consider career paths in STEM and instill confidence. The idea of forming a committee of retired individuals to serve as mentors was suggested.
    • The importance of creating a network to support the advancement of equal opportunities for people of color in the coastal sciences and academia.
    • Approaches for encouraging minority owned businesses or individuals from minority groups to apply for grant opportunities

Planning for the next Coastal Connections meeting is underway. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering to help develop the series, please email us at TCSCoastalConnection@gmail.com.  

TCS Hosts First Virtual Coastal Career Workshop

Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2020 virtual conference logo

By: Tom Bigford. Edited by, Cassie Wilson, Kim Grubert, Tricia Hooper

No virus was going to de-rail TCS’s young tradition of hosting a Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshop during Capitol Hill Ocean Week. This year we switched from a full day in person to four hours on a virtual platform. The response from students and early professionals was outstanding. Our cap of 36 registrants was reached 10 days before the event, and another 27 people are on a waiting list for a future event. Clearly, TCS is filling a need by the next generation of coastal professionals for informative and inspirational advice on career planning and mentoring.

Skilled speakers representing many sectors and perspectives shared their personal stories and tips for how to be successful in a coastal career. Despite some technical glitches, nearly all registrants felt the workshop was “definitely a good use of their time” (96%) and thought the nominal registration fee was appropriate (89%). As one speaker wrote on the evaluation form, “Great job organizing the workshop! Overall this is such a great network and I always enjoy supporting this group!” Registration included a 30-minute mentoring session with a speaker, workshop organizer, or member of the TCS board. Those mentoring sessions are being conducted now and were an exciting new addition to these career workshops. Early responses to this new virtual mentoring benefit are very positive.

Since December 2018 TCS has hosted ten Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Workshops. TCS is currently planning the rest of its 2020 calendar and anticipates hosting another  workshop in early September and several more this autumn. Learn more about this workshop series.

TCS President’s Diversity Message

Dear TCS Members,

Like many of you, I am disturbed and saddened by the senseless death of George Floyd. While this event was terrible by itself, the recent nationwide protests have shined a spotlight on other past injustices against black citizens like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and countless more. These point to a systematic and sometimes deadly bias towards black people and other minorities that persists despite the advances we have made since the height of the civil rights movement over 50 years ago. 

With support from the Coastal Society’s (TCS) Board of Directors, I will take this moment to affirm that TCS values the inclusion and equal treatment of all our members regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, age, or sexual orientation. There is no place in TCS for discrimination or expressions of hatred or bigotry against an individual based on their outward appearance or their private beliefs. I encourage any member who has observed such unfair behavior during any TCS event or member interactions to immediately inform me, our Executive Director, or any member of the Board of Directors with whom you feel most comfortable. Additionally, any member that feels that they have been subject to discrimination of any kind should know that we take these matters seriously. The TCS board is committed to creating a safe space for members who identify as part of a minority group to report any sort of discriminatory situations confidentially, without fear of criticism, harassment, or any further harm.

In addition, we know we must do more to lift up the voices of marginalized communities. The improvement of our coasts requires all stakeholders to have a seat at the table during planning conversations, including minority communities that have historically been under-served and under-represented. To support this ideal in the coming weeks and months, the TCS Board of Directors will pursue an actively anti-racist agenda by examining and enacting ways in which TCS can increase ethnic diversity in our organization and our activities. This will likely start with developing an anti-discrimination policy along with a diversity and inclusion strategy. For example, we will consider ways to expand events such as our MAD Coastal Career Development Workshops to better include under-represented groups. I invite all members to step forward and assist us in this effort by contacting me (steve.macleod19@gmail.com) or board member Tricia Hooper (phooper410@gmail.com); join the conversation about how TCS can do its part to reverse institutional racism and help make our coastal communities stronger and more inclusive.

