As part of The Coastal Society’s Coastal Connections web
conferencing series, the Coastal Society (TCS) hosted two Professional Spotlight sessions featuring TCS members in 2022.
During these Spotlight sessions, TCS
members have the opportunity to learn about the career path of a featured TCS
member, discuss career tips, and connect with other TCS members at various
stages of their careers. To receive invitations for future Professional Spotlight sessions, please be sure your TCS membership
is current. Join or renew at Membership
– The Coastal Society. You can
also read more about the Coastal
Connections series on the TCS website.
Our 2022 featured speakers included Amy Whitt, founder
and CEO of Azura Consulting, LLC, and Don Davis, Director of Oral History for
the Louisiana Sea Grant Program. Highlights from each of the sessions are
shared below. To access recordings of these sessions, TCS members may request a
link by sending an email to email@example.com.
Amy Whitt, founder and CEO of Azura
Consulting, LLC, was our guest speaker during the session held on May 17, 2022.
Amy provided an overview of her career path to starting and growing an
environmental consulting firm that provides services focused on the research,
conservation, and management of protected species, populations, and habitats,
outreach and education, and professional communication. The Azura team has
worked with federal and state agencies, private organizations, non-profit
organizations, academic institutions, and the offshore energy industry. Amy
also shared her experiences working in marine mammal and sea turtle research,
coastal environmental management, conservation and education, and ocean policy.
Amy offered several tips for
pursuing a career path in environmental consulting, including the importance of
writing skills, maintaining a personal resume database of your skills,
training, and certifications, building your professional network, and volunteering
time to give back to the scientific community. View Amy’s presentation HERE.
Don Davis (PhD), Director of Oral History for the
Louisiana Sea Grant program, was our guest speaker during the session held on
October 6, 2022. Don recently co-authored a book, Asian-Cajun Fusion: Shrimp from the Bay to the Bayou, with Carl
Brasseaux. This book traces the origins of the shrimp drying industry in the
United States back to 1870, when Chinese immigrants founded the industry in New
Orleans. The coastal Lousiana region continues to export dried shrimp to Asian
markets domestically and internationally. Don noted that “the [coastal
Louisiana] landscape is and has always been a working coast. The coast is not a
place but a process; it only becomes a place when people live there.”
Don offered several pieces of advice based on his experiences, including how critical it is to understand the human dimension and engage with people before making decisions. Don also emphasized the importance of following your passion, learning something new everyday, and working hard while maintaining a work-life balance. View Don’s presentation HERE.
We thank all our guest speakers for
taking time to share their stories! Stay tuned for more TCS Coastal Connections
sessions coming in 2023!
4th, 2022, TCS convened its 22nd Coastal Career workshop
in New Orleans. This ongoing workshop series is part of TCS’s Margaret A.
Davidson (MAD) Coastal Career Development Program, which was initiated in 2018
to prepare the next generation of coastal professionals. The workshop was sponsored
by Louisiana Sea Grant, the National Academy of Science’s Gulf Research
Program, and the Louisiana Science Teachers Association (LSTA), and was hosted
by the Meraux Foundation. Among the workshop’s key partners were Restore
America’s Estuaries, which was hosting its biennial summit the following week,
and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
sponsor support enabled TCS to test five approaches not attempted in earlier
1. Given that this was the first completely in-person event in the last two years, we established clear protocols to reduce the risk of covid-19 and classroom or field accidents. We employed safe distancing when indoors and every one of our 62 attendees completed a legal release for accidents. This was very important as we switched venues for talks and breaks around the host campus and then used bus transportation to offsite destinations
2. Next, we collaborated with the LSTA to reach STEM high schools, thereby shifting beyond our traditional focus on graduate schools to include students as early as 10th grade. We had a particularly strong showing from the high school upper-classes.
3. We designed special activities and talks for the younger students in high school, at community colleges, or early in a four-year program while continuing to provide academic and professional career advice to attendees closer to their terminal degree. The most popular hands-on module was underwater research, and favorite talks covered job-hunting skills, networking, USAJobs, and contracting with state and federal agencies.
4. We supplemented our morning of introductory talks and break-out sessions with three afternoon stops along the Mississippi River to view a sampling of the coastal careers shared by our morning speakers – tree farming to provide material for shoreline protection, oyster restoration efforts supported by shell recycling programs, and one of many diversion structures redirecting river waters into coastal marshes.
