By: Rebecca Cope

At 10am on September 12th, the blast of an airhorn signaled the start of the 15th Annual Neuse Riverkeeper Triathlon. Racers swam across the channel to Radio Island, where they mounted their bikes for a high speed tour of Beaufort’s historic downtown district, then completed the last leg of the race on foot, returning to the Marine Lab and a cheering crowd of spectators. The glory of crossing the finish line wasn’t the only motivation for these racers; they were also helping to raise about $2,500 to support a healthy Neuse River watershed.

TeamLadiesFrom it’s headwaters in the Piedmont to where it flows into Pamlico Sound, the Neuse River supports a wide range of agricultural, industrial and recreational uses, and these uses have important impacts on our coastal communities and ecosystems. For over 30 years, the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation (NRF) has worked to protect, restore, and preserve the Neuse River watershed, and Duke’s TCS chapter is proud to be a long-term partner in their work. Travis Graves, the Riverkeeper himself, recently shared his thoughts about our ongoing partnership:

“For 15 years The Coastal Society’s Neuse Riverkeeper Triathlon has been bringing communities together to celebrate our most precious resource. The money they raise goes directly to support our work protecting the Lower Neuse River basin and all of the communities that depend on it for fishable, swimmable, drinkable water.”


At the Triathlon, members of the NRF volunteered their paddling
skills to help keep our swimmers safe in the water, as they do every year. Joining them were about 50 more volunteers who kept racers on track, recorded times, and made sure everyone was hydrated.  Ashleigh McCord, a Master’s candidate at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and returning Triathlon volunteer, said she saw the race as, “a chance to engage students, faculty, and community members … in supporting a local organization that does critical work in our local coastal watershed.”


Following the race, the festivities continued with a cook out and silent auction featuring prizes donated by local businesses. A brief bout of wind and rain did not deter people from sticking around to hear the race winners announced. Rachel Karasik, whose team placed 2nd, explained why she participated this year: “As a volunteer for the triathlon last year, I really enjoyed experiencing the camaraderie and celebration between racers, observers and volunteers… Everyone’s support and enthusiasm made me want to experience the triathlon from a different perspective.”

On behalf of the Duke TCS officers, I’d like to thank our racers, volunteers, and local business owners who helped make this year’s triathlon a huge success. This event wouldn’t be possible without your support and dedication to protecting our watershed. Travis Graves says he’s, “already looking forward to next years race!”  We couldn’t agree more!


By:  Tom Bigford

This fall promises to be busy as I spread messages from TCS and seek partnerships to strengthen our future. My primary destination this fall is Oregon and Washington. I hope to see some of you at each of these events. Please notify me of similar opportunities in a state near you. Your society needs your help as we reach out to partners, potential members, and sponsors.

Pacific Northwest Trek

I’ll begin my Pacific Northwest trek on November 8-12 where I will moderate a technical session at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation’s biennial meeting on “Fish as Integrators of Estuarine Health.” Speakers will use their experience with fish to assess the health of select coasts and estuaries. Check out the conference website for the latest program information. Hopefully our presence will be strong, as it was in 2013 in San Diego under the leadership of Megan Bailiff, Leigh Taylor Johnson, and Mike Orbach. While there, I will join Green Fire Productions to show their inspiring “Ocean Frontiers” films. Each features stories of citizens joining to make a difference along our coasts. If you haven’t seen their work, go here. You’ll enjoy the films and be inspired by the shared accomplishments of citizens and professionals from coast to coast.

While in Portland for CERF 2015 I’m planning a trip down I-5 to Oregon State University, home of the newest TCS university chapter. I’m working with faculty advisor Michael Harte and student president Chelsea Duke to arrange a small event to talk about our Society, learn about their interests, and talk about how they can engage. The opportunities are huge so I expect many great ideas from the OSU crowd.

I’ll also be headed north from Portland to Grays Harbor on the Washington coast. TCS has partnered with the Coastal States Organization (CSO), National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), and the Washington coastal zone management program to convene a “Coastal Connections” event to help local citizens and community planners understand and improve community resilience along their coast. This gathering will be in the home district of Rep. Derek Kilmer, a strong advocate for coastal issues. CSO, NERRA, and TCS may partner with other states for similar events in the coming months. There’s no set date for this event yet but hopefully it will coincide with my early November trip to Portland.

TomsBlog1_HerbFinally, on a sad note, my plans will not include a visit with Maurice “Herb” Schwartz, the first president of TCS (1976-77). Herb passed away in late July at 97 years old. We have lost a true visionary, the person who noticed our coasts needed a voice and the leader behind the movement to create our society. Past TCS Director Rebekah Padgett and I visited Herb in 2013 to convey an honorary TCS membership; I visited him again last year to solicit his sage advice on the coastal future. This year, my unanswered emails were punctuated with the sad news from his family. I have shared our condolences . He will be missed.