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News and Notes – Spring 2017
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New Technology: Driving Advances in Coastal Science
VOLUME 30, NUMBER 2, SPRING 2017            

By Joey Holleman                                                                       back to main story 

News and Notes

In memoriam: Margaret A. Davidson

Margaret DavidsonMargaret A. Davidson, whose powerful personality and adept networking skills were integral in the early years of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, passed away May 23 in Charleston after a long illness.

Davidson, 67, helped the Con­sortium get off the ground in 1980 and was selected as the agency’s first executive director in 1983. She held that position until 1995, when she became founding director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center (CSC).

Rick DeVoe, who succeeded Davidson and is the Consortium’s current executive director, worked alongside her during the agency’s formative years.

“Margaret’s acumen in working the crowd, cutting deals, forming alliances, and speaking her mind in her own unique style is well-known,” DeVoe said. “She was also extremely caring and compassionate, a mentor for many of us in the ocean and coastal community, and deeply devoted to the education and training of young people.”

Davidson earned her doctorate of law from Louisiana State University in 1978, and served as special counsel and assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice. She went on to earn a master’s degree in marine policy and resource economics from the University of Rhode Island before helping start the Consortium in 1980.

When CSC merged with the NOAA Office for Ocean and Coastal Resources Management, Davidson served as acting director before moving to a new role as NOAA’s senior leader for Coastal Inundation and Resilience.

“Margaret was the greatest visionary I ever had the pleasure to meet, and she was a visionary who took action,” said Russell Callender, assistant administrator of NOAA National Ocean Service. “When she spoke of ‘now,’ she meant two to three years down the road because she was always thinking that far ahead of the rest of us.”

Davidson’s work focused on climate adaptation, environmentally sustainable coastal-development practices, and the reduction of risk associated with extreme events. During her illustrious career, she was a Fulbright Fellow, Gilbert White Fellow, American Meteorological Society Fellow, and Zurich Fellow for Climate Adaptation. The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation honored her by naming its recognition for outstanding stewardship of estuaries and coasts the Margaret A. Davidson Award.

Promoting local seafood focus of 2017 Summit

soft shell crabsThe overriding message at the 2017 South Carolina Seafood Summit was changing with the times is critical for the local industry.

“The success stories are the people who aren’t doing it the way their daddy did,” Martin Eubanks, assistant commissioner of the S.C. Department of Agriculture, told the crowd of nearly 80 people at the event March 16 at James Island County Park in Charleston. The S.C. Seafood Alliance and S.C. Sea Grant Consortium hosted the summit with funding from the NOAA National Sea Grant Office.

The most successful fishing boat captains or shellfish harvesters no longer simply harvest a product, Eubanks said. They also take an active role in marketing.

“Use social media,” Ron Pereira, proteins category manager with food shipping giant Sysco, said during a panel discussion on how to get local products in restaurants and grocery stores. “Take a selfie with a grouper and post it. Sell that story.”

This type of simple marketing sets a product apart from the other 13,000 items Sysco can deliver to restaurants in South Carolina, he said. A chef who sees that photo on the Facebook page of a boat captain known to sell to Sysco can ask for fresh grouper and begin planning a menu.

Dave Grillo, chef at Cantina 76 restaurant in Columbia, agreed.

“Chefs manage so many variables,” he said. “When I go to create a menu, I need to know exactly what’s available. It’s great when someone comes to me and says, ‘This is what’s in season. What can you do with it?’ ”

The ideal situation is for seasonal seafood to be harvested as nearby as possible. “People want to support local,” Grillo said.

Valeska Minkowski’s experience in the Greenville area reinforces the preference for local products. She saw shrimp and grits on the menu at nearly every fine restaurant in Greenville and recognized a business opportunity. She started Urban Seas Aquaculture, growing local shrimp 150 miles inland.

Urban Seas’ shrimp are more expensive, but restaurants can market them as local. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response,” Minkowski said. “We don’t have enough shrimp to fill the need.”

Eubanks appreciates the individual success stories, but he also wants the progress to spread throughout the industry. The state agriculture department began the Certified S.C. program in 2006 to help connect consumers with local products in restaurants and grocery stores. Visit to learn more about the Certified S.C. Seafood program, including where to buy local seafood.

Rachel GittensGittens joins Consortium as HR manager

Rachel Gittens, who has more than 15 years of experience in benefits administration, has been hired by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium as human resources manager.

Gittens most recently was a human resources specialist for the S.C. Department of Disabilities and Special Needs. In her new position at the Consortium, she is responsible for managing human resources and benefits administration as well as providing assistance for the agency’s financial requirements.

Born in Grenada and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Gittens has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of the West Indies and master’s degrees in business administration from Nova Southeastern University and in project management from Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University. She can be reached via email at or by phone at (843) 953-2096.

Travel guide features African-American ­heritage sites

During the era of Jim Crow and racial segregation, African-American travelers turned to the “Negro Motorist Green Book” to find safe places to eat or spend the night.

In the spirit of that guidebook, the S.C. African American Heritage Commission has compiled the Green Book of South Carolina. The mobile travel guide and app is designed to help people celebrate the rich African-American history and culture in the state. It can be accessed at

The guide features more than 300 cultural sites, including cemeteries, churches, historic districts, roadside markers, and schools. Interactive maps make it easy for visitors to find and explore these places. “There has long been a need for a travel tool like the Green Book of South Carolina,” says Jannie Harriot, executive director of the S.C. African American Heritage Foundation.

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Last updated: 11/15/2017 12:11:47 PM
News and Notes – Spring 2017


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