Coast is Clearly Filled with NC State Research

Visitors flock to the North Carolina coast each year to frolic in the waves, stroll on the sand, drop a line in the water and wait for a bite, or just laze under a brilliant sun and deep blue sky. But the coast is more than just a summer getaway. It was North Carolina's "birthplace," serving as the seat of the first colonial governments, and remains a vital link for international trade. It has sustained generations of fishermen—and those they feed with their catch—and even ushered in the aviation age.

"The interplay between land and water plays to NC State's traditional strengths in sciences and engineering, as well as our emphasis on interdisciplinary research."

Although located more than 100 miles from the coast, NC State has kept more than just a toe in the saltwater in terms of research to benefit the region and its residents. From meteorologists finding better ways to track hurricanes to engineers monitoring shifting dune lines and rip currents to biologists studying harmful algal blooms or the fishing industry, the University supports an array of programs to carry out its land-grant mission on the sandy soil and waves of North Carolina's coast. "The coast is the nexus of land and water," Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Terri Lomax says, "and the interplay between the two elements plays to NC State's traditional strengths in sciences and engineering, as well as our emphasis on interdisciplinary research."

The Center for Marine Science and Technology in Morehead City, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in August, is a prime example of that interdisciplinary approach. Thirty-five faculty members from 17 departments are affiliated with CMAST, and they work together with researchers in Raleigh to discover innovative solutions to questions and problems in coastal and marine systems. Some, for example, are beginning to assess the impact of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

With headquarters on Centennial Campus and administered by NC State, North Carolina Sea Grant identifies emerging coastal and marine research needs by working with communities, state and federal agencies, and varied organizations. Most researchers profiled in this issue have had Sea Grant-funded projects, as have many others across the UNC system. With funding from NOAA and the state, Sea Grant looks ahead to potential environmental changes, yet also has agility to respond rapidly to immediate information needs.

This issue of results highlights various research efforts involving North Carolina's beaches, sounds, and estuaries and the fish and other aquatic life that call the coast home.