UNC-IMS alumna joins NC Sea Grant as coastal education specialist


MOREHEAD CITY — A UNC Institute of Marine Sciences alumna has become N.C. Sea Grant’s new coastal and marine education specialist.

Sea Grant, an N.C. State University-based program dedicated to providing research, education and outreach opportunities related to issues affecting the North Carolina coast, announced Jan. 4 Dr. Erika Young has joined the program as the coastal and marine education specialist.

According to the UNC-IMS winter 2022 newsletter issued Jan. 7, Dr. Young is an IMS alumna, having studied under Dr. Charles Peterson, a conservation ecologist at the Morehead City-based institute who died in 2020.

NCSG executive director Dr. Susan White said education is “a pillar of the NC Sea Grant program.”

“Erika embodies a genuine ‘sense of wonder’ about the N.C. coast, and has a successful record of working with diverse audiences,” Dr. White said. “We are pleased that she has joined our team.”

Dr. Young had been on faculty at UNC-Pembroke for 13 years and served as a mentor for students there through the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement. She also has been active in science education outreach through programs such as the Morehead Planetarium, N.C. Science Festival and Boys and Girls Clubs.

“I often visit local schools in underprivileged counties to talk to K-12 students about STEM fields,” Dr. Young said. “I grew up in Robeson County and understand how important it is to have a connection with your audience.”

Dr. Young went on to say that as “a first-year college, Native American undergraduate student,” she was unaware of the “multitude of undergraduate opportunities, let alone research.”  However, she applied for a summer opportunity to study herpetology in Indiana, a step that set her career path.

“I collected local frogs and tadpoles from ponds to study pigmentation and camouflage,” Dr. Young said. That led to additional undergraduate research opportunities through UNCP, then a master’s degree from Western Carolina University and her doctorate from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she “focused on aquatic ecology with emphasis in estuarine habitats, oyster biodeposition, meiofauna, and sea level rise.”

Dr. Young will be based at Sea Grant’s headquarters at NCSU in Raleigh and will serve the entire state. She will work with a variety of partners, such as the N.C. Office of Environmental Education.

“I am super excited to be a part of N.C. Sea Grant and look forward to developing relationships with our various stakeholders and continuing stewardship for our coasts,” Dr. Young said.


Reporter Mike Shutak contributed to this article.

(1) comment

David Collins

Oh great , another climate change /sea level rise zombie . Someone please remind me why do we need to have Sea Grant in our lives anyway . Just one more government program that should have been canceled years ago .

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