By: Rebecca Cope, TCS Duke University Chapter President

On March 5th, the Duke University Chapter of The Coastal Society hosted the first North Carolina Coastal Career Day at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort. The event attracted undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from many North Carolina universities, including Duke, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and East Carolina University (ECU), as well as new professionals in coastal environmental fields. The day started with casual networking over morning coffee. Attendees were able to chat with representatives from each of the event’s sponsors, which spanned a diverse range of sectors, such as non-profits, consulting firms, engineering companies, and both state and federal government agencies.

Photo Credit: Michelle Covi
Photo Credit: Michelle Covi

Master of ceremonies, Siddartha Mitra of ECU, kicked off the day with welcoming remarks and then a rapid-fire session of presentations and Q&A about how each coastal professional began their careers. These conversations allowed attendees to ask their most burning questions about job searching, the hiring process and possible career paths in an informal and relaxed setting. We got to know each other a bit better during the speed-networking session, which allowed attendees to visit each prospective employer at their table and chat for a few minutes. This really helped break the ice and got the conversations flowing, just in time to enjoy lunch with some new members of our professional network. After lunch, we heard from more coastal professionals who gave us excellent advice on everything from resume writing to negotiating salaries. We finished the day by practicing interview skills with questions picked from a hat. Attendees were able to get instant feedback from professionals experienced in the hiring process.

Master of ceremonies, Siddartha Mitra of ECU oversees conversations between students and coastal professionals. Photo Credit: Michelle Covi
Master of ceremonies, Siddartha Mitra of ECU oversees conversations between students and coastal professionals. Photo Credit: Michelle Covi

The Coastal Society’s Coastal Career Days provide an opportunity for students to connect with potential employers and learn about the diverse range of paths that can lead to a successful career, including some paths that aren’t so obvious. At the same time, it provides an avenue for Coastal Career Day sponsors to reach out to talented new or soon-to-be professionals with valuable skills and knowledge. Marianne Ferguson of the Duke Marine Lab said, “I appreciated learning about the federal contracting process from Jill Meyer [representative from CSS-Dynamac]. As someone who is interested in working for NOAA in fisheries management, her advice on when and where to look for contracting jobs and what the hiring process is like was really helpful.”  Marianne recently followed up on a lead she heard about at Coastal Career Day and applied for a contract job with NOAA.

Practicing interviewing skills. Photo Credit: Michelle Covi
Practicing interviewing skills. Photo Credit: Michelle Covi

The first North Carolina Coastal Career Day was a huge success thanks to our planning committee members, sponsors, and attendees. We hope to continue this tradition and provide young professionals and employers the opportunity to connect. After all, we need to work together to solve the problems facing North Carolina’s coast!


Editors’ Note: Read about TCS’s pilot Coastal Career Day in Virginia in November 2015. TCS Blog Article “9 Tips for a Successful Start to Your Coastal Career”.


More photos of the action


By: Tom Bigford, American Fisheries Society Policy Director and TCS Past President, with Erin J. BryantAssistant Professor of Ocean and Coastal Policy, Sea Education Association, and Kimberly Hernandez, Coastal Fellow with Maryland Department of Natural Resources*, (TCS Communications Subcommittee Members)

The Best of The Coastal Society (TCS) 2015: community conservation events, career opportunity announcements, networking; TCS does it all for current and future coastal professionals.


#1 The New TCS Blog! Addressing legal issues, legislative action, international events, and coastal management strategies


Credit: TCS


The Coastal Society has celebrated 40 wonderful years of the Bulletin since Volume 1, Issue 1 in May 1976. The blog is meant to fill the space of the Bulletin in an updated format. Members have the opportunity to write about their work, students can write about their research, and Board members can use it as a forum to make Society announcements. Please reach out to Caitlyn McCrary with blog topics.

#2 TCS hosted Coastal Career Day November 14, 2015 at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA


Credit: TCS


Coastal employers and other professionals met and talked with students about jobs in marine and coastal industry, government, science, and conservation.

For more, see



#3 TCS posted dozens of job ads, hosted meetings on cutting-edge topics, and welcomed new members in 2015

TCS members receive marine and coastal job listings and connect with marine and coastal professionals at meetings.

