The Coastal Connections – Professional Spotlight Sessions showcase TCS leaders

By: Steven MacLeod and Ashley Gordon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Tom Bigford

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

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

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

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

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

HAVE YOU MET THESE COASTAL CHAMPIONS?

By Kasey R. Jacobs, TCS Communications Chair

With the same enthusiasm as a mantis shrimp going for a human’s finger, a large group of TCS members click on the Renew Your Membership icon as soon as they get the reminder email in December.

I caught up with the first members to renew for 2018.

These eight coastal champions shared their reasons for renewing, what their hopes are for TCS and their careers in 2018, and, most importantly, what they hope for our coastlines in 2018.

TCS spans disciplines and crosses boundaries like no other professional association. This is what Louisiana Sea Grant Scholar Don Davis told me. The mix of disciplines represented within TCS is evidenced by the first eight members to renew for 2018.

Don W. Davis, Louisiana Sea Grant Scholar
Don W. Davis, Louisiana Sea Grant Scholar

Because there are many policymakers who are TCS members, Don believes the translator-like interpretation needed between scientists and policymakers is eased. Policymakers in TCS help bring scientists successfully into the policy realm and scientists help policymakers navigate coastal jargon and options.

Many TCS members wear multiple hats of scientist and policymaker and everything in between, above, and beneath…

Or teach multiple disciplines, like Lawrence B. Cahoon, 2017 Distinguished Teaching Professor in Biology and Marine Biology for University of North Carolina Wilmington.

Lawrence B. Cahoon, 2017 Distinguished Teaching Professor in Biology and Marine Biology for University of North Carolina Wilmington
Lawrence B. Cahoon, 2017 Distinguished Teaching Professor in Biology and Marine Biology for University of North Carolina Wilmington

Larry hopes that in 2018 the public awareness of coastal management issues (resource and energy development, coastal storm mitigation, sea level rise, and economic transitions) “continues to rise and finds expression in wise policy decisions”. His own goal for this year is to continue to make useful contributions to the science underpinning policy decisions.

Coastal advocates in TCS might agree with Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director for the Surfrider Foundation, in his hopes that “we can empower coastal communities and the public to have a stronger voice in the management decisions that affect our coastlines.”

Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation
Pete Stauffer, Environmental Director, Surfrider Foundation

Pete stressed, “It’s never been more important for coastal professionals to network and support each other.”

When Pete told me that TCS has played an important role in his development as a coastal advocate, I was greatly encouraged. I am a former grassroots advocate who misses mobilizing communities. It makes me feel secure that I have TCS to help make transitions to different areas of coastal management if I desire.

Pushing the envelope are coastal scientists conducting applied research. They can help decision makers adopt protocols and standards that bring in the future. Stephen Dickson, a marine geologist at the Maine Geological Survey, has played a pivotal role in forward thinking hazard mitigation strategies.

Stephen Dickson, a marine geologist at the Maine Geological Survey
Stephen Dickson, a marine geologist at the Maine Geological Survey

His recent work includes mitigating coastal bluff erosion with nature-based approaches that mimic and maintain coastal ecosystems as sea level rises.

Steve told me that 2017 was “a banner year for geohazards and coastal disasters with extreme costs around the world.  Lives were lost, structures demolished, and coastal ecosystems destroyed.”

Steve would like to see TCS members collectively continue to advocate and teach ways for sustainable coastal development and post-storm recovery with integrated science, economics, and public policy.

But the top eight members to renew are not just domestically-focused.

Kem Lowry, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning with the University of Hawaii
Kem Lowry, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning with the University of Hawaii

Kem Lowry, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning with the University of Hawaii, has had the good fortune to be involved in coastal planning and research activities in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines for about forty years. His primary focus now is climate change adaptation. The last three years Kem has worked with colleagues throughout the Asia-Pacific region delivering week-long training courses on urban climate change adaptation.

In the U.S. Kem is developing a coastal retreat strategy for Hawaii with a team. He told me that in these and other areas of work he has been informed and inspired by the work of colleagues in TCS.

Another climate adaptation specialist in the top eight is Lisa Graichen, Climate Adaptation Program Coordinator for UNH Cooperative Extension and New Hampshire Sea Grant. 

Lisa Graichen, Climate Adaptation Program Coordinator for UNH Cooperative Extension and New Hampshire Sea Grant
Lisa Graichen, Climate Adaptation Program Coordinator for UNH Cooperative Extension and New Hampshire Sea Grant

When asked why she eagerly renewed she said, “TCS has given me the opportunity to connect with coastal management professionals around the country and hone my communications skills by participating in the Communications Subcommittee”.

Personally, I have been very impressed by Lisa’s well-researched articles and interviews. Her writing is engaging for non-scientists and read and shared widely by members and non-members alike. Lisa has astutely used her volunteer time with TCS to strategically grow professionally and she is a great model for all our members hoping to do the same.

Lisa is hoping 2018 will be a year that “we can learn from last year’s incredibly impactful hurricane season and make progress in our preparedness and response”. She thinks “we can elevate the climate conversation so that rebuilding decisions are smart, forward-thinking, and equitable.”

Tom Bigford, Past TCS President and retired from NOAA and the American Fisheries Society.
Tom Bigford, Past TCS President and retired from NOAA and the American Fisheries Society.

With his eye always on the professional development of TCS members, Tom Bigford, Past TCS President and retired from NOAA and the American Fisheries Society, hopes TCS can increase member participation in 2018 so our society can continue and even expand efforts to mentor the next generation of coastal professionals.

Writing earnestly, Tom revealed, “TCS provided just that type of assistance when I transitioned from grad school to professional life. I started in the natural sciences (I was a crab ecologist!) so TCS offered the extension I needed as I sought a more interdisciplinary career. TCS is the sole reason I had a very rewarding 43-year career. Now in retirement I plan to remain involved any way I can.”

Ellen Gordon, a freelance writer and editor (mostly retired), has been a TCS member since her graduate school days when she found the Society a great help “meeting all sorts of folks already in coastal careers”.

Ellen Gordon, a freelance writer and editor (mostly retired).
Ellen Gordon, a freelance writer and editor (mostly retired).

She promptly renewed her TCS membership because she values the connections made, and wants to help support the Society’s continued work fostering dialogue and communications in the coastal area. Ellen was the last editor of the TCS Bulletin (now the TCS Blog) and is excited by the advances in social media TCS has made. “Really love those Twitter posts!”, she exclaimed.

A treasure trove of knowledge and experience is available to all TCS members—Charter members who created TCS in the 1970s. Don Davis stressed this to me in that he has found we learn through reading, experience (including in laboratories), and talking to people. The talking to people being most critical.

While Don believes that our job listings “in itself is worth the price of being a member,” the biggest value TCS brings is being a bridge for those seasoned coastal professionals and those starting out.

In talking to Don, a geologist and cultural geographer, I could find he has a big heart for the people his work serves. Coastal peoples. Professionals and coastal communities. I could tell his desire for better connections among coastal peoples is a decades long desire.

Don has close ties with Acadians, a U.S. cultural group that is perhaps the last generation not to live more than 30 miles from home. Don implores us to include the cultures of coastal peoples in addressing planned retreat. “Resiliency is tattooed to their soul.”

Don wraps up the sentiments of the eight members to renew for 2018 best: “TCS weaves the tapestry of all these things together. I don’t know your age or background. Do I like TCS? Yes ma’am! I do.”

I am renewing this month because I would hate to lose touch with these coastal champions, and with you. Keep the U.S. coastal network strong. Please renew your membership or join today.