The RENCI Engagement Center at ECU operated from 2007-2013. This website is an archive of the research and engagement activity over those years. Several of our projects continue at ECU. For instance, see the NC Coastal Atlas ( for current news and information. This site is no longer being updated. Parties interested in these projects and ongoing related activities may contact Dr. Tom Allen, past Director of RENCI@ECU at



Tom Allen
Tom Allen

Director, RENCI at ECU
Associate Professor, Department of Geography
Co-director, Center for GIScience — 252-328-6624


Dr. Allen is the director of RENCI at ECU and the co-director of ECU's Center for Geographic Information Science. He is interested in understanding spatial and temporal change in the natural environment, particularly vegetation and related environmental processes in order to inform human actions. His research therefore emphasizes the development of geospatial technologies such as satellite remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and global positioning systems (GPS). His primary areas of study are coastal and mountain environments of North America, Central America, and Fennoscandia. His current research projects include spatial analysis of coastal barrier morphodynamics; mapping mangroves and coastal change in Costa Rica; developing new algorithms for satellite remote-sensing monitoring and change detection; remote sensing and GIS data fusion for characterizing estuarine processes; and investigating biophysical patterns and processes in subarctic, alpine, and mountain environments.


  • PhD (geography), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1995
  • BS (geography), Old Dominion University, 1991
J.P. Walsh
J.P. Walsh

Associate Director, RENCI at ECU
Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences and the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy — 252-328-5431


Dr. Walsh's interests include the processes by which materials from land are dispersed and accumulate in the ocean. He uses sediment characteristics, environmental measurements, and geophysical methods, such as seismic-reflection tools, to understand the modern and ancient processes influencing the sea bed and sedimentary record of continental margins. This research is important for determining the fate of pollutants and runoff; assessing carbon sinks for climate studies; quantifying natural resources, such as sand, for beach nourishment; evaluating biological habitats; identifying and extracting petroleum; and protecting our nation's coastlines. Dr. Walsh's current projects involve sediment dynamics on the actively deforming Waipaoa continental margin, terrestrial sediment flux onto coral reefs of southwestern Puerto Rico, and coastal processes in North Carolina.

Disseminating cutting-edge, research-derived information and real-time data to the public and targeted users is critical to the success of RENCI at ECU. Walsh's research is focused on land-sea interactions, including the exchange of sediments and solutes and the hazards associated with these dynamics (e.g., erosion, overwash). Estuarine observing and modern geophysical technologies (e.g., multibeam, Lidar) are some tools he employs to conduct his research.

Since his arrival at ECU in 2004, Walsh has received support from federal and state entities (e.g., NSF, NOAA, USGS, DCM). Walsh is strongly committed to the application and communication of research. Last year, he spearheaded the construction of the North Carolina COastal HAZards Decision Portal (NC COHAZ) which we plan to expand upon during our renewal phase of RENCI at ECU.

Walsh is an assistant professor in Geological Sciences and is joint-appointed with the Institute for Coastal Science and Policy at ECU.

RENCI Project: Coastal Environmental Modeling


  • PhD (oceanography), University of Washington, 2001
  • MS (marine science), State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1997
  • BS (geology), Colgate University, 1995
Donna Kain
Donna Kainh

Outreach Director, RENCI at ECU
Associate Professor, Department of English — 252-328-6724


Dr. Kain is director of outreach for RENCI at ECU, as well as a faculty affiliate of ECU's Center for Natural Hazards Research. She joined the ECU faculty in the fall of 2004 after two years as an Assistant Professor in the Technical Communications Department at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. She has taught courses in rhetoric, technical communication, writing for business and industry, digital video production, and Web design. Her research has included the rhetoric and instrumental discourse of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related public policies, information technology applications for the classroom, and the uses of genres in professional settings. Most recently, as a recipient of a North Carolina Sea Grant, she has been studying coastal residents' perception and use of hazard information.