TCS and Restore America’s Estuaries will co-host a conference in December 2016

Credit: TCS


For more, see



#4 Duke Chapter Triathlon Raises Money with Fun


Credit: TCS


The annual Neuse RIVERKEEPER™ Foundation Sprint Triathlon in Beaufort, NC, raises money to help keep the Neuse River basin clean and pollution free. And the organizers and athletes have a pretty good time.

For more, see



#5 TCS Chapters Host Blue Drinks


Credit: TCS


Blue Drinks is “an informal social networking event” focused to facilitate connections in the marine environmental community.

For more, see



#6 University of Rhode Island’s Bass Rock Road Beach Sweep a Success


Credit: URI Coastal Society


A URI Coastal Society chapter beach clean-up required a run for more trash bags to contain the collected items.

For more, see



#7 Oregon State University’s King Tides Photo Party Publicizes How Far Future Tides Will Reach


Credit: OSU TCS


Oregon State University’s chapter of TCS celebrated smart coastal planning by photographing King Tides

For more, see



#8 Eckerd College’s TCS Chapter Cleaned the Beach at Ft. De Soto


Credit: Eckerd College


Eckerd College’s TCS Chapter organized a beach cleanup at Ft. De Soto.

For more, see



#9 East Carolina University TCS Chapter Initiates Blog


Credit: ECU TCS


East Carolina University’s TCS chapter started a blog in 2015.

For more, see



#10 Your favorite chapter events! Send us your news!


Student chapters of the Coastal Society actively pursue coastal management innovation and career advancement activities at Duke University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Oregon State University, Eckerd College, and the University of Rhode Island

For more, see



By: Tom Bigford and Mo Lynch

TCS has run its Annual Giving Campaign since 2012, and is now considering a shift from an end-of-the-calendar-year event to a continuous opportunity. The idea has been under consideration since this past Valentine’s Day when we announced our “I Love/Heart the Coast” effort.  Additional inspiration was provided by the family of Mo Lynch, our current Treasurer, a very long-time TCS member (since 1976, perhaps the longest membership streak of anyone), a past TCS President, the program lead for TCS16 in 1998 in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia, and an extremely fine gentleman and professional friend to many.

Mo Lynch, a pioneer of ocean leadership–then, now, and always

“…an extremely fine gentleman and professional friend to many.”

His family recognized his good deeds and commitment to TCS, so when his 80th birthday approached during our 2015 Annual Giving Campaign, siblings and others sent a flurry of donations to TCS in his name.  At last count, TCS had received eight generous donations based on multiples of Mo’s age, all now destined for a good cause. Once again, Mo has provided leadership. Let us all live to 100 and have family members so inclined to donate to our Society!

Mo, Sister, and Brother
Mo Lynch (left) with his sister and brother


By:  Erin J. BryantAssistant Professor of Ocean and Coastal Policy, Sea Education Association, and Kimberly Hernandez, Coastal Fellow with Maryland Department of Natural Resources*, (TCS Communications Subcommittee Members)

Coastal management took some big leaps forward in 2015 in many regions and sectors. Here are a few inspiring highlights, from Washington state to the Caribbean, and from climate change resilience and marine protected areas to green infrastructure technology and citizen science.

What else happened? Send TCS a message so we can pass along your coastal management news. What Was Green in 2015 … in the World of Coastal Management? Or at least noteworthy?

*TCS Leadership and Committee Chairs contributed to this article

#1 Sea Grant Tools Help Communities Become More Resilient

Photo Credit: Sea Grant

In January 2015 Sea Grant launched the National Sea Grant Resilience Toolkit. The toolkit is a compilation of tools and resources that have been developed over the years by the Sea Grant Network to help local communities become more resilient.

For more, see:  http://seagrant.noaa.gov/News/SeaGrantAnnouncements/TabId/275/ArtMID/731/ArticleID/465/Sea-Grant-Tools-Help-Communities-Become-More-Resilient.aspx

#2 Living shorelines practitioners gathered because marshes and wetlands beat seawalls in protecting human and wild resources

Photo Credit: Restore America's Estuaries
Photo Credit: Restore America’s Estuaries

Restore America’s Estuaries and the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation held the first gathering of the living shorelines community after NOAA’s Living Shorelines guide outlined how to promote living shorelines as a shoreline stabilization technique to preserve and improve sheltered coastline habitats and the benefits they  provide. New research finds that wetlands, marshes, and other natural barriers are more effective than concrete at protecting coasts.

