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Student Resilience Team Studying NC Reefs

Three marine biology students receive NC Sea Grant funding to create 10-year snapshot of natural and artificial reef health.

Students from the University of North Carolina Wilmington are recipients of North Carolina Sea Grant’s Resilience Team Competition funding for a new study of reef ecosystems in light of climate change. 

The team — Jared Oviatt, a marine biology master’s student, along with undergraduates Mark Leavitt Jr. and Samantha Michels — will conduct follow-up surveys of NC reefs to identify changes in reef ecosystems’ communities including fish, algae and invertebrates.  

“Our research will provide a unique 10-year snapshot of the ecosystems on North Carolina’s natural reefs and the artificial reefs that NC managers regularly deploy off our coast,” Oviatt explains. “Our surveys will provide them with updated data on reef health and reef community composition.”  

The study will include scuba diving so the researchers can record the abundance of fish present throughout the water column. 

“In our project, students will conduct extensive field sampling and data analysis, and will be continuously challenged to solve unique problems,” said UNCW Assistant Professor of Biology and Marine Biology Matthew McLean, the team’s advisor.  

“Students will also learn about coastal resource management issues and network with scientists in state and federal agencies. Ultimately, this project will help students identify their strengths and interests and shape their career trajectories,” he added, noting that upon completion of the project, the team will be exceptionally well prepared and poised to pursue multiple career pathways in STEM.

Read more about the team’s study and the resilience team competition.