Department of Marine Sciences


Marc J. Alperin, Associate Chair

Brent McKee, Director of Graduate Studies

Marc J. Alperin, Director of Graduate Admissions and Undergraduate Studies


Carol Arnosti, Marine Organic Geochemistry, Microbial Biogeochemistry

John M. Bane, Physical Oceanography and Meteorology, Gulf Stream and Upwelling Dynamics

Larry K. Benninger, Sedimentary Geochemistry

Jaye Cable, Groundwater Dynamics at the Land-Sea Interface, Biogeochemical Cycling, Wetland and Coastal Hydrology

Niels Lindquist, Chemical Ecology, Natural Products

Rick Luettich, Coastal Physical Oceanography, Modeling, Coastal Hazards

Christopher S. Martens, Marine Geochemistry

Brent A. McKee, Geochemistry/Geology of River-Ocean Environments, Sedimentary Geochemistry/Radiochemistry

Rachel Noble, Dynamics of Marine Microbial Food Webs

Hans W. Paerl, Microbial Ecology

Charles H. Peterson, Ecology, Population Interactions

Harvey E. Seim, Observational Physical Oceanography, Coastal and Estuarine Dynamics

Andreas Teske, Microbial Systematics and Evolution, Microbial Ecology, Microbiology of Hydrothermal Vents and the Marine Subsurface

Associate Professors

Marc J. Alperin, Chemical Oceanography, Biogeochemistry

Mike Piehler, Coastal Ecosystems and Estuarine Ecology

Antonio B. Rodriguez, Sedimentology, Marine and Coastal Geology

Alberto Scotti, Computational and Theoretical Fluid Dynamics, Environmental and Stratified Flows, Turbulence

Assistant Professors

Karl D. Castillo, Marine Physiological Ecology, Climate Change and Coral Reefs

Joel Fodrie, Fisheries Oceanography and Ecology, Restoration Ecology

Scott Gifford, Physiology, Genomics and Systems Biology of Marine Bacteria, Bacterial Roles in the Marine Carbon Cycle

Adrian Marchetti, Ecophysiology and Molecular Biology of Marine Phytoplankton

Alecia N. Septer, Marine Microbiology and Bacterial Interactions

Brian L. White, Fluid Dynamics of Coastal Marine Systems, Hydrodynamics of Aquatic Vegetation, Gravity Currents, Shear Flows and Internal Waves

Research Assistant Professor

Barbara MacGregor, Microbial Ecology

Faculty Emeriti

A. Conrad Neumann

Jan J. Kohlmeyer

Dan Albert

Adjunct Faculty

Frederick M. Bingham (UNC–Wilmington, Physics), Circulation and Water Mass Transportation

Carolyn Currin (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Coastal and Estuarine Ecology

Stephen R. Fegley (UNC Institute of Marine Sciences) Marine Biology/Ecology

Jeffrey Hanson (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Duck Field Research Facility) Dynamics of Surface Waves

Mandy Joye (University of Georgia) Biogeochemistry, Microbial Ecology, Molecular Biology

Wayne Litaker (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Ecology, Taxonomy and Molecular Biology of Harmful Algal Blooms

Kenneth J. Lohmann (Biology), Sea Turtle Navigation, Neuroethology of Sea Slug Orientation, Lobster Homing and Navigation

Johanna Rosman (UNC Institute of Marine Sciences) Physical Oceanography

Stephen A. Skrabal (UNC–Wilmington, Chemistry), Trace Metal Geochemistry in Natural Waters

Jill Stewart (UNC Environmental Science and Engineering) Environmental Microbiology, Waterborne Pathogens

Pat Tester (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Oceanography and Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms

The Department of Marine Sciences provides teaching and research in estuarine, coastal, and oceanographic sciences, leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Sciences. The two elements of the program are the Department of Marine Sciences (MASC) located in Murray Venable Hall on the Chapel Hill campus and the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) located on the waterfront in Morehead City, North Carolina. The Department of Marine Sciences is the degree granting unit; all marine sciences graduate students are enrolled in the department. Most IMS faculty have joint faculty appointments in the department, and this enables their participation in graduate student academic activities. Research programs in physical oceanography, marine biology and ecology, marine geochemistry, marine geology and coastal meteorology are conducted in North Carolina and throughout the world by faculty from the department and the IMS.

