Coastal ambassadors search for critters to bring to a touch tank activity.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Wrightsville Beach office started hosting monthly Coastal Ambassador training sessions this year, and participants have so far learned about salt marsh habitat, living shorelines and stormwater runoff during evening programs and daytime field trips.

The Coastal Ambassadors are a special group of volunteers who serve as representatives of the federation at events, festivals and other outreach events. They are required to attend at least five Coastal Ambassador meetings each year and to participate in at least three events. Newcomers must also attend a two-hour orientation training session, which happen every other month before the evening meetings.

Jessica Gray, coastal outreach coordinator at the office, has been putting together the training sessions with the help of other Wrightsville Beach office staff members.

“Our ambassadors are engaged in the programs and are learning more about the work we are doing in the southeast,” she said. “We have a very diverse group with backgrounds in geology, civil engineering, environmental science and planning, and all are concerned citizens who want to advocate for a healthy coast.”

Each Coastal Ambassador training session has focused on one of the federation’s priorities and teaches participants about projects in the Wrightsville Beach area that fall under that priority. The sessions alternate with an evening meeting and a daytime field activity or trip. The program kicked off in March with an orientation session to gauge interest.

John King, retired geologist who has volunteered with the federation for two years, attended that first training session. He has since volunteered at the Carolina Cup in April and participated in June’s salt marsh field trip, during which ambassadors helped collect specimen for a touch tank activity. He also attended this month’s stormwater and watershed restoration training workshop.

“Perhaps the most interesting aspect for me has been learning the various plants and animals of the ecosystem and how to use their activity to monitor the effectiveness of the living shoreline projects,” he said.

King is signed up for next month’s training, a boat trip focusing on the natural shifting of barrier islands and inlets. This trip aboard the Marsh Hawk is hosted by Mike Giles, coastal advocate at the Wrightsville Beach office. The federation advocates for working with the natural processes of the state’s barrier islands and is opposed to proposed terminal groins.

King said he was inspired to become a Coastal Ambassador because of the practical way the federation approaches coastal restoration, advocacy and education.

“I hope that I can reflect the same enthusiasm that I see in all of the other staff, volunteers and supporters, and inspire and educate more people in the community to take up these causes,” he said.

The next training sessions are scheduled for Aug. 18 and Sept. 13.