For more, see: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/CSO—Newsletter-.html?soid=1117698342948&aid=wF4X0WQ8kSg

#3 NOAA, federal partners design ‘early warning system’ for freshwater toxic algal blooms

Photo Credit: NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will study satellite data information on Harmful Algal Blooms to protect freshwater from contamination and help protect the American public.

For more, see:  http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/20150407-noaa-federal-partners-design-early-warning-system-for-freshwater-toxic-algal-blooms.html?utm_source=CSO++Bi-Weekly+Report+4.21.15&utm_campaign=Weekly+Report+4.8.15&utm_medium=email

#4 Coastal wetland restoration can now earn carbon credits globally

Coastal restoration work. Photo Credit: Restore America's Estuaries
Coastal restoration work. Photo Credit: Restore America’s Estuaries

The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) will now allow salt marsh, seagrass, mangrove, and other tidal wetland restoration projects to count for carbon credits.

For more, see:  https://www.estuaries.org/restoration-methodology-approval

#5 Rhode Island’s Block Island offshore wind farm set to be first in nation

Photo Credit: Deepwater Wind
Photo Credit: Deepwater Wind

The first offshore wind farm in the United States, the 30 megawatt, 5 turbine Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island is scheduled to be online in 2016. Soon, the Block Island Wind Farm will not only supply most of Block Island’s power, but also reduce air pollution across southern New England for years to come.

For more, see:  http://dwwind.com/press/block-island-wind-farm-caps-off-successful-first-offshore-construction-season/

#6 Tetra Tech designed the western hemisphere’s largest, most energy-efficient desalination plant for San Diego, CA

Desalination pipeline Photo Credit: Tetra Tech

Tetra Tech designed the desalination plant and pipeline, and coordinated the project with agencies, to supply fresh water to San Diego County.

For more, see: http://www.tetratech.com/en/projects/carlsbad-seawater-desalination-conveyance-pipeline

#7 The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Report to Congress and the President summarized the GLRI’s first five years of study, restoration and management

Photo Credit: Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality
Photo Credit: Michigan Dept of Environmental Quality

Toxic substances, invasive species, non-point sources of pollution, research, evaluation, outreach, and partnerships are GLRI’s focal areas.

For more, see: http://greatlakesrestoration.us/pdfs/21050720-report_to_congress.pdf

#8 EPA’s Green Infrastructure Wizard, or GIWiz, provides access to tools and resources that can support and promote water management and community planning decisions

Photo Credit: EPA
Photo Credit: EPA

GIWiz is an interactive web application that connects communities to EPA Green Infrastructure tools & resources. Users can produce customized reports.

For more, see: http://www.epa.gov/communityhealth/green-infrastructure-wizard or http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-01/documents/giwiz_fact_sheet_final_508_compliant.pdf

#9 RESTORE the Gulf Act funded research priorities announced for Gulf of Mexico

Photo Credit: NOAA

The plan includes these research priorities, especially as they relate to fisheries:

  • Models, decision-support tools, and monitoring technology for natural resource managers;
  • Understanding how the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, its natural resources, and its coastal communities are connected;
  • Capacity to predict the impact of climate change and severe weather on the Gulf of Mexico and its natural resources; and
  • Indicators for measuring the long-term status and health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

For more, see: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/20150506-noaa-announces-long-term-gulf-of-mexico-ecosystem-research-priorities.html?utm_source=CSO+Bi-Weekly+Report+05.19.15&utm_campaign=Weekly+Report+5.5.15&utm_medium=email

#10 Georgia Sea Grant Uses New Smartphone App to Map King Tide Flood

Photo Credit: Georgia Sea Grant
Photo Credit: Georgia Sea Grant

The Sea Level Rise app, created by Norfolk, Virginia-based Wetlands Watch and developer Concursive, is being pilot tested to capture tidal flooding events up and down the East Coast, including by Sea Grant programs in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

For more, see http://seagrant.noaa.gov/News/FeatureStories/TabId/268/ArtMID/715/ArticleID/609/Georgia-Sea-Grant-Uses-New-Smartphone-App-to-Map-King-Tide-Flood.aspx

#11 Smart Coastal Management in Washington: Coastal Hazards Resilience Network and Marine Spatial Planning Move Forward

Washaway Beach Photo Credit: Washington Coastal Hazards Resiliency Network
Washaway Beach
Photo Credit: Washington Coastal Hazards Resiliency Network

The Washington Coastal Program’s new regional partnership boosted coastal community resilience by helping local planners find tools for disaster response and recovery. Washington moved toward a comprehensive marine spatial plan by mapping seabirds, mammals, and seafloor features.

