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Programs : Brochure

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  • Locations: Morehead City, NC, United States;
  • Program Terms: Fall
  • Host Program Website: Click to visit
  • Budget Sheets: Fall
  • App for Spring & Calendar Year open July 1/Apps for Summer, Fall, & Academic Year open December 1
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Study Abroad Contact: Derek Shepard Program type: Faculty-Led
Program features: Field Study, Internship, Research Click here for a definition of this term Minimum GPA: 2.0
Eligibility: Junior, Senior, Sophomore Open to Non-UNC students: Yes (with approval)
Language prerequisite: No Language of instruction: English
Program Description:
Location| Courses & Credits| Housing| Program Costs| Application Process | More Information|

UNC Institute for the Environment Morehead City Field Site

The UNC Institute for the Environment invites students to study at Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Morehead City, North Carolina, for the Fall semester. The program offers undergraduate students opportunities for experiential learning in Environmental Science and Environmental Studies, with emphases on microbial and phytoplankton ecology, water quality and resources, benthic ecology, wetlands, shellfish and fisheries issues, watershed based modeling studies, coastal geology and beach renourishment.


IMS is strategically located in North Carolina's central coastal region on 6.5 acres of waterfront property on Bogue Sound. The region is rich in estuarine and wetland habitats and includes the large embayments (e.g., Core, Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds) that are typical of North Carolina's coast and tied to much of its seafood production. Field study opportunities will take students to nearby areas, with focus on the well-characterized Neuse River Estuary-Pamlico Sound system. Pamlico Sound is the second-largest lagoonal estuary in the country, and the site of dynamic larval fish and invertebrate activity. Morehead City's deep-water port offers ready access to the local rivers, creeks, estuaries and coastal areas, as well as the ecologically significant Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout areas.

The Morehead City/Beaufort area boasts a unique concentration of marine sciences resources affiliated with a wide range of university, state, and federal agencies. In addition, just across the Taylor's Creek from downtown Beaufort are wild horses in Carrot Island's Rachel Carson Estuarine Research Reserve and world-class beaches on Shackleford Banks and Core Banks. A drive east on U.S. 70 from Beaufort takes adventurers past Harkers Island to the Down East boat-building and commercial fishing region and ends at the Cedar Island-Ocracoke ferry.

Courses & Credits

Classes are held at the UNC Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Morehead City. The program includes two formal classes with field components, a capstone project, an independent research project, and a seminar series. There are no required textbooks. Lectures are Tues/Thurs mornings. Seminars and capstone meetings are Tues afternoon. Mondays and Wednesdays are used for field trips and capstone work. Fridays are set aside for working on independent research projects.
  • Human Impacts on Estuarine Processes (ENEC 471, 4 credit hours): Lectures + field trips.
  • Coastal and Estuarine Marine Ecology (ENEC 448, 4 credit hours): Lectures + field trips.
  • Seminar series (ENEC 204, 2 credit hours): Attend seminars, lunches and discussions with speakers.
  • Capstone project (ENEC 698, 3 credit hours): The class works as a team to address an environmental issue. Students plan the research, divide up duties, and carry out the work using the people and labs at IMS as a resource. At the end of semester, the class presents their findings to a broad audience. We will have a planning meeting the first week of semester to discuss the project and divide up duties.
  • Independent research project (ENEC 395, 3 credit hours): Each student conducts an independent research project with a faculty member at IMS or another local marine lab or agency. Topics vary depending on research being done at the time and projects are often shaped to students’ interests. See information below about setting up your research project.
  • Optional scientific diving class : Students can arrive 2 weeks early and take a scientific diving training class. You must already be certified as an open water diver. If you are interested in participating in this course, please contact Steve Broadhurst ( for further information.
Field Trips: 
As a way to deepen students' understanding of North Carolina's central coast, including its famous Down East region, the site will offer weekly field trips. Visits to Down East boatbuilding and fishing communities such as Harkers Island, Marshallberg, Davis and Atlantic; to Core Banks and Shackleford Banks; to Hammocks Beach State Park; to locations on the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound; to the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway; to Morehead City/Beaufort-based maritime sites such as Beaufort Fisheries, the State Port and the North Carolina Maritime Museum; and to other fascinating places will focus upon estuarine, coastal, marine and fisheries issues.

