The NC State Coastal Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (CRSI) led by Professor Erin Seekamp is part of the Provost’s Office of University Interdisciplinary Programs. The CRSI is developing the Coastal Community Resilience Internship (CCRI) program in collaboration with the KIETS Climate Leaders Program led by Amanda Mueller. The resources and heritages that have traditionally sustained communities in the NC coastal plain and shorelines face numerous threats, such as coastal hazards and infrastructure damage, salinization and declining productivity of agricultural lands, contaminants in ground and surface waters, pathogens in mariculture and changing water temperatures altering fish stocks. Rural coastal community vibrancy is further complicated by policies and processes that perpetuate climate and environmental injustices, as well as rising outmigration of younger generations. These vulnerabilities are being addressed within the state of North Carolina through the creation of the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR), creation of the Resilience Coastal Communities Program (RCCP) by the NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Coastal Management (DCM), which is focused on 20 coastal communities identified in the 1974 Coastal Area Management Act. The RCCP model and process help communities identify climate resilience projects that could be funded through federal programs.
DCM’s RCCP model begins with communities conducting a risk and vulnerability assessment. There are several excellent examples of work by consultants, such as the work by Moffatt & Nichol with the Town of Leland. Yet, many towns or unincorporated communities in NC may not have the resources (staff, expertise, software, funding) necessary to begin the process. Therefore, the CCRI program will provide a mechanism for enhancing coastal community resilience capacity and sustaining coastal community resilience. The CCRI program will annually support six (6) AmeriCorps interns (internship stipend funding provided by the Conservation Trust for North Carolina) to support these capacity-limited communities. Communities will be selected in collaboration with NCORR and DCM project partners allowing communities to self-identify and prioritizing underrepresented and underserved communities. The interns will work in pairs and as part of a cohort, with each pair supporting a minimum of one community (or two unincorporated communities). Community selection will occur in partnership with project partners at NCORR and DCM.
These internships will be awarded to currently enrolled NC State undergraduate students or recent graduates (within 1 year of an undergraduate degree). This focus on undergraduate students will complement the current higher percentage of graduate students within the KIETS Climate Leaders Program6. At the start of the CCRI program, the interns will receive training at NC State on asset mapping and vulnerability assessments, as well as training in community engagement techniques. These instructors will serve as mentors to the six interns. The project deliverables to the community(s) would include (a) an asset map and (b) a publicly accessible, interactive web map of the vulnerability assessment. The trainings that are developed for the internship program will be transformed into short, intensive 1-credit courses that will be offered at NC State for graduate and undergraduate students (and interns) beginning (Year 2) and for professionals via the McKimmon Center (Year 3). These short courses will become part of a CRSI sponsored micro-credentialing (badges) program that aims to enhance targeted sets of skills for students and professionals to enhance continuity in coastal community resilience. KIETS support will leverage significant funding for internships through the Conservation Trust of NC as well as through the CRSI.