Courses and facilities at other coastal laboratories are also available to UNC–Chapel Hill Marine Sciences students through cooperative agreements. Courses at North Carolina State University, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina Central University and Duke University may be taken for credit through an inter-institutional registration program.

Each graduate student in the Department of Marine Sciences must gain a broad background in the marine sciences as well as an in-depth understanding of his or her own sub-discipline (e.g., chemical oceanography). This is accomplished by taking the four core courses (Marine Geology, Biological Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography and Physical Oceanography – MASC 503, 504, 505 and 506, respectively) and advanced courses determined by each student's advisory committee, and by participating in research that ultimately results in an M.S. thesis or a Ph.D. dissertation. By the end of the 24-month period that begins when a student first enrolls in the department, the student is expected to have completed the four core courses, How to Give a Seminar (MASC 705) and Student Interdisciplinary Seminar (MASC 706), and to have taken a written comprehensive exam (M.S. students) in his or her sub-discipline. Further information on degree requirements may be found at and are also described below.

Requirements for Admission

For admission to the Department of Marine Sciences, an undergraduate degree is required in a basic science such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, bacteriology, botany, zoology, geology, or in computer science or engineering. Students are advised to develop a broad undergraduate science major with as many as possible of the following courses: mathematics through calculus, computer science, physics, general and organic chemistry, physical chemistry, invertebrate zoology or paleontology, botany, zoology, ecology, physiology, geology, and statistics.

Degree Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy. The academic program for a Ph.D. student will be supervised by a faculty advisory committee of at least five drawn from the UNC graduate faculty. Course requirements normally include the four core courses, additional advanced courses determined by the student's advisory committee, one hour of MASC 705 How to Give a Seminar and one hour of MASC 706 Student Interdisciplinary Seminar. A waiver for one or more of the core courses can be arranged with approval of the student's advisory committee and the Department of Marine Sciences Performance Committee. Additional requirements include passing a comprehensive examination containing both written (research proposal) and oral (proposal defense seminar) parts, a period of study or research at a marine station or participation on an oceanographic cruise, teaching experience sufficient to develop and demonstrate competence, and scientific research resulting in a written dissertation, which is defended by the student. More details on the Ph.D. comprehensive examination, admission to candidacy, semesters of residence credit, the dissertation, and final oral examination (the dissertation defense) are provided in the Marine Sciences Graduate Student Handbook and in The Graduate School Handbook (both available at

Master of Science. The M.S. degree program is similar to the Ph.D. program except for the following: the advisory committee will be composed of three faculty members, the comprehensive examination is a written exam only, and scientific research will result in a written thesis, to be defended by the student. At least thirty hours of course credit must be earned prior to completing the M.S. degree program. Additional details on the comprehensive examination, admission to candidacy, semesters of residence credit, the thesis, and final oral examination (the thesis defense) are provided in the Marine Sciences Graduate Student Handbook and in The Graduate School Handbook (both available at

Marine Sciences Core Courses

503 Marine Geology

504 Biological Oceanography

505 Chemical Oceanography

506 Physical Oceanography

Courses for Graduate and Advanced Undergraduate Students


401 Oceanography (BIOL 350, ENVR 417, GEOL 403) (3). Required preparation, major in a natural science or two courses in natural sciences. Studies origin of ocean basins, seawater chemistry and dynamics, biological communities, sedimentary record, and oceanographic history. Term paper. Students lacking science background should see MASC 101. No credit for MASC 401 after receiving credit for MASC 101.

410 Earth Processes in Environmental Systems (ENEC 410, GEOL 410) (4). See ENEC 410 for description.

411 Oceanic Processes in Environmental Systems (ENEC 411, GEOL 411) (4). See ENEC 411 for description.

415 Environmental Systems Modeling (ENEC 415, GEOL 415) (3). See ENEC 415 for description.

430 Coastal Sedimentary Environments (GEOL 430) (3). See GEOL 430 for description.

431 Micropaleontology (GEOL 431) (4). See GEOL 431 for description.

432 Major Rivers and Global Change: Mountains to the Sea (3). What are the linkages between rivers and global change? This course examines the hydrological, geological, and biogeochemical processes that control material flux from land to the oceans via rivers.

