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Research at IMS ranges from water quality, algal blooms, storm water runoff, oil spill impacts, fisheries, severe storms, sea level rise, and shore line management to offshore wind energy. Each faculty member operates as principal investigator in their own laboratory. To learn more about each laboratory, please go to the people page.

Research opportunities for UNC undergraduate students are made possible through the Morehead City Field Site program run jointly by IMS and the UNC Institute for the Environment. This program is an intensive semester-long experience, emphasizing independent and team-based research on real world environmental problems or issues.

Each summer, IMS also hosts undergraduates from universities around the country through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF).


recent highlights


A few recent highlights in research include: investigations of the consequences of climate change on endemic marine communities and fishery production; a study of a group of marine sponges as the major cause of dramatic crashes of oyster populations on recently constructed oyster sanctuaries in Pamlico Sound; monitoring of light hydrocarbons at Conch Reef, Florida Keys to identify impacts of the BP oil spill; new methods to rapidly and accurately test recreational water quality; a study of birds, sea turtles and marine mammals in eastern Pamlico Sound to assess potential risks associated with the development of wind farms in our sounds or coastal ocean; and advanced computer modeling of waves, storm surge and the associated hazards to coastal areas during severe storms such as hurricanes.

IMS faculty hold joint appointments in multiple UNC departments including Marine Sciences, Biology, Geology, Ecology, and Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Many of their ongoing research activities reflect this diversity and are highly interdisciplinary, such as studies of the impacts of military training operations at Camp Lejeune, NC on adjacent coastal ecosystems and landforms and the movement of nutrients, larvae and microbial pathogens through our estuarine and coastal waters.

Human activities, such as coastal development, upstream urbanization, and agricultural production, threaten the delicate ecological balance of our marine environments. With rigorous research, IMS faculty promote science-based management decisions to control these threats to marine habitats and public health and safety.


public data


profilercharts created from avp dataThe Autonomous Vertical Profiler (AVP) casts a YSI 6600 sonde slowly from the surface to the bottom every 30 minutes. Data collected includes: Depth, Temperature, Salinity, Chlorophyll, Dissolved Oxygen, Turbidity, and at some sites, pH. In addition, wind speed and direction data is collected during each cast. This data is uploaded to IMS nightly where it is processed, plotted and archived. There are two AVPs in the New River at Stones and Morgan Bays. A third AVP is located approximately 4 km downstream from the New Bern/Highway 55 bridge. In the past, there have been AVPs stationed at other locations in the Neuse River. Data from the New River is available starting June 2008. The Neuse River data from various locations goes back to May 2003.
On the right are examples of the types of graphs generated daily from the data. (By clicking on the graph, you can view it larger.) For more information about this data, please click here or contact Ryan Neve from the Luettich lab.


The Neuse River Estuary Modeling and Monitoring Project (ModMon) is a collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences and the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (NC-DENR). The project involves modeling and monitoring of water quality and environmental conditions in North Carolina’s Neuse River Estuary (pictured left). This collection of data allows assessment of nutrient-eutrophication dynamics, algal blooms, hypoxia, fish kills and other public health concerns.

ModMon is funded by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Division of Water Quality, DWQ), the Lower Neuse Basin Association (LNBA), and the Neuse River Compliance Association (NRCA).  For further information, please go to the ModMon website or contact Nathan Hall from the Paerl Lab.


shark researchThe UNC-IMS longline shark survey has been conducted continuously since 1972 by the faculty, staff, and students of the of the Institute of Marine Sciences. The survey was initiated by Dr. Frank Schwartz, who remains active in the survey and who made his thousandth shark research expedition in 2011. Currently, the shark survey is an IMS-wide effort, with data collection and curation maintained by the Coastal Fisheries Oceanography and Ecology Lab group. The shark survey consists of biweekly cruises, April-November of each year, within Onslow Bay off the central coast of North Carolina near Cape Lookout. During each cruise, shark populations are surveyed 1.5 km and 11 km from shore (100 hooks on a longline at each station). Survey methods have remained consistent over this 45-year period.

This data posting provides survey results and information to resource managers, researchers, NGOs, and other organizations, as well as the public for their use. Any such use should acknowledge the source as the UNC-IMS longline shark survey from this website.

9/20/17: We are currently performing quality assurance measures to ensure potential data-transcription errors are eliminated. Therefore, we have temporarily removed the catch database from this online portal. We anticipate making the catch database available again soon. Any questions regarding the UNC-IMS shark survey can be directed to: