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UVA Graduate Wins Coastal and Ocean Management Award

Melissa Keywood. ©Lou Ann Gaskell

Melissa Keywood. ©Lou Ann Gaskell

Listening session participants examine a map of Virginia Beach. ©Tanya Denckla Cobb/UVA

Listening session participants examine a map of Virginia Beach. ©Tanya Denckla Cobb/UVA

by Margaret Pizer

Melissa Keywood, who recently finished her master’s in Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia (UVA), has received a 2012 Walter B. Jones Award for Excellence in Coastal and Ocean Management. The award, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), honors individuals and organizations that have made a difference by dedicating countless hours and energy to conserving coastal resources and improving coastal communities throughout America.

Melissa Keywood. ©Lou Ann Gaskell

Melissa Keywood. ©Lou Ann Gaskell


As part of her graduate work, Keywood served as project manager for two Virginia Sea Grant (VASG) funded projects carried out by UVA’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN). This work involved holding listening sessions and focus groups in Virginia Beach and on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula and Eastern Shore to assess public understanding, attitudes, and recommendations for shoreline protection in the face of sea level rise.

The projects are part of VASG’s Coastal Community Adaptation Initiative, funding teams of students and faculty to collaborate with and assist coastal community clients in addressing adaptation to climate change and sea level rise.

“These projects represent concrete and innovative steps forward in helping coastal communities deal with the challenges of engaging and motivating residents to plan for and adapt to climate change,” says VASG director Troy Hartley. “Melissa  feels strongly that planners have an important role to play in developing new, innovative strategies to build consensus on controversial issues. I believe she has a bright future in contributing to those strategies.”

Every two years, NOAA announces the winners of the prestigious Walter B. Jones Award to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of coastal stewards who make noteworthy contributions and apply innovative tools, approaches, and technology to conserve, protect and improve our coasts. Winners are selected in three award categories: Coastal Steward of the Year, Excellence in Local Government, and Excellence in Coastal and Marine Graduate Study. Keywood was recognized under the third category.

The awards were created to honor the late, 11-term Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina. As chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, Congressman Jones was a strong supporter of the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. He provided leadership on numerous legislative initiatives addressing coastal and ocean issues such as commercial shipping, oil spill clean-up and prevention, and flood insurance reform.