Most sincerely,
Steven MacLeod
TCS President
June 8, 2020

The First Five: Reflections from the TCS Margaret A. Davidson Coastal Career Development Program

CHOW workshop

By: Tom Bigford, Tricia Hooper, Kim Grubert, Steve MacLeod 

Connecting the Next Generation of Coastal Professionals

Entering or advancing in the field of coastal science and management can be overwhelming. To go to grad school, or not? Should you pursue a research-based or policy-oriented career path? Where are the best places to network? How do you know your resumé is really putting your best foot forward? With all of these questions, The Coastal Society (TCS) recognized a need to provide a forum for up-and-coming students and early-career professionals to get the answers. Enter: the Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Coastal Career Development Program. 

The foundation of the MAD Program is a series of regional workshops designed to help participants build the specialized tools and skills for securing and excelling in a coastal career. 

While all MAD workshops are built off the same foundational goal of sharing information, tools, and resources to assist the next generation of coastal professionals in growing their careers, each workshop is slightly different and tailored to the needs of the participants.

Since late 2018, TCS and partners have hosted five workshops across the country, and several more are in the planning process. Since we have received very positive feedback from attendees, we wanted to share some insights into what makes these workshops so great and what participants can expect from attending future events. 

December 2018: Long Beach, CA

We were naturally anxious about this first event but all agreed it was a nice debut! We hosted the workshop in coordination with the Restore America’s Estuaries/Coastal States Organization conference. After a week of technical sessions, participants were primed for a career development workshop aimed at helping them to apply new-found connections and information into their own career plans. 

The workshop began with a morning of talks about employment trends, regional opportunities, and success stories followed by an afternoon with smaller group discussions focusing on job skills such as interview strategies, communication skills, networking, and publishing your work. Our audience of 19 students and early professionals and 21 speakers and mentors was just right for the setting. It was very refreshing to see the side conversations extending into breaks and through lunch.

Feedback from students and early professionals confirmed that our blend of experts from across the coastal professions provided much-needed guidance and optimism. Some attendees benefited most from insights on coastal jobs. Others preferred small group conversations about career skills. And everyone appreciated the handouts.

For The Coastal Society, the Long Beach workshop provided proof of our concept. We were on our way to identifying topics and skills of most interest to potential attendees. We confirmed that these workshops need to be regional, near prospective registrants. We learned the value of solid sponsors to offset the costs of a full-day event. And, perhaps most importantly, we were reminded of how valuable it is to have a solid planning team to handle the details. Long Beach was a very nice first step.

January 2019: Washington, D.C.

We built off the momentum of a successful first event and kicked off January 2019 with the next MAD workshop in Washington DC. Held in conjunction with the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), we had over 40 participants in attendance. We were pleasantly surprised to have a wide range of participants in the room, including many from organizations not typically associated with the coastal field, such as the local Washington DC government. Despite the unforeseen difficulty of a federal government shutdown, the entire team stepped up to the challenge and we had a fantastic, robust agenda of speakers from the Coastal States Organization, Alice Ferguson Foundation, National Aquarium, American Geophysical Union, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Rare, US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Ocean Conservancy, Chesapeake Conservancy, and Restore America’s Estuaries.

After listening to feedback from the December event, we honed the agenda to provide even more opportunities for early career professionals and students to make critical connections and expand the tools in their career toolbox. Afternoon skill building sessions focused on a range of topics, including resume writing, practicing interview skills, crafting your elevator speech, establishing a mentor relationship, and making the most of professional networks in DC. 

A continued theme across the MAD professional development program is the importance of partnerships in convening successful workshops. This event would not have been possible without the outstanding in-kind support from the Women’s Aquatic Network, and generous financial support from Ocean Conservancy. 

Photo courtesy of Kim Grubert

April 2019: Woodbridge, VA 

The Coastal Society traveled to George Mason University’s Potomac Science Center in Woodbridge, Virginia, for its third MAD Coastal Career Program workshop on April 4, 2019. This event mirrored earlier workshops with a morning of career talks from sector leaders, an afternoon focused on the personal skills needed to launch a successful coastal career, and stories of personal success throughout. TCS partnered with the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s Atlantic Estuarine Research Society to design a program relevant to the natural sciences, resource management, and other interdisciplinary fields. The blend worked well, with spirited conversation across an audience of about 45. TCS will be looking for opportunities to partner with CERF regional affiliates on future workshops, and to reach out to other organizations and societies.

