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Rogers, Spencer
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Rogers, Spencer

Helping Communities Cope with Shifting Shorelines

Helping Communities Cope With Shifting Shorelines

Spencer Rogers focuses on coastal construction and erosion for North Carolina Sea Grant at the Center for Marine Science, University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Why does your research matter?

We are looking at the why some coastal buildings survive hurricanes when those nearby are destroyed.  Our best chance of avoiding damage in the future is to carefully evaluate the causes of damage in well-documented storm conditions.

What do you enjoy the most about your work? 

As an extension specialist in hurricanes and shoreline erosion, I never know what the next question from the public will be. 

Where do you do most of your work? In a lab? In field studies? 

Locations vary: Pre-storm wave gauge deployments, post-storm building damage surveys and eventually detailed analysis in the office.

What in your lab could you not live without? 

"As an extension specialist in hurricanes and shoreline erosion, I never know what the next question from the public will be. "

Google Earth.  Aerial images are critical in evaluating and discussing shoreline related issues.

If you could invent any instrument to advance your research and cost were no object, what would it be? Why?

A low-cost, real-time, storm-surge and wave gage that could be attached to coastal buildings prior to hurricane landfall.  Without good measurements, we must often estimate conditions from post-storm water marks and models that are subject to many errors.

When did you know you wanted to pursue science?

When I realized that I was as interested in how something worked as I was in what I could do with it.

What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for someone wanting to explore a career in science?

Terri Kirby Hathaway, our marine education specialist, suggests students read a variety of publications to learn about science, such as National Geographic, Scientific American, Nature andSmithsonian. The American Scientist staff is based here in North Carolina at Sigma Xi headquarters. And North Carolina Sea Grant has Coastwatch.

And how about a personal favorite book?

Waves and Beaches by Willard Bascom.   I stumbled on the book in the county library during a high school summer and have been hooked on waves and beaches ever since.

What part of your job as a scientist did you least expect to be doing?

Still working for North Carolina Sea Grant after 33 years.

Do you have an outside hobby?

Sailing: the physics of air flow.

Who is your favorite historical scientist and why?

Thomas Jefferson:  Although known for other talents, every day of his life was a new science lesson.


Spencer joined Sea Grant in 1978, having worked as a coastal engineer for the Bureau of Beaches and Shores in the Florida Department of Natural Resources during his early career. He holds a master’s in coastal and oceanographic engineering from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Virginia.

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    Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.



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