headshot of Sara Swett


By Tiffany Woods

Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon State University Extension Service are pleased to welcome Sara Swett as their new Extension specialist in marine renewable energy and communities.

Swett, who has a master’s degree in marine policy from the University of Delaware, started her new position on April 15.

“Our coastal communities have been asking for more authentic, two-way engagement on offshore wind energy,” said Oregon Sea Grant Director Karina Nielsen. “Oregon Sea Grant is excited to welcome Sara to our Extension team and enhance our capacity to address this important issue. Sara brings strong expertise in marine science and policy as well as experience working with coastal communities in New England on offshore wind energy issues.”

Swett will help Oregon Sea Grant deliver community forums and educational programs that respond to the science, technical, and civic engagement offshore wind energy topics coastal communities want to learn more about. These might involve inviting offshore wind energy experts to participate in community-focused forums, offering educational events, or supporting community engagement on the recently mandated Oregon Offshore Wind Roadmap. Swett’s work will also support research and identification of knowledge gaps related to plans for floating offshore wind energy off Oregon.

“I’m hoping I can be in that role where people can come to me, and I can help educate them and answer questions. By educating people about offshore wind, I’m hoping it will make them more comfortable with the technology and that they can make their own decisions about it,” Swett said.

“We’re thrilled to have Sara join us,” said Oregon Sea Grant Associate Director for Extension & Engagement Jessi Kershner. “Sara’s experience engaging with diverse community members on offshore wind as well as her familiarity with U.S. offshore wind policy and development are key assets for our program and coastal communities.”

Born and raised in New Jersey, Swett earned a bachelor’s degree in marine science from the University of Maine. While there, she collaborated on a project with graduate students who worked with shellfish harvesters to gather spatial patterns of shellfish populations along estuaries in Maine. The work resulted in the co-development of management solutions and strengthened relationships between university researchers and local communities.

In graduate school, Swett led an independent project to analyze how national, regional, and local news articles portray issues related to offshore wind development in the Northeast.

As a research assistant at the University of Delaware’s Center for Research in Wind for two years, Swett helped interview about three dozen people in five towns in southern New England. They included fishers, port and waterfront workers, community group leaders, and local and state government representatives. She asked how they felt about their involvement in the decision-making process for the development of offshore wind energy. The research, she said, allowed the team to identify where offshore wind policy and decision-making had “fallen short of meeting the needs of community members.”

Swett said that her aim will be equitable engagement that includes recognition, trust, transparency, and inclusivity. Those principles align with Oregon Sea Grant’s objective of inclusively and equitably engaging with people to improve their understanding of new or emerging coastal and ocean technologies and industries.

Swett will collaborate with the National Sea Grant Offshore Wind Energy Liaison initiative in Rhode Island and with an economic analyst recently hired by California Sea Grant based at the Schatz Energy Research Center in northern California. These programs and positions, including Swett’s, are funded by the Department of Energy via Sea Grant.