Topsail Beach

The Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative at NC State looks to solve the challenges of climate change in the coastal area using interdisciplinary expertise and research opportunities.

According to Mary Watzin, the director of the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative, the initiative brings together expertise from all 10 colleges at NC State and hopes to address climate change in an interdisciplinary manner. 

“The goal is to bring together the amazing expertise we have across our entire campus to address the challenges of coastal resilience and sustainability and what climate change is doing on the coast,” Watzin said. “The initiative is focused on increasing the profile and research at NC State. I frequently talk with other investigators in the areas at UNC and Duke, but as of now, the initiative is focused on bringing together interdisciplinary teams within NC State.”

According to Amanda Mueller, coordinator of the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative, the organization’s main goal is getting NC State faculty to work together and gain a holistic view of climate change, then engaging with the communities that are struggling with these issues. 

“The initiative is trying to address climate change issues while realizing that it reaches beyond the environmental impacts,” Mueller said. “Really one of the prime focuses is to get interdisciplinary teams to collaborate at NC State. The University already has a wealth of knowledge and experience with topics that help address coastal resilience.” 

According to Watzin, in order to promote more discussion and interaction about key topics, the initiative is hosting a series of lightning talks and faculty panels. 

“A lot of what we do is behind the scenes,” Watzin said. “We are bringing faculty together to go after grant opportunities, respond to inquiries and questions about what we want at NC State, and who might help. We are also starting to talk about education programs and how we can leverage more courses that are available at all levels.”

Watzin said over 230 faculty members are associated with a variety of research for the initiative. 

“In the next couple of weeks, we will have a database on our website,” Watzin said. “There will be a list of their grants, research, publications and interests to help build connections.”

According to Mueller, the database will play a large role in building connections across the colleges and spreading information about research already completed.

“With the directory, any faculty members that are doing work that address these coastal issues can put in their information and expertise, and if there are specific interdisciplinary collaboration they are interested in, they can put that in as well,” Mueller said. “If they want to partner with someone from a specific college, they can search for that area of expertise and connect with those individuals.”

The initiative was started in the fall of 2019 and Watzin wanted to take advantage of the extensive research capabilities of NC State.

“We wanted to do more to address the challenges of climate change in the coastal zone,” Watzin said. “It’s really important, so late that fall, I was charged to work with a group of leaders across campus to take a look at what we could do and what our capacity and expertise was.”

Many students are already involved in the initiative through their faculty advisors. It hopes to reach out more actively to involve students, according to Watzin. 

“Understanding the education environment and where graduate and undergraduate research programs are and how they might be expanded over time is a priority,” Watzin said. “Our students are incredibly interested in making the world a better place and addressing climate change.”

More information about the Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative can be found here.