433 Wetland Hydrology (ENEC 433) (3). Study of wetland ecosystems with particular emphasis on hydrological functioning, the transition from terrestrial to aquatic systems, wetlands as filtration systems, and exchange between wetlands and other environments.

440 Marine Ecology (BIOL 462) (3). See BIOL 462 for description.

441 Marine Physiological Ecology (3). This course introduces students to the physiological, morphological, and behavioral factors employed by marine organisms to cope with their physical environment. Emphasis will be placed on the response of marine organisms to environmental factors such as seawater temperature, light, water salinity, ocean acidification, etc.

442 Marine Biology (BIOL 457) (3). Recommended preparation, BIOL 201 or 475. A survey of plants and animals that live in the sea: characteristics of marine habitats, organisms, and the ecosystems will be emphasized. Marine environment, the organisms involved, and the ecological systems that sustain them.

443 Marine Microbiology (3). Restricted to junior or senior science majors or graduate students, with permission of the instructor. Seminar class focuses on the primary research literature. Physiology of marine microorganisms, microbial diversity and ecology of the marine environment, biogeochemical processes catalyzed by marine microorganisms.

444 Marine Phytoplankton (ENEC 444, BIOL 456) (3). Permission of the instructor. For junior and senior science majors or graduate students. Biology of marine photosynthetic protists and cyanobacteria. Phytoplankton evolution, biodiversity, structure, function, biogeochemical cycles and genomics. Harmful algal blooms, commercial products, and climate change. Three lecture/practical session hours per week.

445 Marine Invertebrate Biology (BIOL 475) (4). See BIOL 475 for description.

446 Marine Microbial Symbioses: Exploring How Microbial Interactions Affect Ecosystems and Human Health (3). Course material covers host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions found in marine ecosystems, including beneficial and parasitic relationships among viruses, microbes, marine animals, and humans. Limited to upper-level undergraduate science majors and graduate students.

448 Coastal and Estuarine Ecology (ENEC 448) (4). See ENEC 448 for description

450 Biogeochemical Processes (ENEC 450, GEOL 450) (4). See ENEC 450 for description.

460 Fluid Dynamics of the Environment (3). Prerequisite, MATH 232. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Principles and applications of fluid dynamics to flows of air and water in the natural environment. Conservation of momentum, mass, and energy applied to lakes, rivers, estuaries, and the coastal ocean. Dimensional analysis and scaling emphasized to promote problem-solving skills.

470 Estuarine and Coastal Marine Science (4). For graduate students; undergraduate students should take ENEC 222 or have permission of the instructor. Introduction to estuarine environments: geomorphology, physical circulation, nutrient loading, primary and secondary production, carbon and nitrogen cycling, benthic processes and sedimentation. Considers human impacts on coastal systems, emphasizing North Carolina estuaries. Three lecture hours and one recitation hour per week.

471 Human Impacts on Estuarine Ecosystems (ENEC 471) (4). See ENEC 471 for description.

472 Barrier Island Ecology and Geology (6). Recommended preparation, one introductory geology course. An integration of barrier island plant and animal ecology within the context of physical processes and geomorphological change. Emphasis on management and impact of human interference with natural processes.

480 Modeling of Marine and Earth Systems (ENVR 480) (3). See ENVR 480 for description.

483 Geologic and Oceanographic Applications of Geographical Information Systems (GEOL 483) (4). See GEOL 483 for description.

490 Special Topics in Marine Sciences for Undergraduates and Graduates (1–3). Directed readings, laboratory, and/or field study of marine science topics not covered in scheduled courses.

503 Marine Geology (GEOL 503) (4). For graduate students; undergraduates need permission of the instructor. Investigates formation of ocean basins, coastal and fluvial processes, sediment transport, plate tectonics, petrography of marine rocks, evolution of ocean chemistry, oceanic biogeochemical cycles, application of geochemical proxies in paleoceanographic reconstructions, macroevolutionary patterns of marine biota, and global oceanic change. Mandatory weekend fieldtrip.

504 Biological Oceanography (BIOL 657, ENVR 520) (4). For graduate students; undergraduates need permission of the instructor. Marine ecosystem processes pertaining to the structure, function, and ecological interactions of biological communities; management of biological resources; taxonomy and natural history of pelagic and benthic marine organisms. Three lecture and one recitation hours per week. Two mandatory weekend fieldtrips.

