Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Maryland Sea Grant Hires First Coordinator of Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative

October 10, 2015
photo of Sarah Wilkins

The Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program has hired Sarah Wilkins as the first-ever coordinator of the Chesapeake Bay Sentinel Site Cooperative (CBSSC). She will work with the CBSSC to help a variety of audiences use data about the Bay more effectively and to help communities prepare for coastal flooding and other effects of changing climate conditions.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its network of partners collect an impressive array of data about the Chesapeake Bay at a series of monitoring stations around the Bay – including data about temperature, salinity, marsh elevation, and sea level. Wilkins will work with the CBSSC to disseminate these data and related products, tools, and services to help people understand and prepare for the effects of changing conditions that are expected to result in more-frequent coastal flooding and more-intense storms.

The CBSSC is a partnership among local, state and federal agencies as well as academic institutions, non-profit organizations, local communities and regional organizations. The cooperative brings together experts from scientific, resource management, and environmental stewardship organizations to inform management decisions relating to flooding and rising seas. CBSSC strives to better coordinate existing resources among partners while reducing redundancy and increasing effectiveness in understanding sea level rise and coastal flooding. A cooperative, by definition, is jointly owned and run by its members, who share in the mutual benefits generated from collaborative work. By using this collaborative model, the hope is to bring both traditional and non-traditional partners together around the common issue of flooding and sea level rise to better understand and mitigate the impacts to both the natural environment and communities.

Wilkins will be responsible for ensuring that CBSSC partners are carrying out objectives identified in the CBSSC Implementation Plan to disseminate data, visualizations, and other information about sea level rise and impacts of flooding on Bay habitats, rivers and local communities. She will identify information gaps and help to fill them, and will often represent the CBSSC in regional discussions about these coastal resiliency challenges.

Among the potential audiences for this information are coastal planners, natural resources, and emergency and disaster response; environmental restoration practitioners; coastal research scientists; commercial fisheries managers; members of the maritime commerce and insurance industries; and local planning, tourism, and economic development boards in both Maryland and Virginia

The CBSSC is made up of six core ecological Sentinel Sites: the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves in both Maryland and Virginia, the Virginia Coast Reserve Long-Term Ecological Research project, Assateague Island National Seashore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

The CBSSC is one of five Sentinel Site Cooperatives created in 2011; the other four are in Hawaii, North Carolina, the Northern Gulf of Mexico, and the San Francisco area. Being part of the national network will allow Wilkins to be connected with the other regional coordinators within the Sentinel Site Cooperative national network. The cooperatives may share knowledge and work together. Being part of the network may also provide access to NOAA tools, services, and resources that could help meet local coastal challenges.

Wilkins started in August and is working for the Maryland Sea Grant Extension Program and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. She is based primarily in Annapolis. This position is funded through a grant from NOAA to Maryland Sea Grant, with additional support from the University of Maryland Extension and DNR’s Chesapeake and Coastal Service. While based in Maryland, she will be working extensively with partners throughout the Bay region.

Wilkins previously worked in the headquarters office of NOAA's National Ocean Service as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow.  She earned a master of science in conservation biology and sustainable development from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a bachelor of science in environmental science from the University of Vermont.  She has worked in several states on coastal and estuarine projects for non-profit, academic, and governmental agencies.

Wilkins says she is “thrilled to get back to place-based and issue-driven work, this time addressing climate-change impacts throughout the Chesapeake Bay. I am passionate about community-based conservation and facilitating and empowering communities to adopt more resilient coastal practices. I look forward to building the partnership and am always open to new suggestions on how to increase collaboration throughout the Bay.”

Wilkins is an avid birder and loves to hike, bike, camp, throw pottery on a wheel, garden, and cook.

Contact Wilkins at

Photo: Sarah Wilkins



For more information


Maryland Sea Grant’s webpage on Coastal Planning and Land Use

Maryland Sea Grant’s webpage on Coastal Flooding and Climate Change