Sometimes the “build-measure-learn” loop takes years

By Jim Fox, Director

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Keeping an eye on the loop. Photo: Eddie Tsy on Unsplash.

Here at NEMAC, we’re currently working with the State of North Carolina on its Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan. Even though this project kicked off a few months ago, it’s been over a decade in the making.

The “build-measure-learn” loop comes from the Lean Startup approach, but I don’t think that even the most generous critic would call 10 years of development a short product development cycle. When you look at what’s happened, though, you can see that it’s really been a learning loop that builds on lessons gained from interacting with a variety of customers who are all looking at the same problem, but from different scales. …


Musings from the NEMAC Fall 2018 interns

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Photo by Venveo on Unsplash

UNC Asheville’s NEMAC has existed for 15 years now—cue the confetti—and if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we couldn’t have made it this far without our robust internship program. We’ve employed well over 100 students in our time on UNC Asheville’s campus, and the majority of our current staff interned with us as undergraduates. We quite literally owe most of our work to the dedication of our students! …


Leaving college and getting a “big-boy” job is terribly intimidating. So I did an internship.

By Santiago Bonilla, Marketing and Design Intern

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As my time here in college comes closer and closer to its end, I’ve had to sit down and really take a look around. I asked myself, “What do I want to come out of this whole college experience?” Leaving college and getting a big-boy job is terribly intimidating, so I pushed myself to look into getting some real experience before leaving.

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With this in mind, I looked around for a way to gain experience. For the most part I was looking for job opportunities specifically in design. I attended a UNCA career fair, where I met NEMAC’s Caroline Dougherty. I applied. I then found myself interning for a group that I’d only vaguely heard of and knew even less about. …


I had no idea what direction I going in with my degree—stepping outside my comfort zone and accepting the challenge was worth it.

By Kim Rhodes, GIS Associate

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Photo by Cristofer Jeschke on Unsplash

The year was 2015. The place was the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I was finishing up my junior year of college, when a professor approached me about a research opportunity. I’m told, “You should work with NEMAC here on campus—they’re a fantastic resource for local projects.” Then they asked asked, “Can you learn to use GIS?” It is May. The project is realistically due in the fall. Thinking out loud, I replied, “NEMAC. Sure, I’ve seen a presentation or two from them. GIS? When is this project due? I guess…I like a good challenge. …


When I told my dad that sea level rise would likely impact his home, he rolled his eyes. So I did what any aspiring environmental scientist would do — I made a map.

By Metis Meloche, Regional GIS Intern

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My dad lives in a bungalow by the coast, deep in a flood zone in Norfolk, Virginia. My map showed the likelihood of my dad’s bungalow being inundated with flood waters due to sea level rise. While making this map was (kind of) for fun, this year I found a home working with a group of people at NEMAC who, like me, would have solved this problem by making maps.


Many people come to internships with goals and ideas of things they want to do and learn. Not me.

by Anitra Griffin, Web Development Intern

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Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash.

My job over the summer was as a web tool development intern with NEMAC, working on a tool for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Many people come to internships with goals and ideas of things they want to do and learn, but not me. I had no idea what I would be doing or what I would be learning. Commonly this would be a disadvantage, but here it was shockingly okay. The staff cares so much about YOU and what you want to learn, more than just having you do a job.

This experience was exactly that — an experience. …


Change is happening. Is anyone coming to our rescue?

By Karin Rogers, Director of Operations

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Santa Ana winds carried a fire across Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Southern California in 2005. The brush fire consumed 1,250 acres of the base’s open land. PHOTO: U.S. Marine Corps.

Our climate is changing before our eyes, and many of us see — even experience — the weather extremes it’s bringing first-hand. Think Hurricanes Sandy and Harvey, wildfires in California and the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, riverine flooding in the Midwest. The headlines fill up our TV screens, our phones, our inboxes.

It often feels like the fire alarm is going off, and we’re watching the fire get bigger, and we’re wondering who’s running to our rescue. Will anyone?

In reality, it’s the local communities that are going to have to step up and deal with this change. They have the assets and services we depend on (think roads, running water, stormwater systems, and so on). These assets and services are going to be stressed — even threatened — by the extreme weather events we’re seeing. The brunt of this impact is local, and cities, counties, communities, and other like-minded organizations are going to have to figure out how to deal with their changing realities. …


Moving beyond “did you know?” to “what can we do about it?”

By Jim Fox, Director

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When we started NEMAC over 12 years ago, we asked ourselves, “What data about climate and environmental issues are end users interested in, and how can we provide it in easy-to-access formats?” Our end users told us that the data we provide — no matter the kind or how it’s delivered — doesn’t really hold value unless it’s used in the right context. Listening to end users’ needs became a key element of our business strategy, and helped us formulate our mission statement:

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UNC Asheville's NEMAC

Helping people understand—and reach decisions in—a complex and changing world. 📸 🇫 | uncanemac

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