CoastWise: a year of building skills and networks for coastal resiliency


People stand on a boat as a woman looks towards camera and points, giving a lecture to the people

Since last summer, a diverse cohort of graduate students and early- to mid-career researchers and professionals from across New Hampshire have gathered for CoastWise – a year-long, cohort-based immersion program for individuals working on coastal resilience and marine resource management issues in the state. Now, applications for the 2022-2023 cohort of CoastWise are open (until April 30)! 

Through a series of in-person and remote workshops, the 2021-2022 participants learned from experts and each other about coastal issues, built a repertoire of skills, networked with peers and partners, and gained first-hand knowledge of stakeholders and communities across the state. 

In August of 2021, the inaugural CoastWise cohort of seventeen people spent two nights at the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, six miles off the coast of New Hampshire. There, they examined the challenges of coastal and island living and the ways that climate change will impact vulnerable communities. The workshop on Appledore also solidified the cohort as a group and a network – encouraging participants to explore their own separate networks and the ways to use them to complement the new connections they were making while in the program. 

“One of the things that we’ve heard from participants so far is just how much they appreciate the time and space to build their networks and explore new partnerships outside of the day-to-day requirements of work or school,” said Lindsey Williams, Ph.D., co-leader of CoastWise. “I’ve enjoyed seeing new connections emerge and hearing the group members connect with each other for career advice and project brainstorming.” 

Three people in warm winter clothes stand on the bank of a river holding papers in their hands

Throughout the winter, the cohort stayed in touch virtually, attending seminars and viewing documentaries about environmental issues, culminating in a second in-person workshop in Concord, New Hampshire in March. There, the cohort visited the Army Corps of Engineers and learned about their network of dams around the watershed built for flood prevention, including a visit to the Hopkinton Dam at the Hopkinton-Everett Reservoir. 

Lynn Vaccaro, a member of the first CoastWise cohort and Coastal Training Program Coordinator at Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve (GBNERR) was a newcomer to New Hampshire in 2021 when starting her position with GBNERR. CoastWise helped her get a footing in the professional community and the local environment.  

“I have learned a ton about New Hampshire history and natural resource policies through CoastWise,” Vaccaro said. “I'm not sure when I would have learned that history [otherwise], it is really valuable context for my work.” 

Reflecting on the origin of the program and the benefits it is already having, CoastWise co-leader Lisa Wise shared, “We have heard that there are many people working on coastal and ocean resource management and science who have moved into new roles here in the state over the last year. We are excited that CoastWise can be part of helping build stronger networks across a whole range of different professional settings.” 

In their March retreat, the cohort also met with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests at their Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area, a floodplain landscape abutting the Merrimack River. This particular watershed was fresh in their minds from viewing the documentary River At Risk, cementing the connection between inland forests and rivers and the downstream coastal communities and estuaries.  

While the first cohort may be wrapping up their term, their network will continue to diversify and grow as the next group comes on board. “In addition to the Steering Committee and all our great trainers and guests, our second cohort will have another new network that they can connect with – this year’s participants!” said Wise. 

To sign up for email updates about the CoastWise program, including notification when the application period opens each spring, click here:

Join THE COASTWISE EMAIL List

A group of people in warm winter clothes stand in a snowy forest in front of a sign while a man talks to them

CoastWise participants take a walk with staff from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in Concord, NH.

Article photos by Tim Briggs for NH Sea Grant.

Author(s)

Tim Briggs
Science Communication Specialist
Phone: (603) 862-6711
Office: UNH Marine Science & Ocean Engineering, Morse Hall, 164, Durham, NH 03824