Public Policy & Coastal Sustainability


The mission of the Coastal Studies Institute’s public policy program is to provide clarity on the way that public policies interact with natural processes and human behavior.   The program follows a multidisciplinary approach, integrating information from the social, behavioral, and natural sciences. Our research is primarily concentrated in three areas: estuarine ecosystem services, new technologies to produce energy in coastal environments, and adaptation to global change in coastal environments.

Our ecosystem services program researches the way that human interventions affect the value that coastal residents receive from their waters and wetlands. Current and complete projects included work on oyster restoration, oyster aquaculture, living shorelines, and the broader suite of service in the Albemarle/Pamlico system.

Research into coastal energy sources has focused on the economics of gulf stream energy production, the way that current energy economics are affected by unpredictable shifts in ocean currents, the key environmental issues in permitting marine hydrokinetic energy development, and a new and exciting project on using salinity gradients to drive both energy technology and wastewater treatment.

Our research into adaptation to global change at the coast is based on jointly modeling human and natural systems and researching the way that real estate markets will both reflect and determine the changing coastal environment. This strand of research has highlighted the tension between short-run risk reduction and long-run adaptive responses.

The program disseminates its results through academic journals, white papers and op-eds, and public presentations to a variety of citizen and government audiences.

The Coastal Public Policy and Sustainability Program will work to develop a diverse and vibrant research and outreach program centered on how North Carolina’s coastal communities guide their adaptation to both predictable and uncertain change.

The lives of North Carolina’s coastal residents, and the natural and man-made systems on which they depend, are fundamentally affected by public policies. Basic decisions about zoning, water use, and waste disposal are made and implemented by municipal and county governments. Regional bodies do watershed and economic development planning.

Public policy decisions made at the state and federal levels have always been important for coastal residents, but the scale and diversity of regulations, legal decisions, and administrative processes has become much greater in recent years. Decisions about natural resource management, transportation infrastructure, land and water use, and energy resources all have strong federal and state components.

The Coastal Public Policy and Sustainability Program bridges short-term, medium-term, and long-term public policy questions through the unifying theme of adaptation. The ability to adapt to changing circumstances – whether brought about by changes in economic conditions, technology, the natural resource base, external policies, or climatic conditions – requires an understanding of the effects of public policies and the ability to help shape responses to changing conditions.

cape_ptThis program’s mission is to produce usable research, facilitate the better use of and accessibility to research results, act as an honest broker in helping decision-makers and the public evaluate competing claims in science and policy, and foster participatory decision-making in the context of public policy processes.

Dr. Andy Keeler has decades of experience in environmental economics and policy on the state and national levels. He has served as the Senior Staff Economist for Environment on the President’s Council of Economic Advisors (2000-2001), on the White House climate change policy teams under President Clinton and President Bush, and as a senior economist at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Innovative Strategies and Economics Group. He is excited to bring his vast experience to Northeastern North Carolina.

Coastal Sustainability

The concept of sustainability is an important one in coastal North Carolina. Growing populations, limited available land, a seasonal economy and the dynamic nature of the narrow barrier islands are just a few of the factors that challenge these coastal communities. The idea of coastal sustainability involves not only maintaining the integrity of the natural environment, but also growing and preserving the economic and cultural aspects of these ever expanding communities. Balancing each of these critical components can seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning and consideration of all stakeholders, it can be done. While the concept of sustainability is not new, it is a research area that needs to be further explored. The Coastal Studies Institute is committed to researching the best practices possible while providing assistance to the many towns and municipalities along the North Carolina coast.

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