5. Finally, we made a conscious effort to attract a more diverse audience than had participated in earlier workshops. We greatly exceeded expectations with student attendees but not our speakers. Our efforts will continue as we seek a representative cross-section of students and speakers.
workshop was the most recent example of how TCS is improving the MAD Coastal
Career Development Program. We look forward to continued success with our slate
of workshops in 2023. Watch https://thecoastalsociety.org/ for the latest on upcoming MAD
The COVID-19 pandemic not only shuttered our shared work and study spaces, but it also coincided with nationally palpable social unrest that highlighted ongoing social justice issues within higher education, and governmental and corporate institutions, regarding bias and discrimination faced by many students and professional scientists of color. The unfortunate truth is not something that has occurred by happenstance: a lack of diversity breeds discriminatory behaviors which often drive people of color out of positions in the coastal, ocean, and marine (COM) sciences or keep them from entering in the first place (Berhe et al., 2021). All Americans have supposedly been afforded equal rights since The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (or Juneteenth in 1865, depending on whom you ask), and yet Black Americans often were not allowed to partake in marine science endeavors alongside White Americans until nearly 40 years ago—over a decade after the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and the beginnings of integrating the segregated public school system following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme court decision in 19541. For instance, Evan B. Ford was the first Black scientist to participate in research dives aboard a deep-sea submersible in 19792.
Over the past nine months, The Coastal Society (TCS) has partnered with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Education and Outreach group on a unique diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) effort that fits within the paradigm of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project, funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) one-year grant, supported TCS in co-organizing a series of free, virtual career development events for faculty and underrepresented minorities (URM) in the COM sciences fields at federally designated minority serving institutions (MSIs)3. The effort is in response to mounting anecdotal and empirical evidence of the underrepresentation of Black Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities within the COM fields relative to other demographic groups in the United States (NSF & NCSES, 2017). Although racial and ethnic minority representation is similarly scarce in other spaces of higher education, the lack of diversity in the COM science disciplines is particularly persistent (Bernard & Cooperdock, 2018) and the effects are visible in the academic and non-academic workforce.
COM sciences are interdisciplinary which can translate to ill-defined career paths; opportunities extend across biological sciences, engineering, math and technology, economics, and social science sectors. Jobs and “the workforce” are vital institutional structures that impact survival, well-being and public health outcomes, and social status. A career path that exemplifies one’s individual passions, values, and skills is important for all, including people of color. It is NSF’s stance that a robust STEM workforce is a national priority4, and a strong national workforce is a diverse one. Professional societies like TCS can expand their support to a diverse ocean and coastal workforce of researchers, educators, practitioners, and government officials. TCS has begun to strengthen this diversity within its membership, both through its collaboration with NCAR and the newly developed 5-year DEI Strategic Plan.
The TCS-NCAR partnership proposed two main goals: (1) retain and support undergraduate and graduate students in pursuing careers in these fields; and (2) build faculty and staff capacity at MSIs to provide students with career development training. This was to be accomplished through a set of virtual outreach activities, which developed over the course of the project. The challenge was to address these ambitious goals within a short timeframe. What objectives would realistically be feasible given our resources and how could they be achieved?
The project team of three painstakingly collected contact information of COM faculty from online directories at 16 MSIs with relevant curricula. We arranged informal small group meetings with faculty at seven of the 16 schools and it became apparent from these conversations that the second goal—to build faculty and staff capacity at MSIs—did not align with the capacity of the faculty at these institutions. Nevertheless, the majority remained open to communicating suggestions that would create professional opportunities for their students during and after their formal education.
By the conclusion of the project, four free public career development workshop events and one faculty forum were hosted through Zoom and Google Meet platforms. Designating events as Zoom meetings rather than webinars created a more intimate setting for the events. Through this format, participants could see each other and speak live directly to the group. All events were offered between September 2021 and February 2022 and were around 75 minutes in duration. The workshops attracted both graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at MSIs and those who were not. The faculty forum allowed for an informal dialogue about career development projects undertaken by different departments and an opportunity to expand inter-institutional networks.
The feedback received from attendees was limited yet positive and supportive of the endeavor. Students reported interest in, “[m]ore networking opportunities for both as a scientist and for people of color, URM in these fields,” and appreciated that, “panelists were very candid and sincere about their experiences.” One student remarked that, “The advice I really appreciated was opening my eyes to the fact I did not need to solely rely on loans for grad school and that I could be picky about my options.” Another participant shared in the virtual chat, “The opportunity to ask questions regarding grad school really made my decision much more clear to start working towards a future in grad school”5.
