2021 Research News

Dept. of EVS and Students Assist in Develping Coastal Watersheds

May 5, 2021 - Over the last five years, EVS faculty member Dr. Devon Eulie (‘05B, ‘08M) and her students in the Coastal and Estuarine Studies (CES) Lab, have been assisting in the development of watershed management plans for a handful of coastal watersheds along North Carolina’s coast. These EVS Department Assisting with Development of coastal watersheds in North Carolinawatershed management plans provide communities with a guiding framework to improve and protect water quality through stormwater management. For many tidally influenced coastal watersheds in North Carolina, stormwater is the primary conveyor of pollutants, like nutrients, sediment, and harmful bacteria that impair water quality. Creating watershed management plans is no small feat, requiring partnerships with local governments, community members, non-profit organizations, state officials, and academics.

For Dr. Eulie and her students, an integral part of living along North Carolina’s coasts is working to help the communities they work and live in. Dr. Eulie says, “By leveraging knowledge and scientific skills, like geospatial analysis and community engagement, that students learn during their time in our lab and at UNCW, we are able help meet the need of the community for expert knowledge and meet the needs of students for real-world experience. We are working the non-profit organization the North Carolina Coastal Federation to help facilitate these exceptional opportunities and connections with our communities.”

In total, Dr. Eulie and her students have assisted on nearly half a dozen watershed management plans. They have leveraged their knowledge of watershed science and geospatial skills to help determine how much impervious surfaces exist and how much surface water may be entering waterways during storms. One of the most recent plans that Dr. Eulie, Marine Biology PhD student Mariko Polk ‘15M, Evan Hill ‘18B, and Brooke Young ‘17B assisted on was the Pine Knoll Shores Nine Elements Watershed Restoration Plan.

“Being a part of the development of the Pine Knoll Shores Watershed Restoration Plan was particularly exceptional because of the many partners involved and the great interactions the students were able to have. The town and community were incredibly supportive and excited to have UNCW students in the development process of this plan,” says Dr. Eulie.

Since the completion of the plan at the end of 2018, the Town and its partners have gone on to be awarded funding to install a number of projects aiming to keep stormwater out of their waterways by focusing on ground infiltration. Watershed management plans can help guide short- and long-term action within a watershed and can help in in gaining funding to implement on the ground projects, like the installation of stormwater retrofit techniques. Dr. Eulie and her students see working with communities to help improve coastal communities and the environments they are part of as a driving motivation. “When students are able to see first-hand how the research they work on can positively impact others, we all grow.”