For more, see: http://www.coastalstates.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Washington_Coastal-Hazards-Resiliency-Network.pdf

#12 California Sea Grant and the California Coastal Commission produced Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance

Photo Credit: California Coastal Commission http://www.coastal.ca.gov/climate/slrguidance.html
Photo Credit: California Coastal Commission

California’s Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance document briefs the best available science on sea level rise for California and tells the Coastal Commission how to plan and regulate for sea-level rise. The guidance document makes general recommendations intended to be adapted to the needs of specific geographical areas. Sea Grant and CCC will periodically revise the guidance document to address new sea level rise science, information and approaches to sea level rise adaptation, and new legal precedent.

For more, see:  http://www.coastal.ca.gov/climate/slrguidance.html

#13 Planners prioritized resiliency in 2015’s Florida Transportation Plan as leaders saw projections of 6-10 inches of sea-level rise by 2030

The 2015 update estimates sea level rise of between six and ten inches above the 1992 mean sea level by 2030 Photo Credit: Florida Department of Transportation
The 2015 update estimates sea level rise of between six and ten inches above the 1992 mean sea level by 2030
Photo Credit: Florida Department of Transportation

Climate resilience features prominently in the December 2015 update of the Policy Element of the Florida Transportation Plan, which defines goals and objectives for the next 25 years and establishes the policy framework for expenditure of state and federal funds. Included in the plan’s seven policy goals is “Agile, Resilient, and Quality Infrastructure,” with the objective to “increase the resiliency of infrastructure to risks, including extreme weather and other environmental conditions.” Southeast Florida Climate Compact’s projection guideline now includes a long term planning horizon to the year 2100 and local sea level rise rates due to local processes.

For more, see:  http://www.floridatransportationplan.org/pdf/FDOT_FTP-SIS_PolicyElement.pdf and http://www.southeastfloridaclimatecompact.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015-Compact-Unified-Sea-Level-Rise-Projection.pdf

#14 Climate Central announces America’s Preparedness Report Card

Massachusetts gets an A in climate change impact preparedness   Photo Credit: States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card http://statesatrisk.org/report-card/massachusetts
Massachusetts gets an A in climate change impact preparedness
Photo Credit: States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report Card

The States at Risk report found that Florida and Louisiana face enormous coastal flooding threats, far greater than any of the other 22 coastal states. Florida alone has 4.6 million people projected at risk (living in the 100-year coastal floodplain) by 2050. Louisiana has 1.2 million. Overall, states are more prepared for coastal flooding than for any other threat. Florida, however, is not among them. Florida earned an F for coastal flood preparedness, due to its average level of readiness in the face of enormous current and future risks. Louisiana, which is far better prepared, earned a B-.

For more, see: http://www.climatecentral.org/news/states-at-risk-preparedness-report-card-19690

#15 Identifying Virgin Islands Areas Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Photo Credit: Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network, C&R Dunn, Flickr
Photo Credit: Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network, C&R Dunn, Flickr


The Nature Conservancy with help from multiple agencies and organizations like the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CLCC) – one of a network of private-public sector LCC groups created by the U.S. Department of the Interior – identified areas in the Virgin Islands that researchers agreed are most likely to feel the greatest negative impact of global warming and possible ways to mitigate the situation.

For more, see: https://lccnetwork.org/news/caribbean-lcc-news-identifying-virgin-islands-estates-most-vulnerable-climate-change


By: Tom Bigford

It’s been a busy couple weeks for me as I pursue new relationships for TCS, with an eye toward strategic partnerships with some of our more prominent partners. That sounds fuzzy but the intent is clear. Our mission is to address emerging coastal issues by fostering dialogue, forging partnerships, and promoting communications and education. HGK-Photo-1401
Since Matt Nixon relieved me of my duties as TCS President, I have shifted my energies to pursuing existing or new partners who share our vision. Here are some of the doors I opened this month (with help from many others):