It is my hope that these meaningful programmatic events continue to be incorporated at TCS. The experience of co-facilitating this project has been invaluable to me, one of many emerging professional scientists of color working outside academia. I recommend that future DEI efforts work toward smaller, more easily measurable goals, that projects and opportunities for students of color are designed with students, faculty, and professionals of color, and that those projects are reflective and mutually beneficial for all participants.
Disclaimer: This post does not serve as an endorsement of the author’s opinion, nor does it express the views of the Coastal Society.
References and Further Reading:
Berhe, A. A., Barnes, R. T., Hastings, M. G., Mattheis, A., Schneider, B., Williams, B. M., & Marín-Spiotta, E. (2022). Scientists from historically excluded groups face a hostile obstacle course. Nature Geoscience, 15(1), 2-4.
Bernard, R. E., & Cooperdock, E. H. (2018). No progress on diversity in 40 years. Nature Geoscience, 11(5), 292-295.
Gasman, M., Nguyen, T. H., & Conrad, C. F. (2015). Lives intertwined: A primer on the history and emergence of minority serving institutions. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 8(2), 120.
National Science Foundation, & National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. (2017). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17–310. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: www.nsf.gov/statistics/wmpd/.
By Jeff Flood, Tom Bigford, Adrian Laufer, & Lisa Kim
Following a successful series of Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Coastal Career Workshops in 2020, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, TCS has refined its processes for planning and conducting virtual events while also broadening its approach to include more speakers from diverse backgrounds and tailoring workshop topics to the interests and regional characteristics of the hosting institutions. Workshop formats also varied to meet the needs of attendees and reflected the creative thinking of TCS MAD Coastal Career Development Committee (welcoming two new members). The result was five successful workshops, described in more detail below.
Estuarine Research Society
On April 27, 2021, TCS
partnered with the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) to host a
half-day workshop in conjunction with their joint spring meeting with the New
England Estuarine Research Society (NERRS). This event marked the fourth
consecutive virtual workshop during the pandemic and demonstrated continued
success in recruiting speakers of diverse backgrounds and utilizing virtual
breakout sessions to promote more interaction by attendees. MAD Committee
co-chair Tom Bigford led the planning team effort with support from MAD
Committee co-chair Jeff Flood and TCS Members Cassie Wilson and Trystan Sill.
of Rhode Island
Current leadership and
recent graduates of the University of Rhode Island’s TCS student chapter hosted
a half-day event on May 18, 2021 focused on broad topics such as jobs in
international ocean policy and marine industry opportunities and technical
advice on virtual networking, applying for Federal agency jobs, and crafting
diversity statements for job applications and organizations once you’re hired.
Jeff led the planning team effort with support from Tom, Cassie, Trystan, and
URI Chapter President Courtney Milley as well as recent URI graduates Joe Dwyer
and Eric Kretsch.
Oregon Sea Grant
On June 29 and 30, 2021,
former NOAA Coastal Management Fellow (and current TCS Board Member) Adrian
Laufer collaborated with Oregon Sea Grant to sponsor and host a West Coast
workshop for graduate-level fellows. Adrian worked directly with current Oregon
Sea Grant graduate fellows, leveraging their Community of Practice to engage
with other graduate fellows in Oregon, California, Washington, Alaska, Hawai’i,
and Pacific Islands. Oregon graduate fellows played a role in determining the workshop
topics, The workshop reached a total of 56 attendees: five from Alaska; eight
from California; four from Hawai’i and the Pacific; 19 from Oregon; nine from
Washington; and eight with no west coast Sea Grant affiliation. The planning
team also coordinated an ocean and coastal themed trivia event, hosted by the Surfrider
Foundation, to follow the last day of the workshop, as a means of facilitating
community building across west coast fellows. The workshop was incredibly
well-received, with 100% of attendees reporting that they are inclined to
participate in more TCS events or become TCS members. In addition, the TCS
planning team members made valuable regional connections, establishing a solid
foundation to bring more resources to enhance student and young professionals’
experience in this area.
TCS designed a hybrid in-person and virtual full-day MAD workshop on November 16, 2021 to meet the specific needs of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The event was sponsored by the College’s Fisheries and Wildlife Department, easing participation by 22 graduate students. The program featured plenary sessions on the shifting employment landscape and careers outside academia and offered content on six professional skills needed to launch a rewarding career, including mentors, networks, virtual and in-person interviews, working in public and private sectors, and work-life balance. This workshop was a return to the full-day program TCS has missed since switching to a virtual format. Tom led the workshop effort with assistance from Jeff and new MAD Committee Member Lisa Kim.
