Crus-NC Program Brings Student Researchers to the Coast

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This spring, the University of North Carolina Wilmington launched a new program called Coastal Research for Undergraduate Students in North Carolina (Crus-NC). The program is a semester-long opportunity to engage students in coastal research alongside mentors in their chosen field at one of North Carolina’s coastal marine labs.

The program emerged from a 2012 comprehensive review conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) of all marine science programs in the state. This review led four UNC marine facilities to work together on research and education programs. UNCW Center for Marine Science, UNCCH Institute for Marine Science, NCSU Center for Marine and Atmospheric Science and Technology, and ECU Coastal Studies Institute devised an inter-institutional program for UNC system marine science students to study for a semester at the coast.

The UNCW branch of Crus-NC is spearheaded by Christopher Finelli, professor and chair of the Department of Biology and Marine Biology.

“We want the students to engage in basic coastal science to understand the technologies used to study the coast, as well as some of the thorny problems that face coastal communities,” Finelli explained. “We hope that the students take the information they learn in class and apply it to the research they conduct, and understand the value of the scientific process for addressing problems in the coastal zone.”

Participating students are offered 15 credits of instruction and independent research, which includes a 4 credit research experience that pairs undergraduates with a scientist mentor at one of North Carolina’s coastal marine labs. Much of the instruction for the program is online, freeing students to conduct hands-on research either at UNCW or the Coastal Studies Institute on Roanoke Island. For the inaugural semester, students have plunged into the program headfirst with projects that range from fishery management to coastal erosion to wave conditions and forecasting.

“This is a novel program that leverages both the coastal facilities and online learning,” said Finelli. “By putting some of the content online in asynchronous courses, we have freed time during the day for student research. The pilot has been very successful and we hope for the program to continue in the future.”

-- Caitlin Taylor