  • Social Coast Forum 2016 – I had the honor of moderating the closing plenary session on “It Ain’t All Bad: Promising Programs and Techniques to Address Changing Ocean Conditions.” Thanks to Matt Nixon for organizing the session and the ~30 TCSers I passed in the halls of the Hotel Francis Marion in Charleston, SC. I plan to contact each registrant as we discuss possible roles for TCS in the social science realm.
  • Coastal States Organization Winter Membership meeting in Washington, DC – Attending this event was a nice bonus since I had to bow out of my planned trip to the CSO fall meeting last September in Florida. CSO Executive Director Mary Munson was especially gracious, offering me time to open their meeting with a few words about TCS, our history in coastal communications, and commitment to nurturing young professionals. I plan to write these attendees, too, as TCS needs to have a stronger connection to the state coastal leaders.HGK-Photo-1517
  • National Estuarine Research Reserves Association meeting in Washington, DC – Thanks to TCS Director Erika Washburn for her help in explaining how TCS interests intersect with this program, a place-based subset of coastal management. The reserve community is revisiting how it communicates and partners with others so it was nice for TCS to be present and engaged.
  • American Shore and Beach Preservation Association – I met with their new Executive Director last summer and followed up by attending portions of their annual meeting. This presented another opportunity to talk about shared interests, especially right on the sandy interface between our upland and seaward interests. Attendees included some familiar faces but also some new friends. We can expect to see ASBPA at the RAE-TCS Summit in New Orleans.
  • HGK-Photo-1449Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation – CERF just welcomed a new Executive Director (Susan Park), along with their new President (Robert Twilley) from last fall. Wearing my TCS hat (nice, from Zazzle; see our website for info) and my American Fisheries Society hat (my employer), CERF invited me to help them shape what might be a policy effort that extends beyond research and toward our arena. These discussions could lead to partnerships down the road, building on our work with the CERF society and their New England affiliate in 2015.
  • Water Environment Fund – This huge group focuses on water delivery, infrastructure, quality, quantity, and more. They are developing an increasing interest on coastal issues. Thanks largely to efforts by TCS Treasurer Mo Lynch and TCS Director Lewie Lawrence, I have had several calls with their Executive Director, President, and senior staff. We’ll meet again soon. I have high hopes WEF will get involved in the 2016 Summit and perhaps other TCS activities.

So I’m keeping busy with TCS work, and would love to hear from you about opportunities with these groups or other partners to approach.

Note, I didn’t even mention the Coastal Career Day event in Beaufort, NC on March 5 – I’ll leave that to my TCS colleagues who are leading the way on that event. I hope to see many of you there!


By Judy Tucker, TCS Executive Director

As all nonprofit organizations do, The Coastal Society is always looking for new ways to accomplish its mission and to try to generate some modest revenue. Long-time champion for students, Tom Bigford, host of six TCS interns (all successfully placed in coastal/aquatic jobs or academia), speaker at student events during TCS Conferences, and mentor to many, had dreamed of a stand-alone event for students to help them prepare for successful careers.  Ideas pop and events happen when two board members (Mo Lynch and Lewie Lawrence), a very active TCS member (Michelle Covi), and the TCS executive director (Judy Tucker and blog author), all live in the same region. The TCS Board approved our proposal to run a pilot day-long program to help students and new professionals explore the diversity of coastal careers and find jobs. Thus was born Coastal Career Days.

Lewie Lawrence, Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission
Lewie Lawrence, Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission

It took conference calls every two weeks and a survey of students in marine science and oceanography programs at six Virginia universities and in the six TCS chapters to shape the idea and identify the best date on the calendar. A concept paper was floated to colleagues working on coastal issues to gauge their interest in sending students and supporting the event through speakers and sponsorships.  Their reaction was swift and strong: this event must happen!  A 30-year veteran of the state marine resources agency was worried about finding qualified students to fill the impending vacancies from a wave of retirees who’d been at the forefront of environmental issues in the late ‘70’s.

Dorissa Pitts-Whitney, Hampton Roads Sanitation District
Dorissa Pitts-Whitney, Hampton Roads Sanitation District

A consulting firm with offices in many Virginia locations and one in NC saw the benefit of spending time with a pre-qualified group of potential employees in one place without taking time away from clients’ projects. One newly hired employee at a nonprofit organization wanted to share the inside tips on how employers look at resumes and cover letters. Without hesitation, nine employers agreed to spend a Saturday in November to set up a display table, make a 20 minute presentation, and spend the day seated among the students for additional discussion and round table activities. Talk about access to employers! The student attendees were thrilled.