  • PhD, Iowa State University, 2003
  • MA, Northeast Missouri State University, 1996
  • BA, University of Central Florida, 1992
Jamie Kruse
Jamie Kruse

Director, Center for Natural Hazards Research
Professor, Department of Economics
Former Director, RENCI at ECU — 252-328-5784


Dr. Kruse is the director of the Center for Natural Hazards Research and the former director of RENCI at ECU. Her fields of interest include experimental economics, applied microeconomics, industrial organization, risk and mitigation, health economics, and wind hazard economics. Among her many professional activities, she has been a fellow of the FDIC Center for Financial Research, served on several panels for the National Science Foundation, and been a visiting professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

RENCI Project: Hazards and Human Dynamics


  • PhD (economics), University of Arizona, 1988
  • MS (agricultural economics), Colorado State University, 1983
  • BS with distinction Ag Honors, University Nebraska, 1979


Stephen Sanchagrin
Stephen Sanchagrin

Technology Coordinator, RENCI at ECU — 252-328-5737-1864

Michelle Covi
Michelle Covi

Outreach Coordinator, RENCI at ECU — 252-737-1773


RENCI at ECU welcomes its newest staff member, Michelle Covi, who will be assisting Director of Outreach Donna Kain as liaison to grades K through 12.

Covi's education, employment history, and interests make her a perfect "fit" for the position: she has extensive experience teaching college-level biology, directing nonprofit organizations, and fostering community activism. What's more, she thrives in heat and humidity, having grown up in Baltimore. "When everyone else was complaining about the weather, I was loving it," she says of summers in Normal, Illinois, her most recent residence.

In the course of getting her BS in biology from the University of Rochester, Covi spent a semester in St. Croix studying marine biology and geology and a summer internship in the Everglades. Her Master's thesis research in zoology at the University of Georgia brought her to Sapelo Island, where she spent two years studying salt marsh crustaceans. She then taught biology at Valdosta State University before moving with her husband, Dr. Tim Kelley, to Illinois, where she taught at Bradley University in Peoria and Heartland Community College in Normal. (Kelley has joined the faculty of ECU as Director of the Environmental Health program.)

Although she grew up in an "asphalt jungle," Covi credits her high school biology teacher and field trips she took to the Chesapeake Bay salt marshes with awakening her passion for the environment and its conservation. With that experience in mind, she tried to emphasize the ecological applications of the material she taught her own biology students. As she explains, "Teaching is not just conveying information, but communicating an ethic."

Her educational mission extended beyond college students to the public at large: she also directed the not-for-profit Ecology Action Center in Normal for over nine years. Under her leadership, the Center's focus expanded from recycling and solid waste management to include public education about energy conservation, global warming, and storm water management. With state, private and local grants, she helped the organization develop school and business outreach programs. In part because Normal is a university town, Covi found the local government to be environmentally proactive, committed to a "greener" city and to downtown urban renewal (something she believes it has in common with Greenville). Accordingly, she was able to serve on city-and statewide planning groups—the Greenway Committee, the 2025 Visioning Committee—and to help develop environmental consciousness among facility managers at the area's colleges and at the State Farm insurance campus in neighboring Bloomington.

Her previous positions have given Covi experience working with children at all grade levels. As educational outreach coordinator for RENCI at ECU, she will be taking the ROVER to schools, field trip sites, and community events, addressing topics like weather and climate change, water quality, coastal habitat preservation, and hurricane preparedness. She is already planning for next summer's Hurricane Awareness Week, envisioning a poster contest for the younger students and a public service announcement contest for the older ones.

Becoming versed in employing the "high tech" equipment at ECU will be an exciting challenge for Covi. She has been learning about the Visualization Wall, which she will demonstrate in mid-July to science camp students from surrounding counties.

In addition to her work with RENCI, Covi has enrolled in ECU's coastal resources management doctoral program, of which she says, "It's a wonderfully unique and multidisciplinary program, with so many diverse course offerings, unlike anything I've encountered before." She is also eager to acquaint herself with public educational projects and environmental initiatives in eastern North Carolina. Bringing so much in terms of experience, enthusiasm, and ideas, Covi and ECU are sure to have a mutually enriching association.


  • MS (zoology), University of Georgia
  • BS (biology), University of Rochester