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 This site is no longer being updated.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



Project Leadership Team

Project Leader: Enrique Reyes
Personnel: J.P. Walsh and Reide Corbett

News and Media Updates

Interview with Reide Corbett


The goal of the Coastal Environmental Modeling Project is to produce an integrated forecast of environmental consequences of coastal storms aimed to aid natural resource managers. This project will focus on the integration of the hydrodynamic model—the Coastal Flooding Model (CFM) developed by the NOAA Coast Survey Development Lab (CSDL)—with a series of ecological submodels that represent the Pamlico, Bogue, and Back Sounds and their estuaries. We have initiated development of an ecological model for the coast of North Carolina. This effort is being spearheaded by three investigators at East Carolina University: Reide Corbett, Enrique Reyes, and J.P. Walsh, along with the hydrodynamic modelers of the CSDL. This project team will collect, organize, and synthesize habitat change and land use information into different models, using various time scales for eastern North Carolina. The information will then be integrated into a landscape model that uses the CFM as basis for hydrodynamic calculations.

Task 1

Develop a modeling framework for the analysis of storm events for the coastal zone of the Pamlico-Albemarle Sound (Short Time Scale). This will include the types of models and data collection needed to calibrate and validate existing and proposed models.

The focus of CEM Task 1 is to outline the major environmental issues and describe the types of models which will be appropriate for analyzing these problems. This task will be in accordance with the guidelines of the Carolina Coastal Habitat Protection Program (CCHPP). Its goals are to (1) improve effectiveness of existing rules and programs protecting coastal fish habitats; (2) identify, designate, and protect all Strategic Habitat Areas; (3) enhance and protect habitat from physical impacts; and (4) enhance and protect water quality.

At the short range scale, processes of interest include water mass movements, storm surges, frontal passages, and patterns of flow. The vulnerability of the low lying coasts to storms is of critical concern. How water flows through coastal water bodies and over wetlands is important to coastal forests and marsh vegetation.

Important management issues include prediction of vegetation, response to sea-level rise and subsidence, altered inflows of freshwater and sediments, and increased weather variability.

Task 2

Coastal modeling with emphasis in the Middle Range temporal and spatial scales for management in the eastern North Carolina. Data for calibration and validation will be identified, collected and a database will be developed to store this information.

At the mid range scale, such processes as plant production, nutrient dynamics, seasonal accretion, and life history patterns of nekton become increasingly important for habitat simulations. Deterioration of water quality, lowered plant production and plant death, and fisheries productivity are important management issues. Hydrologic alteration has also altered sediment dynamics such that accretion is lowered in coastal wetlands and plant health suffers. Despite loss of habitat and water quality deterioration, fisheries production has remained high. But there are concerns that catastrophic decreases in fisheries may occur as critical levels of water quality and habitat loss are surpassed.

Potential management solutions to these problems include habitat protection (through, for example, wave barriers) and creation (river diversions, sediment fences), water quality improvement (source reduction, wetland treatment), and fisheries management.

The main objective of the proposed mid range scale effort is to consider coupling of our 2-D hydrodynamic model to the landscape model which is specifically applied to the Pamlico-Albemarle Sound. In addition, we will explore ways to integrate our modeling effort with the ongoing circulation modeling work at NOS, and the computing modeling expertise at RENCI.

Task 3

Create a landscape model focused at the long-range temporal/spatial scales. The long-term scale model will be designed to simulate processes occurring over decades. Most of these studies are based on a modeling technique in which the landscape is divided into a grid and each resulting cell is modeled individually with exchanges of water and materials among its neighbors. The model proposed here, will be designed to predict landscape succession and evolution and to estimate the usefulness of such management approaches as wetland and hydrologic restoration for the coastal habitats.

This research group will focus on the development and integration of models of the area southeast of the Neuse River. In coordination with the researchers at RENCI, the work will begin with existing models within an idealized spatial grid in accordance to an optimized parallel computing design. A substantial part of the effort at this scale will be to integrate transport dynamics and ecological processes with the hydrodynamic model currently under development at NOAA/NOS. This watershed model will simulate processes over a 50-100 year time scale sufficient to account for increased hurricanes and tropical storm frequency and accelerating rates of sea level rise.