Meet Our Team
The WRRI team is a multi-disciplinary group of subject-matter experts dedicated to carrying out the WRRI mission of cleaner, safer, more abundant water for all North Carolinians.
Susan White, Ph.D., Director
Susan White is the executive director for the Water Resources Research Institute of the University of North Carolina System, as well as North Carolina Sea Grant, and North Carolina Space Grant. All three programs provide targeted research, outreach and education projects to address critical issues in the state and within the region. WRRI, with funding from the U.S. Geological Survey, and Sea Grant, with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, focus on and water resource, coastal and ocean topics for ecosystems and communities. Space Grant’s projects, with funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, include partnerships with the aerospace industry.
In fall 2017, White was named chair of the N.C. Sediment Control Commission by Gov. Roy Cooper. She previously was director of NOAA’s Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. Formerly the national research coordinator for NOAA’s Estuarine Reserves Division and National Estuarine Research Reserve System, she has served on national and regional steering committees on topics including technology transfer, integrated drought monitoring and early warning, and climate’s connections to health. White earned a doctorate from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University.
John Fear, Ph.D., Deputy Director
John Fear is deputy director of North Carolina Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute of the University of North Carolina System. He focuses on developing and executing research portfolios for the two interinstitutional programs, and increasing the links among the research, extension and communication sections of both organizations.
Fear worked as research coordinator for the N.C. Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve program within the N.C. Division of Coastal Management for nine years. In this role he conducted original research and facilitated studies by partners at the 10 sites of the NCCR-NCNERR and their respective watersheds. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences.
He has served on the North Carolina Sea Grant Advisory Board and was a member of the steering committees for ocean policy and inner coast studies led by Sea Grant and the N.C. Coastal Resources Law, Planning and Policy Center.
Fear currently is on the core management team for the N.C. Sentinel Site Cooperative, a multiagency partnership established as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration effort to provide coastal communities and resource managers with information on potential impacts of sea-level rise on coastal habitats.
A native of New Bern, NC, Fear holds a doctorate in environmental sciences and engineering from UNC-CH’s School of Public Health, and a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from UNC-CH.
Frank Lopez, Extension Director
Frank Lopez is the extension director for North Carolina Sea Grant and the state’s Water Resources Research Institute. He supervises extension specialists for the programs in Raleigh, Morehead City, Manteo and Wilmington. The extension team’s portfolio meets the programs’ spectrum of focus areas on the coast and statewide.
Lopez comes to Sea Grant and WRRI from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, where he administered the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, an integrated research/education program, in Huron for more than 14 years. He has a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Christy Perrin, Sustainable Waters and Communities Coordinator
Christy Perrin provides leadership to initiatives that involve multiple sectors and residents in sustainably planning, educating about, protecting and restoring water resources. She works collaboratively with partners to coordinate and support local watershed improvement efforts, and to support efforts across the state. Christy previously managed Watershed Education for Communities and Officials, a North Carolina State University Extension program, for 13 years.
Christy earned her master’s in public administration with an environmental policy focus from NC State University and her bachelor’s in animal science with a wildlife biology minor from University of Vermont. She returned (virtually) to UVM to earn an advanced certificate in corporate sustainability, has extensive training and experience in public involvement and group facilitation, and is passionate about advancing diversity, inclusion, racial equity and justice in all systems. She enjoys raising a young child with her partner, biking and urban gardening. Additional career details are available on LinkedIn.
Anna A. Martin, Program Coordinator
Anna Martin is the program coordinator for both the North Carolina Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) and North Carolina Sea Grant, where she provides technical and administrative support for events and day-to-day operations. Her duties include assisting with WRRI and Sea Grant advisory board activity; the annual call for proposal process; and website/listserv maintenance. Anna also serves as the key administrator for the North Carolina Water Resources Association, a partner organization.
Anna earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources, with a concentration in marine and coastal science, from NC State University’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. After graduation, she worked with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (formerly the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Land Quality Division. Before joining WRRI in 2007, she was a science educator at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. She currently is seeking state certification in environmental education.
Kaitlin Tucker, Research and Engagement Coordinator
Kaitlin Tucker joined North Carolina’s Water Resources Research Institute in 2021 as coordinator for research and engagement, with duties including group facilitation and strategic planning for programming and events.
She returns to North Carolina, where she attended her first professional conference at a WRRI event, and now she will be providing similar opportunities for students and early career professionals. “I see myself as a connector, a liaison at the interface of researchers and decision makers,” she explains. “I have always seen the need for people to collaborate to find solutions. We need to find areas to bring people together.”
Tucker also has had several roles at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary including administering the Delaware Resilient and Sustainable Communities League, and serving on the league’s steering committee. She also managed a statewide annual meeting and coordinated water quality monitoring across 18 sites as part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.
In addition to her bachelor’s degree from NC State University, she has a master’s degree from the University of Delaware. Her studies ranged from biogeochemistry of carbon in ecosystems to technical mapping and science communications.
Mary Beth Barrow, Business Officer
As business officer, Mary Beth Barrow manages the budget and oversees technology projects at WRRI. Her position is currently split between North Carolina Sea Grant, NC Space Grant and WRRI. From 2002-2005, she worked at North Carolina Sea Grant in an administrative position. From 2005 to 2009, Barrow handled financial and grant-related matters for different departments at North Carolina State University. In 2009, she became the finance officer for North Carolina Sea Grant, then added WRRI to her portfolio in 2011 and NC Space Grant in 2018.
Originally from Wake Forest, Barrow graduated from East Carolina University with a bachelor of science in political science and a minor in business administration.
Lee Cannon, Communications Specialist
Lee Cannon is the communications specialist in charge of crafting the messages of the Water Resource Research Institute (WRRI) and the North Carolina Space Grant. She shares outcomes of the two programs’ research, education and outreach efforts to audiences across the state and beyond through print resources, digital platforms and social media. Working with experts, scientific researchers and community partners, Cannon tells the stories of how current and emerging ecosystem, watershed, workforce, industry and community issues in North Carolina affect people’s lives.
Cannon joined WRRI and Space Grant after a communications career in Washington, D.C., including time at the Embassy of Japan, the Smithsonian Institution and arts and education nonprofits. Previously, she taught English in West Japan and researched public history in the city of Hiroshima for her master’s thesis. Cannon holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and writing from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She was born and raised in the Carolinas.