Research Areas and Sub-Specialties

Ecology and Restoration of Salt Marshes, Oyster Reefs, and Coral Reefs

Masonboro SoundSalt marshes, oyster reefs, and coral reefs are highly productive nearshore marine ecosystems.  Salt marshes are primary nursery areas for larval and juvenile stages of a multitude of marine and estuarine finfish and shellfish, providing food and cover from predators.  Oyster reefs not only provide humans with a valuable food source, but provide a structural and nutritional habitat for many estuarine organisms in otherwise open sand and mud flats.  In addition, oyster reefs serve as natural filters to cleanse waters of suspended particles, bacteria, and excess phytoplankton.  Coral reefs serve as habitat and feeding grounds for many nearshore marine fishes, and provide a critical food source to

humans in some areas of the Students study oyster qualityworld ocean.  All of these systems are presently suffering from habitat loss, overfishing, nutrient pollution, and other human-caused impacts.  Restoration of these habitats is a high ecological priority that involves not only scientific expertise but the ability to collaborate with government agencies, elected officials, and concerned public interest groups. Many of the coral reef related research projects at UNCW have the objective of advancing coral reef restoration. For example, attempts are being to apply new information gained from basic studies of coral larval early life history to the re-seeding of coral reef damaged by either natural or man-made events. Studies of fish and coral molecular genetics serve to test hypotheses regarding the function of marine reserves.

Faculty researching this area include:

Alina Szmant
Martin Posey


Michael Durako


Michael Mallin

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