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ECU’s Outer Banks Campus, new academic unit maximize research, teaching resources

Coastal Research Institute
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ECU’s Outer Banks Campus is located on Roanoke Island.

Outer Banks Campus signage.jpg

By Jules Norwood
ECU News Services

Monday, October 29, 2018

East Carolina University has renewed its commitment to coastal science by creating a new academic unit called Integrated Coastal Programs, the university announced last week.

The unit encompasses the Department of Coastal Studies and the Coastal Studies Institute, located at ECU’s Outer Banks Campus on Roanoke Island.

Reide Corbett, dean of Integrated Coastal Programs, will oversee the unit, which is the product of several years of strategic thinking about how ECU might grow and improve its coastal research and teaching programs. Research, education and outreach in a variety of disciplines, all with a coastal focus, will fall under the umbrella of Integrated Coastal Programs.

The multi-institutional partnership with UNC and N.C. State, as well as dive and vessel operations, will continue under the new organizational structure, and Corbett said the new unit will break down barriers between disciplines to allow new approaches to coastal research.

The university is working to maximize the utilization of the Outer Banks Campus, which is home to the Coastal Studies Insitute. The facility was completed in 2012, and the campus spans 213 acres of marshes, scrub wetlands, forested wetlands and sound ecosystems.

Corbett’s vision for the Outer Banks Campus includes growth that will allow more students to take advantage of the facility’s location and direct access to coastal ecosystems. “Ultimately we want to grow the campus so we can bring more students out there for the entire semester and offer them a full load of courses,” he said.

ECU and CSI are leading research into renewable ocean energy, investigating ways to harness the power of waves and even the Gulf Stream as energy resources. Maritime history students have brought attention to the importance of the program with several discoveries including the identification of the mystery shipwreck at Pappy’s Lane.

Another major area of research at ECU and its Outer Banks Campus is coastal sustainability, Corbett said. Recent events like Hurricane Florence have brought attention to changing weather patterns and coastal flooding.

The university has also focused on the marriage between socioeconomics and the natural sciences, he added.

“We have all this incredible marine heritage sitting right off the coast,” Corbett said. “And we have some of the wealthiest and some of the poorest counties just east of ECU.”

The Outer Banks community is interested and invested in ECU’s commitment to the region, Corbett said. “They’re excited about what we’re doing and the vision for the Outer Banks Campus. And we’ve been engaged and talking with the community about some of our concerns for the growth that we see at the campus.”

Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement, said Corbett’s understanding of eastern North Carolina and the importance of the Outer Banks are part of what made him the best choice to lead Integrated Coastal Programs.

“Reide was born and raised in eastern North Carolina, so it’s in his DNA,” he said. “He had a vision of where he wants to take ECU at the Outer Banks and CSI, for ECU to become a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the sciences.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find another program on campus that epitomizes where we want to go and the opportunities for excellence in education, research and outreach that we have at CSI and ECU’s Outer Banks Campus.”