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The Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) is an off-campus research, education, and service unit of UNC-CH that, together with the on-campus Department of Marine Sciences, forms the internationally recognized UNC Marine Sciences Program.

The Institute’s mission is to serve the State and the Nation by conducting cutting-edge research, training young scientists, providing expertise to governmental agencies and industry, and promoting new knowledge to inform public policy.

The Institute is strategically located on 6.33 acres of waterfront property on the central North Carolina coast. The unique environment, the Croatan-Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine System, is the second largest estuarine system in the U.S. and an ideal site to study the ecology, conservation and restoration of coastal marine resources and to develop and apply new technologies in research.

IMS facilities include approximately 60,000 sq ft of research space, a running sea water system that feeds both indoor and outdoor experimental facilities, outside experimental ponds, a small on-site dormitory (suitable for short stays), meeting rooms, maintenance and fabrication facilities, a small fleet of trucks and motor-powered boats ranging in length from 17-25 feet and a 48ft vessel, the R.V. Capricorn.




Research at IMS ranges from water quality, coastal system functions, coastal and estuarine assessment’s and restoration, coastal hazards, and exploring alternative energy sources. IMS faculty hold joint appointments in multiple UNC departments including Marine Sciences, Biology, Geology, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Much of their ongoing research activities reflect this diversity and are highly interdisciplinary, such as such as studies of the impacts of military training operations at Camp Lejeune, NC on adjacent coastal ecosystems and landforms.

In addition to providing the opportunity for innovative research, the Institute’s location is ideally suited for experiential learning. The adjacent sounds, outdoor ponds (concrete and earthen), and indoor aquarium facilities provide habitats for controlled and natural experiments. A fleet of trucks and vans, outboard motor-powered boats,  and two modern coastal research vessels, 29 ft Caroline, and 48 ft. Capricorn, are available for field studies.

As part of its service mission, IMS faculty provide expertise to governmental agencies and industry and advocate for the application of new knowledge to marine policy.  IMS faculty participate on over 30 state and national advisory panels, including the Pew Trust Panel for Restoration of the Gulf of Mexico, the NC Environmental Management Commission, the NC Legislative Advisory Committee for Offshore Energy Exploration, National Research Council Committees, and Scientific Advisory Boards to the US EPA and NOAA.

IMS faculty regularly appear in national, state, and local media outlets communicating new research and 10087764224_522686b6c4_madding expert insight to current scientific issues. Most recently, Joel Fodrie, Pete Peterson, and Frank Schwartz have been in the news addressing concerns on the rise in shark bites along the Crystal Coast. In 2011, Rick Luettich appeared on the Weather Channel, NPR and other outlets, discussing the impacts of a potential hurricane on the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Rachel Noble was quoted on the front page of USA Today about water quality testing, and Pete Peterson was interviewed on NPR on the potential for wind power development in NC.


Additionally, IMS faculty have a strong commitment to the local community through programs such as SciREN (SciREN website), a program which helps bring together local scientists and researchers with teachers. There are lesson plan workshops to help researchers translate their work into classroom-ready exercises that meet state and national standards. These lesson plans are then introduced to teachers through face to face interactions allowing for the exchange of ideas and materials.