2008 Faculty Excellence in Public Service
By Beth Potier, Media Relations
January 28, 2009
Nancy Kinner, professor of civil engineering
UNH Photo Services/Perry Smith photo
A stint on Appledore Island in the mid-1970s inspired Nancy Kinner's particular commitment to public service. And for Kinner, service is a cherished value instilled by her parents. A biology major, Kinner came to the Shoals Marine Laboratory as an undergraduate to study sand fleas, but it was her work-study job with the island's wastewater system that captivated her. Says Kinner, "I'm very, very practical."
As codirector of the Coastal Response Research Center (CRRC), a UNH-National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Response and Restoration partnership, Kinner delivers university research from the laboratory to the real world of practical application. In the case of her work with the CRRC, that world is murky with oil and chemical spills in coastal areas, from Portsmouth Harbor to the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic seas.
Since the CRRC's founding in 2004, Kinner and its NOAA codirector, Amy Merten, have made the center a hub for those working on marine spills.
"We academics do this wonderful science," says Kinner, "and I always ask, 'how is this going to impact practice in the field?'"
By way of example, she points to a new tool developed through the center by UNH researchers and NOAA practitioners. This tool quickly displays real-time information on currents and tides, models spill trajectories, and searches databases for information on environmentally sensitive species. During an oil spill, all of these data help incident stakeholders make better planning, response, and restoration decisions.
"Nancy's direction of the center has really focused on engagement of all stakeholders around the issue of oil spills," says Kevin Gardner, director of UNH's Environmental Research Group.
A recent CRRC workshop on managing potential disasters in the Arctic for instance, convened an extraordinary range of stakeholders: researchers, policymakers, government officials of the Arctic nations, search and rescue personnel, spill experts, oil company and cruise ship industry representatives, and indigenous leaders. Together, they identified and planned a path forward to address the gaps in incident response capabilities for the Arctic.
"I just like the practical solutions," says Kinner. "My greatest joy is in seeing a researcher's work used during a spill or to clean up a site."