Dennis Nixon, the new director of Rhode Island’s Sea Grant program, has long been involved in the environmental, legal and social currents of the waterways of the Ocean State.
In the leadership position for Sea Grant since July 1, he now finds himself guiding a program he began working with in 1975 as a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island.
Nixon’s expertise is in maritime law. He takes the helm of Sea Grant, a $3.2 million-per-year program, at a critical time, as nations around the world confront the impacts of climate change, with sea-level rise and increasing occurrences of extreme weather. In the Ocean State, Sea Grant’s mission of providing quality research helps to create a foundation for political, social and governmental decision-making.
PBN: Businesses in the state are increasingly dealing with the impacts of sea-level rise, flooding, coastal erosion and storm damage. What’s your vision for the interaction between Sea Grant work and businesses in the state?
NIXON: This is one of the subtle changes I’m making in my role as director of Sea Grant, probably because of my background in law. I see the impact on businesses acutely. One of the first things I did as director was to arrange a meeting with the head of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association. I wanted to find out what issues marinas and boatyards and others in the marine trades are facing, to see if there is science or engineering that can help them in their work.
PBN: What kind of issues did you find the marine trades facing?
NIXON: A couple of boat manufacturers, for example, said the disposal of fiberglass boats is an issue. The industry is trying to be as green as possible, but there’s no really good, environmentally approved way to get rid of these boats. They’re clogging up valuable shoreline acreage. So we’re trying to find innovative techniques to dispose of used fiberglass.