Biology & Marine Biology


Overview: The Coastal Research for Undergraduate Students in North Carolina (CRUS-NC) program is an innovative semester-long opportunity for university students throughout North Carolina to take courses and conduct research on the coast and at the coast. At this time, natural-science faculty from UNC Wilmington (UNCW) and East Carolina University (ECU) are jointly coordinating the program, but CRUS-NC is open to all students for whom we can find research mentors. We offer up to 15 credits of instruction and independent research that are designed to introduce students to the great variety of environments, opportunities, and challenges presented by our long and unique coastline. The core of CRUS-NC is an independent research experience that will pair undergraduate students with a scientist at one of North Carolina's coastal marine labs. For spring 2016, students have the opportunity to work with faculty at UNCW or the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) on Roanoke Island. Formal coursework is offered online, giving students maximum flexibility to conduct research in the lab or in the field.

Curriculum: A total of 15 credits of courses and research in coastal science are offered through CRUS-NC. Additional creditsCRUS may be available through UNC Online or as available at the host institution. Full course descriptions are available here.

Research Experience - 2 - 4 credits. Students resident at a marine facility will enroll in independent research conducted under the supervision of a faculty member from ECU or UNCW.

Potential research topics:

  • Ecology of surf zone fishes
  • Isotope analyses to reconstruct paleohydrology of SE North Carolina
  • Deep sea isotope records of paleoenvironmental change
  • Climate change effects on jelly fish populations
  • Food web structure of the Sargasso Sea
  • Response of microbial communities to ecosystem change
  • Oyster reef ecology
  • Erosion and shoreline management
  • Marsh and estuarine changes
  • Island and beach dynamics and ecology
  • Storm surge and waves
  • Water quality and pollution
  • Marine resource (e.g., fisheries) or margin studies
  • Bivalve aquaculture and shellfish hatchery operations
  • Shellfish genetics
  • GIS mapping of the Atlantic coast

Online Courses - 7 credits. To provide students with maximum flexibility in their schedule to allow time for field and lab research, formal course work will be offered online. Three online courses will be offered in spring 2017.

  • Applied Marine Technology - 3 credits. Instructor: Jennifer Dorton, University of North Carolina Wilmington and Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program
  • Atlantic Ocean and Mid-Atlantic Coast - 3 credits. Instructor: Dr. Reide Corbett, East Carolina University and Coastal Studies Institute
  • Topics in Coastal North Carolina - 1 credit. Instructor: Dr. Christopher Finelli, University of North Carolina Wilmington

CRUSLabs - 1 credit. Each 3 credit online course will also include a face to face laboratory experience for students who are resident at the course's host institution. For example, students who are resident at UNCW can take a 1 credit lab related to Applied Marine Technology, while students resident at CSI can take a 1 credit lab related to Coastal Processes of North Carolina. These lab experiences incorporate field trips and hands on activities related to the course content.

Coastal Environments of North Carolina - 3 credits. All program participants will take part in a weeklong field exploration of the North Carolina coast. The trip will begin in Wilmington and end on the Outer Banks with several stops along the way to experience and sample the diverse habitats of coastal NC. Instructor: Dr. Lynn Leonard, University of North Carolina Wilmington (cap = 15; additional fees may apply)

Tuition and Fees: Tuition, room, and board costs will vary with host institution. Full-time tuition at UNCW is currently $4356 per semester, and at ECU tuition is $3959. Room and board fees will be comparable to on-campus housing at UNCW or ECU. Additional fees may be required to participate in the program to help offset the costs of field trips, vessels, and research supplies.

Application: To apply, please download the application form here. Review of applications will begin on October 1, however we will accept applications until all spots are filled. Return the completed application to

The University of North Carolina Wilmington is North Carolina's coastal university. There are more than 70 marine scienceCRUS faculty members in oceanography, marine biology, chemistry, physical oceanography, geology, and environmental science. Marine facilities are distributed throughout main campus, as well as at the Center for Marine Science (located 6 miles from campus). Highlights include wetlabs, vessels, SCUBA, aquaculture facilities (shellfish and finfish), electron microscopy, and analytical chemistry.

The UNC Coastal Studies Institute is an inter-university marine research facility located in Wanchese, NC. It is the mission of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute to undertake research, offer educational opportunities, provide community outreach programs, and enhance communication among those concerned with the unique history, culture and environment of the maritime counties of North Carolina. Faculty at UNC CSI are affiliated with East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and North Carolina Sate University. UNC CSI supports a full range of field and laboratory equipment, including vessels, interactive distance education technologies, wet labs, and state-of-the-art research laboratories.

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