Despite a busy semester,
the Duke student chapter showed tremendous leadership and resolve in planning
and hosting a workshop on December 3, 2021 that featured several Duke alumni
and was characterized by a more free-flowing discussion between participants
and speakers than in previous workshops. In addition to being an outstanding
experience for all those involved, the new agenda format provided yet another
example of how the TCS planning team can learn a great deal from the host
institution. Duke Chapter Vice President Kara Nunnally led the planning team
with assistance from Chapter officers and TCS MAD Committee Members Jeff, Tom,
Lisa, and Kelly Dobroski.
At each of the 2021
workshops, skilled speakers representing many sectors and perspectives shared
their personal stories and tips for how to be successful in a coastal career.
Nearly all registrants (90% average) felt the workshops were a good use of
their time and most (75%) thought the nominal registration fee was appropriate.
Since December of 2018, TCS has hosted 16 MAD Coastal Career Workshops. TCS is currently planning the rest of its 2022 calendar and anticipates partnering with The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to host a workshop in conjunction with Capitol Hill Oceans Week in early June, working with west coast Sea Grant offices to host another west coast graduate fellow workshop in early summer, and continuing to coordinate with TCS student chapters to tailor events to fit their need. The MAD Committee continues to coordinate with the DEIJ Working Group to reach historically underserved communities while also looking to access new geographic regions such as the Gulf Coast and Florida. Learn more about this workshop series and check back for updates to the schedule as events are finalized at: https://thecoastalsociety.org/margaret-a-davidson-coastal-career-development-program/
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
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
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.
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, includingresume 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.
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.
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!
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.
Editor’s Note: This article is a reprint from the TCS Bulletin in 2000 (Volume 22(2)) in celebration of the 33rd anniversary of Coastweeks.
by Thomas E. Bigford, Policy co-Director, American Fisheries Society
The BULLETIN thanks Ms. Fegan for sharing her memories and her inspiration.
As I contemplated the meaning of Coastweeks 2000 this past summer, I found myself thinking often of how one person’s idea coalesced into an event, then a national and international celebration, and now a tradition. Thoughts of those formative days of Coastweeks invariably reminded me of the enthusiastic leadership provided by a single visionary — Barbara Fegan. I caught up with her this past September as she was enjoying retirement in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, the Cape Cod community where she perfected her coastal advocacy roots. Although she is approaching her 80th birthday (“not till next year! “) and she “officially” retired by choice from public life in 1994, we can rest assured that Ms. Fegan remains a visionary. To me, she’s also a treasured friend. This interview offers glimpses of how Coastweeks evolved and where we might be headed in the coming decades, all foretold by a true coastal hero.
How did the concept of Coastweeks begin?
My idea can be traced back to 1980. That year had been designated as Year of the Coast, and there was great enthusiasm for coastal issues, I had great hope that the designation would inspire action, but the energy level wasn’t there yet. The next year brought another round of success when the Coastal Zone Management Act was reauthorized, but there was still no structure for real coastal activism. The Coastal Society’s 1982 conference in Baltimore on “Communicating Coastal Information” rejuvenated my creative juices. The Year of the Coast was fresh in our minds, the CZMA had been strengthened, and we received great news that President Reagan had just signed a law to protect coastal barriers. I was thinking about how to increase public participation along the lines of Earth Day rather than some corporate model. I wanted to be outside organiza~ tional structures, not constrained by them. With society racing faster and faster to get to the coast, I was convinced we should capture some of that energy in protecting our beaches and shores. The idea of a coastal festival intrigued me. Friends in more than 250 chapters of the League of Women Voters and Shirley Taylor with the Sierra Club in Florida offered the support network needed to launch the idea. I shared my concept as a comment from the floor at TCS8 and hoped the idea would grow.
Can you share some memories about that first Coastweek Celebration?
I remember the date – October 12, 1982. I was flying home from TCS8 with Rich Delaney, the new director of the Massachusetts coastal zone program. We talked about the Coastweek idea and what to do next. He was planning a fall conference and invited me so Coastweek could be part of the discussion. Rich also got Governor King to proclaim the first Coastweek that fall in Massachusetts. We were off and running! I operated Coastweek simply, with only volunteers. Those of us involved in the early years met all sorts of folks, some outright crooks who thought I was a coastal heiress and wanted some of my millions but many more who shared my hopes for a better coast. Those first few months confirmed that we had an idea that could work!
What were your early ideas for Coastweeks?
