South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley slashes funding for coastal science and sustainable development

Earlier this week, South Carolina governor and rising tea party star Nikki Haley cut all state funding for the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. Sea Grant programs are a critical part of the United States’ marine and coastal research network. In addition to providing millions of dollars in scientific grants, the  national Sea Grant college program (of which the South Carolina consortium is a member) connects scientists, educators, and citizens with the goal of “helping citizens utilize scientific information to support a vibrant economy while ensuring ecological sustainability” (source). In total, there are 32 Sea Grant programs throughout the country, which help coordinate research and strategic goals with experts in every state that borders an ocean or one of the Great Lakes.

Despite Governor Haley’s claims, the Sea Grant Consortium is basically the opposite of big government and wasteful government spending. Though they are administered centrally by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, each Sea Grant program is independently run. According to Executive Director Rick DeVoe,

“It is important to note that the programs we undertake are developed as a result of the input we solicit from our stakeholders along the coast and inland – businesses and organizations, NGOs, and people who depend on coastal and marine resources for their livelihoods, their pleasure and their quality of life….The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium generates and applies science-based information on issues and opportunities to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal and marine resources to foster a sustainable economy and environment in the state and region.”

The state contribution pays mostly for local staff and facilities that are used to apply for and distribute grants. Since much of the funding for grants they distribute comes from the Federal government, the entire state-contributed budget for the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium is a little over $428, 000 out of a total state budget of around $21,000,000,000, less than the total salaries of the Governor’s personal staff. Cutting this critical program thus results in a 0.002% reduction in state government spending, right after the state of South Carolina got more than $1.4 billion in increased tax revenue as a result of the economy improving.

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Biodiversity Wednesday: South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lake System

As part of our Biodiversity Wednesday series, we’ve discussed amazing ecosystems all over the world. This week’s post will focus on an area a little closer to home (at least a little closer to my home). The Santee Cooper lake system, home to unique fish and a fascinating history, is less than an hour from Charleston. If you’ve ever driven on I-95 through South Carolina, you’ve gone right over it.

The Santee-Cooper system is marked with a white arrow. Image created with Google Earth

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Biodiversity Wednesday: Flesh eaters of the Savanna

Red-cockaded Woodpecker in Croatan Forest. Photograph by Andrew David Thaler.

The wet, temperate understory of a longleaf pine savanna, is not the first place one would thing to search for some of nature’s most fearsome predators. These maritime ecosystems stretch down the Atlantic seaboard, from southern Virginia to northern Georgia, but are most common in North and South Carolina. Boomerang-shaped bays, called Carolina bays, formed behind ancient sand dunes, provide the foundation for these biodiversity rich regions. More than 50 endangered species are native to the Carolina lonfleaf pine savannas, including the Cape Fear Threetoothed land snail and the iconic Red-cockaded Woodpecker, but among the most evocative inhabitants of these pocosin wild-lands are the many-jawed monsters of the the understory – the Venus Flytrap.

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Should South Carolina’s public colleges freeze new construction projects to save money?

Rising tuition costs are a problem at institutions of higher learning around the country. When it is more expensive to go to college, fewer people can afford it. Various strategies have been tried to fix this problem, but the latest hits close to home for me. This week, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford proposed strict new spending rules for public colleges. From the Charleston Post and Courier article:

“The state’s Budget and Control Board could decide this week whether to place a moratorium on new building projects on public college and university campuses as a way to reduce the cost of tuition.”

Statewide, school administrators have greeted this announcement with strong resistance. Fundamentally, it all comes down to different philosophies of government. Conservatives like Mark Sanford support lower taxes and lower spending, while liberals favor a “tax and spend” strategy. Which is more appropriate for state-funded colleges?

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Charlie and the Adventure: 3 months of a Charles Darwin doll wandering around the world

Once more, three months have passed in our ongoing series, 365 days of Darwin. For new readers, our favorite stuffed Charles Darwin doll is spending a year traveling around the world and updating us all on his adventures, daily. The last three months, Charlie has traveled farther than ever before. You can checkup on his first sixth months here: 365 days of Darwin: The first 3 months and here: 365 days of Darwin: The second 3 months. Check below the fold for a summary of his most recent 3 months. The adventure continues!

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