Intern at the Coastal Fed! Do it!

This semester I had the honor of working for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, a member-funded 501(c)3 organization with offices in Newport, Wrightsville Beach, and Wanchese, North Carolina. I spent most of my Mondays and Wednesday at their beautiful Northeast branch (picture below, and my personal office (they take really good care of their interns) even had a beautiful view of the Sound.

The Coastal Fed seeks to empower coastal residents and visitors from all walks of life to protect and restore the water quality and critically important natural habitats of the North Carolina coast. Much of my internship was spent with my amazing mentor, Sara Hallas, who is the Coastal Education Coordinator for the Northeast branch. I especially appreciated the opportunity of working with Sara because I rarely get the opportunity to work with kids in a way that is relevant to my career as a pre-law student. Sara and I traveled to schools or hosted students at our office to teach them about water quality and the value of rain gardens.

I also got to take part in a restoration project at Festival Island Park, where we dug a new rain garden and planted several native plant species!

The vast majority of my work, however, was in assisting the Coastal Federation with their Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project. Started in 2014, the Project enables the Coastal Fed to hire commercial fishermen to collect lost or abandoned crab pots during the no-potting period from January 15 until February 17.

In 2018, 76 fishermen collected 3496 crab pots (or 1.7 tons of debris) along the North Carolina coast! From the collection, 2413 blue crabs and 761 fish were released from the lost pots.

My main focus for this project involved what to do with the collected crab pots once they are taken out of the Sound. My goal was to evaluate the costs and benefits of selling and reusing the crab pots, rather than scrapping them for the value of their steel as done in previous years. In this process, I have also done extensive research on the legality of selling the collected pots or even using them as payment for the hired fishermen, which has been great practice for my future legal endeavors.

Overall, my internship at the North Carolina Coastal Federation has been incredibly rewarding. If you live along the coast or love the ocean, consider becoming a member or attending one of their fun oyster roasts, happy hours, or other fundraisers. And if you are a potential OBXFS student, ask Corey to place you there for your internship! With opportunities in politics and lobbying, coastal science, education, and non-profit management, the Coastal Fed has something for everyone!

Back it up, Florence!

Our time at the Outer Banks was cut short last week thanks to Hurricane Florence, a storm we thought would reach category 4 before making landfall below Cape Hatteras. Thankfully for our home here (Friends of Elizabeth II), our school (the Coastal Studies Institute), and all of the locals we have come to know and love (professors, internship mentors, and of course the inside and outside Jeffs), Florence weakened significantly before reaching the coast and took a turn west for the southern end of the state and South Carolina.

We typically have a full day of internships on Mondays, but last week many of us were too preoccupied with evacuation plans. My mentor at the North Carolina Coastal Federation let us leave early to prepare, as some of the other employees lived as far south as Hatteras Island where mandatory evacuation went into effect that day. Many of my peers and I had planned to go to Chapel Hill until the storm passed, but once Florence turned from her original path, we had to make other arrangements. I returned to Shelby, North Carolina, but some of my peers traveled as far as Asheville, Washington DC, and Baltimore to escape Florence’s wrath.

We were told to prepare for up to two weeks away from the Outer Banks, so I took plenty of clothes home with me (mostly dirty laundry to do, oops) as well as any items I absolutely can’t live without or risk being damaged in the storm. For me, this included my favorite postcards and photos on my wall, my antique Polaroid camera, and about half of my book collection. Others took their food (Danesha) and their guinea pigs (Emma S.)!

Back in Shelby, we mainly got consistent rain with few strong winds. The saturated ground caused many large trees to topple over, however. Here is one that fell on the home beside of us, putting a hole in the roof.

My peers further east had a much more intense experience with Florence, such as Autumn Pollard, whose hallway filled with water.

And Emma Szczesiul, whose backyard looked more like a lake.

Of course, UNC students found a way to make a meme out of this storm. Student Facebook pages were flooded (no pun intended) with events titled things like “Have Grayson Allen trip Hurrican Florence,” “Do the hokey pokey at Florence so she’ll turn herself around,” and “Take Hurricane Florence and Push it Somewhere Else.”

Luckily, I was able to reunite with my classmates after only one week of being home. In all seriousness, we dodged a bullet in terms of damage from this storm, and the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other major weather events will only increase unless environmental conditions change drastically. Hurricanes and flooding are only two side effects of climate change, but they are arguably the most relevant to our home here on the Outer Banks.