Mostly, I saw a volunteer organization. If we had a paid staff we would have been beholden to some organization. I wanted no dues, no reports, and very little structure. I organized things for the first few years but kept it very simple. I only communicated by mail, and never sent second mailings or reminders. No phone calls either-that would have taken too much time. That approach, coupled with new and old friends in the League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, and The Coastal Society started a national movement. I also wanted to work with other related efforts. Judy Nielsen with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had attended a marine debris conference in Hawaii and adopted the idea of a citizen-based, coastal beach clean-up to collect information on marine litter. There were other events around the country in late September and early October. That’s when the seven day Coastweek evolved into the longer event spanning two months that came to be known as Coastweeks with an “s”.
Do you have any fondest memories from those early years?
Certainly! There were plenty of characters, and lots of crazy ideas. But I loved it since every idea generated interest in the coast. I remember ideological people in Toledo who were driven to clean up the Ohio coast, they wanted to reverse the pollution that led to the Cuyahoga River fire and other environmental disasters. There were the ever-hopeful teachers who organized camping excursions for Texas schoolchildren. And there was the University of Colorado Glee Club that hosted a Sea Chanty party. It was landlocked events like that one in Colorado that inspired a tongue-in-cheek campaign to “Save our Kansas Coast.” Everyone was getting involved.
After a year or two, Coastweeks was here to stay! It really helped over the years to have some great individuals deeply involved. Linda Maraniss was one gem! She and her colleagues at the Center for Marine Conservation helped with Coastweeks administration, Coastsweep beach clean .. up data collection, and so much more.
How has the concept evolved?
I’ve seen some major changes, but the basic celebration continues with the same volunteer spirit we envisioned. Annual Coastweeks calendars are still dominated by small events built around education and sharing. However, the overall Coastweeks structure has changed. During the past four years or so, agencies and organizations have tried to capture the spirit. Many volunteer citizens have been replaced by people driven by their professions to exploit or protect the coast. It isn’t the same. It’s a different language, built around the need to produce results rather than simply participate. Coastweeks shouldn’t be measured in jobs and political favors, but it’s happening. I hope the new Coastweeks doesn’t become another government program or corporate marketing campaign.
What about the coasts themselves? Do you think Coastweeks has changed society, or that the issues have changed since the early 1980s?
There’s definitely a change underway. I see a shift from massive programs to local efforts. People are getting involved at the neighborhood level through local groups. I’m delighted by the trend. Whenever you can get a group of like-minded people, supported by a skeletal organization and deep convictions, you can make progress. But you need people who are fulltime participants, People can’t buy a voice; they need to enroll and engage. That’s a real issue in coastal communities where many taxpayers are seasonal residents with their own agendas. I’m hopeful that self-conceived, self-directed efforts are increasing.
Where do you think we’re headed in the next decade or so?
Coastal issues are like the tides. Issues come and go, sometimes leaving debris behind that prompts action but usually leaving nothing noticeable. There are also tides in public and political leanings. I don’t know where we’re heading because much of what I see is the same as a few years ago, but years of small changes add up over the decades to make a real difference. Sometimes it takes even longer to recognize those changes. I think that’s happening along our coasts, There are changes in social structures that will affect the mix of people and expectations for coastal management. There are also changes on the science side. The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. We continue to make errors, only now we live longer and must face our errors personally. Some impacts are translated inland, such as storm-related damages that now affect landlocked counties and peoples. I trust the hidden genius in each of us will sense changes and prepare accordingly. I recognized a wave back in 1982 and jumped on. There are other waves now that are waiting for us. Good people will respond. If we praise their efforts they will remain engaged as citizens, small groups, and local networks. That’s how Coastweeks began and how future ideas will succeed. We just need to keep the energy level focused in the neighborhoods, supported by corporations and large groups rather than replaced by them. These changes are organic. They won’t kill us. They’ll be more successful if we focus on sources rather than fixes. Along the coast, let’s search for the reasons why something doesn’t work rather than heap solutions on a broken system. Nonpoint source pollution is one opportunity awaiting citizen action.
Thanks for sharing your philosophy on coastal activism. Do you have any closing comments?
Just one comment, one that is embedded in much of what I read and how I have shaped my actions. We need to read more history. We need to learn what has happened in the world and why. Those insights will help us to recognize behaviors, cultures, and differences. It will also help us understand where we are headed. I’m reading R.W. Davies’ enlightening book on European history. Sit down with a history book, a dictionary, and a map so you can understand our world. Then apply your new wisdom to the coast and we’ll be headed in the right direction.
Read this interview in its original form in the TCS Bulletin 2000 Volume 2(2).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
A hearty thanks to our sponsors for making the pilot Coastal Career Day available to Virginia students: