Earth and Ocean Sciences

Faculty and Staff



Michael Benedetti, Ph.D.

Professor of Geography

Dr. Benedetti is a physical geographer with interests in geomorphology, Quaternary science, and geoarchaeology. His research investigates geomorphic responses to natural and anthropogenic environmental change. His recent projects have focused on late Quaternary sea level and climate change, landscape change in archaeological settings, and the influence of floods on sediment transport in large rivers


David Blake, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geology

Dr. David Blake is a petrologist and structural geologist who studies the tectonic evolution of the Laurentian-North American craton and its accreted terranes from the Neoproterozoic to the Mesozoic primarily in the eastern Piedmont of North Carolina for the NCGS STATEMAP program. Detailed traditional and iPad geologic mapping of deformed igneous, metamorphic, and volcanogenic sedimentary rocks within and between lithotectonic terranes of eastern Carolinia is the main focus of his research. After establishing the lithologic and lithodemic framework of an area, Dr. Blake concentrates on such topics as the microscale to macroscale analyses of structural and metamorphic fabric elements, the mechanical control that fabric exerts on deformation, progressive plastic-brittle deformation, overprinting relationships, and metamorphism during fault zone development, and plate tectonic interactions responsible for terrane accretion.


Doug Gamble, Ph.D.

Department Chair / Professor of Geography

Dr. Doug Gamble is an applied climatologist with interests in hydrology, climate variability, and coastal and island environments of the Caribbean and the southeastern United States.His current research projects included monitoring of rainfall and other hydrologic variables in the Bahamas, assessment of current and past hydrodynamics of Salt River Bay, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and investigation of double exposure vulnerability of small-holding farmers in St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica.


Eman Ghoneim, Ph. D.

Associate Professor of Geography

Dr. Ghoneim is a physical geographer with primarily interest in the application of Remote Sensing, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and geomorphology in the coastal studies, surface and subsurface water resources particularly in arid and semiarid environment and natural hazards (e.g., global climate change, sea level rise, and flash flood risk).


Joanne Halls, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography

Graduate Program Coordinator

Dr. Joanne Halls is the Director of the Spatial Analysis Lab that is a state-of-the-art teaching and research computing facility focused on Geographic Information Systems, Image Processing, and Spatial Statistics. Some of Dr. Halls' research interests include watershed modeling, coastal land use development and the impacts on non-point source pollution modeling, integration of temporal ecological models with GIS, empirical studies of geographic data models, and quantitative assessments/simulations of spatial data error and impacts on spatial models.


Andrea Hawkes, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geology

Dr. Hawkes' main research interests include the development and application of environmental modeling and quantitative palaeoenvironmental reconstruction techniques with the aim of understanding the role of earthquakes, tsunamis, storms as driving mechanisms of Quaternary relative sea-level change and coastal evolution.

Dr. Hawkes' research has been undertaken in coastal and wetland ecosystems in temperate and tropical environments (Indonesia, Malaysia, French Polynesia, Belize, Bermuda, Alaska and coastal USA), which are under increasing pressure from a variety of natural and artificial processes. She aims to produce high-precision geological reconstructions of relative sea level of sufficient resolution to better estimate vertical ground displacements associated with the earthquake deformation cycle and reconstruct past sea-level variations at various temporal and spatial scales. She uses a multiproxy approach (e.g., surface sampling, coring, GPR, CHIRP, micropaleontology, sedimentology, stratigraphy, and AMS 14C, 210Pb, 137Cs dating)


Elizabeth Hines, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography

Liz Hines pursues an eclectic mix of interests. She is an inveterate South watcher and monitors changing Southern cultural characteristics. She also keeps an eye on modern hate crime perpetrators and victims and changing hate crimes statutes. She teaches World Regional Geography, Cartography, and Planning, and directs the Geography Internship program. Her newest research is on apartheid removals in South Africa, a continuation of her interest in social justice issues. She also collaborates with Eliza Steelwater in collecting and compiling data on American lynching under the auspices of Project HAL (Historic American Lynching). She is Board Secretary of LINC, Inc., an organization that helps people transition from prison to society and a member of Wilmington's Long Range Planning Committee.


Sharon Hoffmann, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Geology

Dr. Hoffmann studies the history of the oceans and climate, using the chemistry of geological archives such as deep sea sediments and tropical cave stalagmites. Her research focuses on uranium-series radioisotopes in marine sediments from the Arctic and Atlantic, to investigate past deep ocean circulation, particle scavenging dynamics, and sedimentation processes. She also measures stable isotopes from cave deposits in Borneo, located within the Western Pacific Warm Pool, to study the history of El Nino-Southern Oscillation variability.


Todd LaMaskin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geology

Dr. LaMaskin uses the stratigraphic record to better understand how and why major earth systems change over time. As a stratigrapher and sedimentologist, he investigates the timing and controls on both climatic and tectonic events at basinal, regional, and continental scales. His active research integrates basin stratigraphy and provenance data to constrain long-term variability associated with lithospheric-scale processes, including the evolution of magmatic systems and plate-boundary fault zones. This field-based research has led to additional laboratory interests in isotopic standard calibration, statistical methods for geological data collection and analysis, and the use of geo-referenced data (GIS and Google Earth) in the communication of environmental data.


Chad Lane, Ph.D.

 Associate Professor of Geography

Dr. Lane's research interests include sediment records of late-Quaternary paleoenvironmental change, stable isotope geochemistry, prehistoric human-environment interactions, and rapid climate change events. His current research topics include late-Holocene environmental (climate, vegetation, disturbance regimes, etc.) change in Central America, the circum-Caribbean, and North Carolina, tracking prehistoric maize cultivation using stable isotope analyses of lake sediments, assessing the impacts of rapid climate change on prehistoric human populations, and assessing the impacts of global climate change on carbon cycling in boreal soils. In addition to his work in North Carolina, Dr. Lane has also been lucky enough to conduct much of his research in beautiful locations such as Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Newfoundland (Canada), and St. Croix (USVI).


Richard Laws, Ph.D.

Professor of Geology

Dr. Laws' research interests include the composition and distribution of diatoms in modern coastal environments, Neogene diatom biostratigraphy, and Paleogene calcareous nannofossil biostratigraphy. Current projects include the taxonomy of benthic marine diatoms, the impacts on benthic diatom floras of salt marsh renourishment through emplacement of dredge spoil in degrading marshes, and sediment stabilization by diatoms and sediment resuspension in intertidal habitats. Current funding from Center for Marine Sciences.


Lynn Leonard, Ph.D.

Professor of Geology

Dr. Leonard's areas of expertise are physical sedimentology and marine geology. Her research focuses on sediment transport mechanisms in coastal environments ranging from tidal creeks and inlets, to large estuaries and the continental shelf. Current research projects include biogeochemical fingerprinting of phosphorus sources in anthropogenically impacted watersheds, sediment dispersal in tidal marshes of the Chesapeake Bay (and other SEUS marsh systems), marsh restoration using dredge spoil material, sediment transport during storms on the mid continental shelf, and the impact of river dredging on tidal amplitude and marsh sedimentation in the Cape Fear River.


Ai Ning Loh, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Oceanography

Dr. Loh is an isotope and organic geochemist. Her research answers questions related to the sources, cycling, and transport of organic matter and nutrients in aquatic (marine, estuarine and riverine) environments. She also has current projects related to organic contaminants in aquatic environments.


Patti Mason


Ms. Mason is interested in the taxonomy, micropaleontology, paleoecology, biostratigraphy and paleoenvironments of late Cretaceous foraminifera, especially with regards to changes in diversity and fossil assemblages as one approaches the K-P boundary. Current research is looking at benthic and planktonic foraminifera from Coniacian through Maastrichtian sediments from core samples drilled in the North Carolina coastal plain.


Scott Nooner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geology

Dr. Nooner uses a combination of geophysical field techniques and numerical modeling to study deformation of the Earth's surface, both on land and in the marine environment. Deformation of the Earth's crust reveals important information about properties of the crust and mantle. Dr. Nooner conducts this research in a variety of locations and setting, such as Bangladesh, where he is using monsoonal flooding, which causes annual fluctuation in the height of the crust, to quantify crustal properties there. He is also a leader in the field of measuring deformation of the seafloor and continues to develop improved instrumentation and techniques. His work has resulted in the first record of an entire eruption cycle of an submarine volcano (Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge). He is currently working in both Africa and on the Juan de Fuca Ridge studying the formation and evolution of mid-ocean ridge systems, from rift initiation on continents to fully developed mid-ocean ridges.


Narcisa Pricope, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography

Narcisa's work focuses on interdisciplinary, applied questions at the intersection between land change science, watershed science, and population geography, primarily focusing on understanding the vulnerability of different populations to environmental change in the context of transboundary-managed water and natural resources. Narcisa examines the drivers, patterns and impacts of vegetation change and degradation on both ecosystems and people, having previously mostly worked in the southern and eastern African drylands. She uses spatially explicit modeling approaches, geographic information science and remote sensing imagery coupled with ground-based biophysical and social data to document and understand the causes and consequences of land cover changes at different spatial and temporal scales. Her work is mostly focused on drylands ecosystems as they are fragile and beautiful but also at increasingly high risk from various climate and environmental change impacts; they also cover approximately 40% of the Earth's surface and are home to over 2 billion people, more than 90% of whom live in developing countries with increasing populations.


Roger Shew


Roger's geologic background is in sedimentology, stratigraphy, sedimentary petrology, subsurface methods, and science education . Areas of study are the interpretation of the origin, distribution, and characterization of surface and subsurface sediments and sedimentary rocks, with a particular interest in coastal environments. He is currently writing a manual on the Natural History of the Coastal Plain of North Carolina.


Michael Smith, Ph.D.

Professor of Geology

Michael Smith's academic research ranges from the study of mid-Proterozoic crustal rocks in west Greenland to the 2.2 Ma old volcanic rocks of the upper Yellowstone Valley to the petrography and provenance of historic and prehistoric ceramic sherds. Other research interests include the technological and geological history of the gold mining rush(es) in the southeastern United States from 1799 to 1864 with Dr. M. Elizabeth Hines and the sometimes erratic development of the North Carolina Geological surveys. For entertainment, he is continuing the tracing of the William Alonzo Allen family history (author of the"Sheep Eaters" and "Adventures with Indians and Game, or Twenty Years in the Rocky Mountains") as well as working with the Rothschild Archives and the Ceramic Petrology working group (British Museum) on the sources (e.g., Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, Mexico, or Peru) and the elusive movement of quicksilver (mercury) to the gold mining operations in the American South.


Peter Zamora, Ph.D.

     Assistant Professor of Geology

Dr. Zamora is broadly interested in groundwater related studies. His main research interest is on groundwater-surface water interactions and how they influence the quantity and quality of surface and subsurface water in streams, estuaries, and the coastal ocean. His research approach involves field observations, application of geophysical and geochemical techniques, as well as numerical simulations in addressing hydrology research questions.

Support Staff

Lorenda Heathcock

Administrative Associate


 Sarah Goggin

Administrative Associate



Yvonne Marsan

Laboratories Manager


Adjunct Faculty


Amy Wagner, Ph.D.

Dr. Wagner uses stable isotope geochemistry to extract paleoceanographic and paleoclimate information from the skeletal material of reef-forming corals. Current focus areas include the Federated States of Micronesia (Chuuk Atoll) and the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Other research areas include using radiogenic isotopes in coral skeletal material as a tracer of air-sea interaction and mixing rates and using high-resolution paleoclimate models to understand the mechanisms of past abrupt climate change. Dr. Wagner is a part of the Paleoenvironmental Change Research Group.

Faculty Emeriti

Name Email
William F. Ainsley, Jr.
William J. Cleary
James A. Dockal
W. Burleigh Harris
Patricia Kelley
Duncan P. Randall
Paul A. Thayer

Department Organizational Chart

Departmental Policies and Procedures Manual

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