Based on feedback from our survey, attendees most appreciated the personal stories about different pathways to a coastal career. Those talks and informal conversations were inspirational and optimistic, two reactions TCS had hoped to generate. Perspectives from the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Dewberry Consultants, Inc., and several government agencies revealed the diversity of career directions in public and private sectors, and made for one of the “best career events” several registrants had ever attended. Attendees also rated a talk on navigating USAJobs for federal positions as a highlight. TCS definitely learned from those comments and other feedback as it plans for 2020 and beyond.

June 2019: Washington, D.C.

With so many TCS members in the Washington DC area, we capitalized on the opportunity to host a second MAD workshop in our nation’s capital, this time in association with Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW). We partnered with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to advertise the workshop as part of the CHOW programming. We also partnered with the Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment, who allowed us to host the workshop at the Duke In DC office building just across the street from the CHOW facility. The Ocean Conservancy and the Ocean Foundation sponsored the workshop, enabling us to offer a reduced registration rate for students and young professionals.

Thanks to our partners and sponsors, we were able to bring in a record-breaking 57 people in the room throughout the day, including 36 students and young professionals, 15 speakers, 2 sponsors, and 4 members of the planning team. It was a tremendously successful event!

In order to improve and make these workshops as meaningful to participants as possible, we administer surveys at the end so that participants can provide anonymous feedback on their experience. We received and overwhelming expression of gratitude for the event, as well as a few thoughtful recommendations for how to improve, which we will incorporate into future workshops.

Photo courtesy of Kim Grubert

June 2019: Brockport, NY 

Recognizing that the Great Lakes are nationally recognized freshwater coastal systems with challenges and opportunities for those pursuing a coastal career path, we coordinated with International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) conference to host a workshop at SUNY Brockport, just south of Lake Ontario, New York. The format was again a full-day event with morning presentations from representatives in the government, academic, consultant, and NGO sectors, followed by afternoon break-out sessions to focus on career skills. 

We had approximately 25 participants and support from multiple sponsors, including the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Research Commission, New York Sea Grant, Ecology & Environment, and the Ocean Conservancy. Several attendees reported being encouraged to attend by professors who recognized early-on the value of the event; the attendees were glad to have followed that advice. 

Similar to previous workshops, participants said it was most helpful to hear professionals discuss their journeys to their current position; to have one-on-one conversations with professionals in the different sectors about mentoring; and to learn job search strategies and demystify the job hiring process. 100% of the participants who responded rated the workshop as either “excellent” or “good;” it was clear that participants found value in all aspects of the workshop.

Suggestions to improve the workshop included more discussion on day-to-day job activities and moving some of the break-out skill sessions to the morning to help maintain participant energy. We will consider these suggestions to fine-tune future workshops so they continue to provide the ideal platform for diving into a new coastal career!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Quintal

Looking to the Future

Overall, feedback for the workshops has been overwhelmingly positive. One recent graduate even told the event planners that attending the workshop was “life-changing” for her! We also received the following praise from post-workshop surveys: 

  • “Thank you so much for hosting this event, this has been really helpful for me especially in gaining some more confidence in my career search.
  • “I wanted to thank you for helping make the Coastal Careers Workshop happen, and for your inspiring words on Margaret A. Davidson. I felt the event was both helpful and energizing and, after talking with the other participants, I gathered that they felt similarly.
  • “I wanted to reach out to you to let you know how much I loved this workshop. It was so helpful in terms of all of the information provided, but also in the invaluable connections and relationships made.
  • “Overall, well done- I have recommended to friends and colleagues in the areas you are visiting next and value my experience!

TCS is currently planning 2020 workshops in Wilmington, NC, and Charleston, SC. We are actively seeking sponsors, partners, and volunteers to help us continue these enriching professional development opportunities. These workshops are entirely volunteer-run, and continued engagement from the TCS community is critical for their continued success. Please contact Tom Bigford if you are interested in getting involved.