The mission of the NOAA Coastal Services Center is "to support the environmental, social, and economic well-being of the coast by linking people, information, and technology." Since its inception in 1994 at the site of a former Navy base in Charleston, South Carolina, the Center has become a recognized leader in training on coastal-related tools, process skills, issues, and geospatial technology.
In 2010, more than 1,600 coastal and natural resource managers from federal, state, and local agencies and nonprofit groups participated in this instruction. The Center works with "host" partners, including National Sea Grant offices, National Estuarine Research Reserves, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations to identify the training needs and host the courses at participants' locations. This approach helps to build the coastal management network and provides participants with a local point of contact.
Usually, there are at least 15 but no more than 30 people in a class. While many of the trainees are full-time coastal and natural resource managers, others, like Sea Grant extension agents, emergency managers, planners, and educators are employed in jobs that require coastal management skills to fulfill part of their duties.
In keeping with its "national in scope, local in approach" ethos, NOAA CSC led 67 offsite trainings in 2010. Eighteen courses were hosted by partners in 22 states and territories, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"The Center holds most of its trainings offsite in order to broaden its reach and curriculum," says Dr. Mary Culver, program manager for the Center's Coastal Learning Services.
She also notes that the Center held 20 web-based trainings in FY 2010 and plans to do more. "We are finding that web-based instruction is more cost-effective in this time of limited travel budgets. People are more familiar with web-based learning now, and their expectations for it have grown," says Dr. Culver.
Overall, 95 percent of the participants indicated on course evaluations that their time was well spent, and 94 percent said they achieved their learning objectives. In addition to its trainees' perennial favorites – Project Design and Evaluation; Public Issues and Conflict Management; Habitat Priority Planner; and the web-based Introduction to CanVis software – the Center debuted two new courses, Road Map for Adapting to Coastal Risk and Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience, which were well received in 2010.