Speakers Series: 
A site Speakers Series will allow each IMS faculty member, as well as selected experts from entities such as UNC Wilmington, Duke University, North Carolina State University, NOAA, the North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries and CMAST, to share thoughts about their research and its implications with regard to estuarine, coastal, marine and fisheries issues. The Speakers Series, which will be held in the IMS Seminar Room, will be open to the public free of charge. It will also provide seminar credit for students attending the site (ENEC 204).

Student Research and the Capstone Project: 
Complementing the traditional coursework, field trips and seminar is a collaborative group research and classroom effort known as the "Capstone Project". Information for the Capstone Project comes from individual student research projects. These are conducted through student internships that also expose students to efforts to protect the estuarine environment from further damage due to anthropogenic impacts. Morehead City Field Site students will mainly interact with IMS faculty in conducting internships, but will also have the opportunity to interact with local collaborating scientists and managers within government, business and non-governmental entities. The Capstone Project will include frequent interaction among the students, field site faculty and internship mentors. Students will gain experience in research, project design, teamwork, group writing and public speaking and presenting. Students earn six hours of credit for their Capstone Project (ENEC 698 and ENEC 395). Internship providers and other environmental leaders in the area will form the site's Community Advisory Board.

Courses in this program are UNC Graded Credit.
UNC Graded Credit Programs (often taught by UNC Faculty): No action required
  • These courses automatically show up on your Tar Heel Tracker and UNC Transcript.
  • You will receive a letter grade for those courses, and this does affect your GPA.
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Accommodation is at the Duke University Marine Laboratory (DUML), on Pivers Island, in Beaufort. The dining hall at DUML serves 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. Students staying at DUML have a full meal plan. If you have roommate requests, please email these to Dominick. In your email state that you are a UNC student and you will be staying at the marine lab in the fall. Private rooms are available on a first come, first serve basis. There is an additional charge for a single room. Students residing at DUML have access to bikes, canoes, kayaks, and the Morehead City Sports Center. Further information can be found on the DUML website. While we prefer that students stay in the DUML dorms, we occasionally have students decide to live elsewhere; for example, with family members who live nearby. If you live in other accommodation, you can still purchase a meal plan from Duke and gain access for meetings.

Parking and Transportation 
DUML is about 5 miles away from the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, where classes are held. There is no public transport. Students typically car pool between the two labs, so a car is recommended but not essential. There is plenty of free parking at both labs. You will be asked for your vehicle registration information at a later date. We do not recommend cycling between the laboratories as there is a large high-rise bridge in between that is not bike friendly and can be dangerous.
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Program Costs

Awards are available to assist students with funding for the program. Please contact the UNC Institute for the Environment's Educational Programs Office at 919-962-9805 for further details.

Review the Budget Sheet posted above for detailed information on costs and fees. Costs vary per term and are subject to change.

Tuition and fees for the program are based on current UNC tuition rates, the student’s NC residency status, and operating costs of the program. Tuition and fees will be charged to the participant’s UNC student account. Review the Budget Sheet for additional Cashier Billed Expenses and Out-of-Pocket Costs. The Study Abroad Office strongly encourages students to budget carefully for their time abroad.

Getting Started: Funding Study Abroad
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Application Process

Complete the required UNC application by clicking “Apply Now” at the top of the page. If you have not done so already, create a profile to start your application.

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More Information

Field site director: Rachel Noble,, 
Field site assistant director: Nathan Hall,
Scientific diving class: Steve Broadhurst,

For pictures, frequently asked questions, student testimonials, and more, visit the program’s blog and website!

For information on requesting ARS accommodations (academic, health, and mobility concerns) for a study abroad program, contact the Advisor for Access.
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Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall 2020 03/31/2020
Rolling Admission 08/09/2020 11/24/2020

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.

Indicates that deadline has passed

App for Spring & Calendar Year open July 1/Apps for Summer, Fall, & Academic Year open December 1