Coastal restoration summit leaves me inspired

My winter break wasn’t all fun and games. In the beginning of December, I joined several Nic School students on a trip to New Orleans to attend the Restore America’s Estuaries/The Coastal Society 2016 Summit. This conference was the largest national gathering of the coastal restoration and management community of 2016!

The four-day summit incorporated presentations and conversations from people throughout the coastal conservation community— government agencies, nonprofits, private industries and students like us. As a former Midwesterner, it was great to see people from the Great Lakes as well as the coasts taking part in these discussions. It was a great reminder that there’s no “one way” to be an environmentalist— it takes people with all sorts of knowledge and skill sets to find solutions that make an impact.

I listened to presentations on creative ways to engage volunteers, on oyster shell recycling programs and rights based fishery management in Gambia. I also attended several of talks on living shorelines— their function, their permitting and their future. It’s a subject I’m not terribly familiar with but that I’m hoping to dive into during my community based environmental management practicum this semester.

One of the most interesting presentations I heard was given by Todd Woodard of the Samish Indian Nation’s Natural Resources Department in Washington state. They’ve been working on a series of three living shorelines projects on beaches bordering their reservation where rapidly eroding shoreline was threatening important cultural and ecological areas for the tribe. I was interested not only in the alternative techniques for shoreline stabilization that needed to be used on the Pacific Northwest’s rocky coast, but also in the way that Woodard and his colleagues ensured that they worked with members of the Samish Nation to ensure that the project met the community’s needs.

Having the summit in New Orleans was a great opportunity as well. It was my first visit to the city and it was incredible to visit a place that was so obviously steeped in culture and tied to the ocean. My classmates and I ate our weight in seafood— in particular, I was introduced to charbroiled oysters. You already know that I love raw oysters on the half shell, but the buttery cheesy decadence of charbroiled oysters was a definite highlight of the trip.

At the end, I was reminded of how much work I have ahead of me, but also how many brilliant people I’ll have by my side. All in all I left the summit feeling simultaneously inspired, overwhelmed and motivated— which was, perhaps, the goal.