CMS News

CMS News

Message from the Executive Director

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you enjoy this edition of Coastal & Marine Science News. It outlines some of the incredible work UNCW students and faculty participated in last month, as well as special recognitions and achievements.

In late March, UNCW biology and marine biology students attended the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium (SEAMAMMS) in Washington DC. Doctoral candidate Tiffany Keenan-Bateman ’15M, ’20 Ph.D., master’s candidate Carrie Rowlands ’19M and undergraduate students Lacey Annas ’19, Sam Cromer ’19 and Trevor Roche ’20 presented oral and poster presentations at the symposium. Rowlands was recognized for Best Graduate Student Poster Presentation.

Faculty were also recognized for their research: Dr. Steve W. Ross was cited as the author of the most NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research-supported journal articles.

These are just a few notables – read on to learn more.

As we come to the end of the semester, I want to thank you again for your efforts to provide our students with an exceptional educational experience during an academic year with unprecedented challenges.

Best wishes for a wonderful and restful summer!


Aswani Volety

CMS & Partners 

CMS Events: Save the Date!

Our CMS Open House is planned for September 28. 


MarineQuest is hosting free workshops for students and volunteers of CMS!

May 18, 9:00 AM-2:30 PM: Storm Surge Protectors. This is a Citizen Science Project aimed to collect a long-term data set to help determine the ecological conditions of coastal wetlands in our area. This workshop will also be followed by a beach or wetland cleanup. Register here and contact Jade at with any questions!

CMS Marine Operations Dive

CMS Marine Operations completed diver bottom surveys, sediment sampling and analyses at the Gull Shoals oyster reef mitigation site in Pamlico Sound during March and April. This work was done under a contract from Moffatt & Nichol, and by divers Ken Johns (CMS), Wilson Freshwater (CMS) and graduate student Ed Arb (BMB), and captains Chris LaClaire (CORMP) and Landis Bullock (EH&S). Dr. Joni "Osku" Backstrom (EVS) conducted the sediment analyses.

Every Night is Science Night

Dr. Nikki Fogarty and her graduate student, Kory Enneking, talked to students and parents at Sampson Middle School during their E.A.R.T.H. (Empowering Action Rather Than Hurt) science night.

AHS Marine Science Academy

Ashley High School’s Marine Science Academy has received a wave simulation flume to help students get a more hands-on learning experience. The Marine Science Academy partnered with UNCW to provide the high school with resources and opportunities for students. (more)

Outreach, Recognition & Other Notables

When the World is our Oyster

Dean Volety (CAS) was appointed Director of the North and South American Chapter of the World Oyster Society. (more)

Former UNCW marine science student, James Hargrove, was featured in the April edition of NC Coastal Federation's newsletter, On the Half Shell, for his work in mariculture. (more)

In similar fashion, commercial mariculture research by Robin Varney (Shellfish Research Hatchery), Jessica Watts (BMB), and Ami Wilbur (SRH Director) was also featured in On the Half Shell. (more)


Dr. Rachael Urbanek (EVS) was elected the President of the North Carolina Chapter of The Wildlife Society at the annual meeting in Black Mountain, NC.


Joe Covi (BMB) is the inventor of U.S. Pat. No. 10,267,782 entitled: Methods and Kits for Determining Sediment and Pore Water Toxicity with Dormant and Developing Zooplankton and other Species Having a Dorman Life Cycle, which will issue on April 23, 2019. The related application was drafted and prosecuted by Steven Fontana (Office of Innovation & Commercialization), a U.S. patent attorney.

The Titanic Exploration

Dr. Steve Ross recently returned from the Bahamas where he was working with Ocean Gate Foundation to use a new deep diving submersible (the Titan, 4000 m) to explore the wreck of the Titanic this summer. All submersible testing is going well and the mission should start in early July, lasting about 6-7 weeks. (more)

Benthic Ecology Meeting 2019

Benthic Meeting 2019UNCW faculty and graduate students (BMB) presented their research at the 48th Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting (April 3-6, 2019) hosted by Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland Canada. Pictured from left to right: Patrick Erwin, James Evans, Nikki Fogarty, Joe Pawlik, Christina Salerno, Sasha Giametti, and (not pictured) Allison Manley.