The pilot Coastal Career Day speakers were:

Ross Weaver, Wetlands Watch
  • Kenneth Bannister, Draper Aden Associates
  • Lewie Lawrence, Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission
  • Mo Lynch, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Jill Meyer, CSS-Dynamac
  • Dorissa Pitts-Whitney, Hampton Roads Sanitation District
  • Linda Schaffner, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
  • Ray Toll, Old Dominion University Office of Research
  • Tony Watkinson, Virginia Marine Resources Commission
  • Ross Weaver, Wetlands Watch
  • Michelle Covi, Old Dominion University Climate Adaptation and Resilience Program

Here are a few of the tips shared by the speakers:

  • The less urban the area, the more valuable a generalist is.  Be able to learn quickly, and willing to take on a variety of tasks. In return, your resume will show a diversity of skills and lots of experience in solving problems. Consider local and regional employment, not just state and national levels.
  • Consider smaller organizations.  When they expand through a new program, they may need to hire expertise not available on their current staff. Learn why they are hiring.
  • Don’t short-cut your resume.  Employers can easily spot a template resume and can tell when a cover letter is generic. Don’t use them!
  • Show off your skill-sets.  A resume should show you have the core skill sets to get the job done. eyond that basic qualifier, you’ll need to prove you can communicate clearly, have people skills, “command a room” or make an impact on them.  Indicate leadership by showing where you influenced getting a project done.
    Linda Schaffner, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
    Linda Schaffner, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
  • Express yourself.  A cover letter should show that you are excited about their position and how you can hit the ground running. Back it up with experience, and explain why you are the best person for the position.
  • Feds or contractors?  The basic difference between a direct hire by the Federal government and a contractor to the agency is that the contractor cannot do administrative things like signing a contract or representing the agency publically. That means you get to focus on science or writing. It is also easier to make a lateral move to another agency.
  • Agency hiring process.  Different government agencies have different hiring practices; some can’t recruit unless there is an opening. If you want to work in a particular agency, contact them to find out what their hiring process is. Then watch where grants have been awarded as an indication of possible openings.
  • Be entrepreneurial. If your research or idea could benefit a company or its project, tell them you’d like to do some research and write a white paper (state of the knowledge or research) for them. They don’t have the time to do that, and your white paper can be used to promote the company. Maybe they can pay you, or maybe you’ll have to consider it a type of internship on your resume. Or, show them how what you are working on right now in school could benefit their company, as a way to start a relationship and attract their interest in you.
  • Network and be open-minded. Contact alumni to learn about
    different employment. If they refer you to talk to someone else, keep an open mind, and learn about a job you might not have thought of. This network will get you responses to your resume.
Mixing and mingling in the exhibit hall


A hearty thanks to our sponsors for making the pilot Coastal Career Day available to Virginia students:



By:  Steve MacLeod

A recent study out of Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law (Sabin Center) may help turn the tables on how projects are typically evaluated with respect to climate change under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and similar state policies. The resulting paper prepared by the Sabin Center is titled Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change on the Built Environment under NEPA and State EIA Laws: A Survey of Current Practices and Recommendations for Model Protocols (August 2015). The study calls attention to an aspect of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) draft guidance on climate change analysis that has frequently been overlooked – namely, how climate change may affect a project. The Sabin Center paper also outlines a structured approach for analyzing climate change effects on a project, which will hopefully assist agencies in performing such analyses more consistently and effectively during NEPA reviews.

Existing Framework

NEPA requires an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for federal actions that may have a significant effect on the environment. In addition to activities conducted by a federal agency, “federal actions” under NEPA include the issuance of federal permits or the supply of federal funds for a project. In February 2010, the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released draft guidance for federal agencies to consider the effects of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) during their NEPA evaluations, e.g., during the review of a permit application for a project. The 2010 guidance specifically notes that “climate change can affect the integrity of a development or structure by exposing it to a greater risk of floods, storm surges, or higher temperatures.”

