Economy, Industry, and Science: Sea Grant’s North Carolina Coastal Conference

North Carolina’s Coastal Conference, organized by NC Sea Grant, was held Tuesday, April 14th at NC State University’s McKimmon Center in Raleigh, NC. This event brought together scientists, government officials, and coastal leaders to discuss challenges facing NC’s coasts. The conference kicked off with a panel of speakers who covered changes in coastal demographics; planning, housing, and construction challenges posed by sea level rise; and how science supports coastal economies.

coastalconf_taylors_creekFor a general overview:

Rebecca Tippett, Director of Carolina Demography at UNC Chapel Hill, talked about population growth among coastal counties. She emphasized population changes like people moving in and out of certain areas (ie. ‘retiree havens’ like Brunswick county),

Source: Carolina Demography

Source: Carolina Demography

accounting for tourism (increases Dare county’s summer population by 200,000+ people), and where the population ‘hubs’ are (ie. Dare county has 80% of the seasonal housing units in the Outer Banks, but only 10% of the land mass!).

Phil Prete, Senior Environmental Planner for the City of Wilmington, focused on the challenges that sea level rise presents for city planners along the coast. He highlighted a community resilience pilot project that looks at risks to water and sewer structures caused by rising sea level and storm surge. Several strategies were created to deal with and prevent flooding that would be caused by sea level rise.

North Carolina coastal areas threatened by sea level rise. Modeling by RENCI at ECU.

North Carolina coastal areas threatened by sea level rise. Areas shown in red may be underwater if sea level rises just 1 foot. Modeling and figure from RENCI at ECU.

Cameron Moore, Executive Officer of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association , covered the recent housing boom and bust, the coast’s recovery, and new concerns regarding sea level. Rising sea level has impacted legislation, flood insurance reform, and construction plans.


David Eggleston, Director of NC State University’s Center for Marine Science and Technology, discussed how science is supporting sustainable coastal economies. He emphasized how research to prevent beach erosion, deal with marine animal stranding’s, and keep coastal waters clean supports tourismcarteret catch; how aquiculture, managing fisheries, and looking for other sources of fish protein supports the local seafood and local and recreational fishermen (check out Carteret Catch ); how models of sea level rise to predict flooding and storm surge helps coastal resilience and adaptation and many more (NC Aquarium, habitat restoration, biotechnology, ocean energy, etc.)!


Our lovely Outer Banks

The conference continued with talks about offshore energy, why coastal NC is vulnerable to hazards (flooding, hurricanes, etc.), marine industry development, and forming partnerships between scientists, local leaders, and government organizations to take care of our coasts. All of the talks are posted on Sea Grant’s website so check them out here!


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