PhD student, James (Jim) Evans, won an honorable mention for his oral presentation at the 48th annual Benthic Ecology meeting in St. John's, Newfoundland. He is mentored by Drs. Susanna Lopez-Legentil and Patrick Erwin (BMB) and his presentation was titled, "Detection and ecological relevance of distinct genetic clusters within the Caribbean barrel sponge Xestospongia muta."

Students Soaring

Cheyenne Stienbarger (BMB), co-advised by Alison Taylor and Susanne Brander, has been selected as one of just six NC Sea Grant nominees for the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. We wish her luck in this second stage of selection! (more)

Natalie Panasiak (BMB), advised by Alison Taylor, has been awarded a full scholarship for the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree in Aquaculture, Environment and Society in Europe. She will start the program this Summer. (more)

Mackenzie Taggert (EVS) was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship through the National Science Foundation. The fellowship includes a 3-year stipend and covers the student's tuition.

Evan Heit (BMB) won best undergraduate student presentation at the Atlantic Estuarine Research Society Meeting at George Mason University in April. He was one of 22 undergraduate presenters and his presentation was titled, "Carbon balance of seagrass and its effect on ecosystem health.”

PhD student, Lauren Olinger, was featured on a blog post called "sketchfab." Sketchfab is a popular online platform for sharing 3D models. In the associated community blog is a series titled “Women in Sketchfab” that highlights women scientists and artists and Lauren shared her work and modeling on sponges and corals as part of this series. (more

Post-Florence Data

On April 23rd Dave Wells (CMS) completed drone flights over Masonboro Island as part of an NSF-funded project to evaluate the response and subsequent recovery of Masonboro Island following Hurricane Florence. Digital surface models created from these images are being used to quantify changes to the beach, dunes, and backbarrier environments. Two more flights are expected before September which will provide quarterly snapshots of island evolution for 1-year post-Florence.

Spencer Rogers (NC Sea Grant) was featured in NC Sea Grant Currents for his work on wave gauges and providing flood modeling data post-Florence. (more)

Spencer Rogers (NC Sea Grant) was featured in the Port City Daily with respect to Surf City’s beach renourishment effort. (more)

Fish 2.0

A successful Fish 2.0 South Atlantic workshop was held at the Center and MARBIONC. (more)

Former UNCW student, Sam Romano, now co-owner of Seaview Crab Company, was featured by WWAY for his comments on the regional seafood industry as part of the FISH 2.0 workshop. Diane Durance (CIE) was also featured regarding the future of the industry. (more)


Alina Szmant and Rob Whitehead (both CMS) were featured in Cape Fear Living Magazine for their work on corals and the CISME instrument. (more)

In the Drone

Narcisa Pricope's (EOS) watershed pollutants drone research was featured by WECT News. (more)


Ralph Mead and the MACRL group (CHM) were featured in Coastal Review Online as part of their work on polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). (more)

New Species Recognition

The new species named in honor of Dr. Susanna Lopez-Legentil (BMB) and her lab, iMesa, were recognized by a local news outlet. (more)

Water Quality at White Lake

Peter Zamora's (EVS) work on White Lake's water quality was featured in the Bladen Journal. (more)

UNCC Collaboration

Dr. Rachael Urbanek (EVS) and Dr. Chris Dumas (EVS) collaborated with Dr. Sara Gagne (UNC Charlotte) and Dr. Nikhil Kaza (UNC Chapel Hill) to host The Biodiversity of Cities Symposium on 26 April 2019. EVS Graduate students Rachel Joffey and Veda Anglin also collaborated on this project along with students from UNCC and UNC Chapel Hill.