The CEQ draft guidance was revised in December 2014 to clarify and reinforce the 2010 draft document’s recommendations, partially in response to public comments on the 2010 draft. The CEQ’s 2014 revised draft guidance clarifies direction on when and how to consider GHG emissions, and includes references to accepted GHG quantification strategies. The 2014 revised draft guidance also reiterates that an agency should assess the impacts of climate change on the project, in addition to the more common practice of evaluating the impact of the project on climate change. However, the CEQ guidance does not clearly define how the climate change impact analysis should be accomplished. Indeed, the 2014 revised guidance acknowledges that “agencies continue to have substantial discretion in how they tailor their NEPA processes to accommodate the concerns raised in this guidance.”

The CEQ draft guidance followed President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13514 instructing federal agencies to “establish an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government and to make reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) a priority for Federal agencies”. Under EO 13514 and subsequent supplemental or superseding executive orders, Federal agencies began developing strategies for reducing GHGs; for example, the U.S. Navy issued its Climate Change Road Map memo in May 2010. Since 2009, agencies have also developed strategies for assessing vulnerability of infrastructure to climate change effects; for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its 2012 Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework. These efforts have facilitated the reduction of GHGs and adaptation to climate change for some agency-initiated developments, which is an underlying CEQ goal. However, as with the CEQ draft guidance, these documents do not provide detailed instructions on how to analyze climate change during a NEPA review; such analysis would apply to ALL major federal actions, including the regulation of many private-sector projects.

Green infrastructure from local neighborhoods in Charleston, SC (NOAA, 2015)

The Sabin Center Initiative

In 2015, the Sabin Center conducted a systematic review of NEPA documents to better understand how climate change issues and infrastructure vulnerabilities were being addressed. The Sabin Center study found that, in the absence of a specific climate change analysis protocol for NEPA reviews, the evaluation of climate change impacts on proposed projects has been limited and inconsistent in scope. This finding was based on a review of federal EAs and EISs issued between 2012 and 2014. These results were generally consistent with a similar review of recent EAs and EISs conducted by Defenders of Wildlife in 2013. In particular, while it has become common practice to quantify GHG emissions from a proposed project, this practice only addresses one side of the coin: how a proposed project will potentially contribute to climate change. Because an EA/EIS more often considers how a project will affect the environment, the opposite approach has been dubbed a “reverse EIS” because it emphasizes the environment’s effect on the project.

Climate risk assessment in energy development and mining projects (Sabine Law Center, 2015)

Catchy term aside, CEQ notes that the justification for the “reverse” climate change analysis is rooted “squarely within the realm of NEPA… ultimately enabling the selection of smarter, more resilient actions.” As a more specific example, NEPAs purpose is, in part, to “attain the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences” [42 USC §4331]. For instance, risk to health or safety is clearly an issue in a case where climate change could result in sea level rise or more intense precipitation events that in turn could cause flooding of critical energy infrastructure and subsequent loss of power.

Aiming to bridge the gap between the CEQ draft guidance and routine agency action, the Sabin Center has outlined a detailed protocol for conducting an analysis of climate change effects on a project during a NEPA review. In developing its proposed protocol, the Sabin Center pulled examples from several existing documents, including policies implemented at the local, state and international levels. The study also considered certain EISs that DID incorporate a detailed assessment of climate change impacts on a project, including the EIS for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project. By creating a more distinct framework for a “reverse EIS” assessment, the Sabin Center’s study will hopefully help agencies improve the design of more projects through the NEPA process or similar state and local reviews, thus moving us one step closer to smarter and more resilient infrastructure development.


One aspect of a robust EA/EIS is that it employs the best available scientific and technical information. When it comes to incorporating an assessment of climate change effects on a project, an additional measure of a successful NEPA review will likely be that the lead federal agency used the best available analysis tool – something the Sabin Center has aimed to create. Integrating a “reverse” climate change analysis into NEPA documents adds a critical dimension to the thoughtful review of proposed projects that may be significantly affected by shifting environmental conditions. Such an analysis will better inform the public and improve agency decisions in developing appropriate mitigation measures to address relevant and often controversial climate change issues of concern.

About the Author:  Steven MacLeod is a TCS Board Member and is employed as an Environmental Scientist at Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E & E) in Buffalo, New York, where he consults on energy transmission and shoreline restoration projects. Steve thanks his colleagues at E & E for their contributions to this article, particularly Mr. George Rusk, J.D., and Ms. Laurie Kutina. Thanks also to Ms. Jessica Wentz, J.D., at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law for her review prior to publication.


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.