DURHAM, NC --- More than 80 scientists, policy
experts, students and conservation practitioners from around North Carolina
gathered at Duke Gardens on Friday, March 4, 2016 to participate in Duke
University's first student-organized
by the Student Association of Wetland Scientists (SAWS), the daylong
symposium, "Wetland Resilience in North
Carolina," brought together
representatives from North Carolina's
business, political, and academic sectors to discuss the current status of
the state's wetlands and how better
management practices and economic approaches could optimize societal
benefits from these ecosystems.
Braswell, the SAWS special events coordinator and a PhD candidate at the
Nicholas School, spearheaded the event.
"We wanted to create an event
that features the array of approaches professionals are taking towards
wetland stewardship throughout the state," said
Braswell, "and we've
designed the symposium so that students especially have a new channel to
connect with people working in wetland science, business and policy."
SAWS event coordinator Anna
Braswell. (Photo: Lyndsi
symposium started with opening remarks from Braswell and Curt Richardson, director
of the Duke University Wetlands Center and professor of resource ecology at
the Nicholas School, followed by Dean Alan Townsend, who offered
light-hearted anecdotes about his own wetland fieldwork to highlight why he
finds these ecosystems so fascinating.
presentations covered a wide range of topics. Marcel Ardon
of East Carolina University discussed his research on the historical
ecology of North Carolina's
coastal wetlands and the threats they face from climate change. Tom
Looney, counselor to the president of the North Carolina Coastal
Federation, followed with a pitch for the state's
oyster farm industry.
"With our state population and stature as
a food hotspot growing,"
Looney said, "we have a perfect opportunity
to showcase the quality of our seafood. Through the proper management of
our coasts and estuary systems, North Carolina could become the Napa Valley
Tom Looney, from the NC Coastal
Federation, was one of the morning's
featured speakers. (Photo: Nathan
between the panels and presentations, students were given opportunities to
network with the symposium's
Gordon, a Nicholas School Masters of Environment Management student, took
the opportunity to speak with Rob Lamme of the
N.C. Coastal Federation about possibly visiting the state legislature in
Raleigh through his organization.
part of the Ocean Policy Working Group on campus," said Gordon, "and, as someone whose studies focus on
coastal issues, it'd be
great to have some exposure to the process that turns science and ideas
into working policies that affect our shores."
An afternoon panel discussion on
wetland restoration (moderated by DUWC Director Curtis Richardson, far
left) was part of the symposium about the future of North Carolina's wetlands. (Photo: Nathan Miller)
symposium concluded with a series of shorter presentations, the final one
delivered by Braswell, and a brief poster session. Attendees and speakers were
invited to mingle over drinks at an informal mixer held at Full Steam
Brewery that evening.
"The SAWS team and I have been
preparing for this event since September," said
Braswell, who added that she hopes the symposium will become an annual
event. "I hope that attendees made
new connections and heard novel ideas from other experts. Also, I hope they
walked away with a better understanding of the excellent wetland work going
on in the state of North Carolina."
The two afternoon panels addressed wetland
restoration challenges and the threats sea level rise poses for wetlands
and coastal communities. The experts on the sea level rise panel spoke with
particular urgency, citing how middle-class and working-class households --- which comprise the majority of people living along
the N.C. coast --- will be much more vulnerable to rising tides than
affluent households because of their limited incomes and restricted access
to adaptive resources.
Nathan Miller, MEM '16
Nicholas School Communications Assistant
The symposium schedule and abstracts are
In addition to SAWS, symposium sponsors
included Sea Grant North Carolina, the Nicholas School of the Environment,
the Duke Graduate & Professional Student Council, and the Duke
University Wetland Center.