505 Chemical Oceanography (ENVR 505, GEOL 505) (4). Graduate students only; undergraduates must have permission of the instructor. Overview of chemical processes in the ocean. Topics include physical chemistry of seawater, major element cycles, hydrothermal vents, geochemical tracers, air-sea gas exchange, particle transport, sedimentary processes, and marine organic geochemistry. Three lecture and two recitation hours per week.

506 Physical Oceanography (GEOL 506) (4). For graduate students; undergraduates need permission of the instructor. Descriptive oceanography, large-scale wind-driven and thermohaline circulations, ocean dynamics, regional and nearshore/estuarine physical processes, waves, tides. Three lecture and one recitation hour per week.

550 Biogeochemical Cycling (GEOL 550) (3). Recommended preparation, four ENVR, GEOL, or MASC courses above 400. This course explores interfaces of marine, aquatic, atmospheric, and geological sciences emphasizing processes controlling chemical distributions in sediments, fresh and salt water, the atmosphere, and fluxes among these reservoirs.

552 Organic Geochemistry (ENVR 552) (3). See ENVR 552for description.

553 Geochemistry (GEOL 512) (3). See GEOL 512 for description.

560 Fluid Dynamics (ENVR 452, GEOL 560, PHYS 660) (3). Prerequisite, PHYS 301. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. The physical properties of fluids, kinematics, governing equations, viscous incompressible flow, vorticity dynamics, boundary layers, irrotational incompressible flow.

561 Time Series and Spatial Data Analysis (3). Prerequisite, MATH 233. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Three components: statistics and probability, time series analysis, and spatial data analysis. Harmonic analysis, nonparametric spectral estimation, filtering, objective analysis, empirical orthogonal functions.

562 Turbulent Boundary Layers (3). Prerequisite, MASC 506 or 560. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Turbulence and transport in near-bottom boundary regions. Turbulence and mixing theory in boundary layers. Field deployment and recovery of turbulence measuring instruments. Data analysis from turbulence measurements.

563 Descriptive Physical Oceanography (GEOL 563) (3). Prerequisite, MASC 506. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Observed structure of the large-scale and mesoscale ocean circulation and its variability, based on modern observations. In-situ and remote sensing techniques, hydrographic structure, circulation patterns, ocean-atmosphere interactions.

Courses for Graduate Students


705 How to Give a Seminar (1). Discussion of methods and strategies for giving effective technical presentations. Topics will include seminar structure, use of visual aids, personal and professional presentation, and responding to questions.

706 Student Interdisciplinary Seminar (1). Prerequisite, MASC 705. Marine Sciences graduate students will prepare and present a seminar on an interdisciplinary topic from contemporary research in marine systems.

741 Seminar in Marine Biology (2). Discussion of selected literature in the field of marine biology, ecology, and evolution.

742 Molecular Population Biology (BIOL 758) (4). Prerequisite, BIOL 471. Permission of the instructor. Hands-on training, experience, and discussion of the application of molecular genetic tools to questions of ecology, evolution, systematics, and conservation.

750 Modeling Diagenetic Processes (3). Prerequisite, MASC 480. Permission of the instructor. An introduction to the theory and application of modeling biogeochemical processes in sediments. Diagenetic theory, numerical techniques, and examples of recently developed sediment models. Three lecture hours a week.

761 Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (3). Prerequisite, MASC 560 or MATH 528. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Momentum equations in a rotating reference frame, vorticity, potential vorticity, circulation, the shallow water model, Rossby and Kelvin waves, the Ekman layer. Three lecture hours a week.

762 Ocean Circulation Theory (3). Prerequisite, MASC 506 or 560, or MATH 529, Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Theories, models of large-scale dynamics of ocean circulation. Potential vorticity, quasi-geostrophy, instabilities.

763 Coastal Circulation (3). Prerequisite, MASC 506 or 560, or MATH 529. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Dynamics of the coastal ocean. Shallow water equations, boundary layer and long wave theory, wind driven circulation, fronts, estuaries.

764 Ocean Circulation Modeling (3). Prerequisite, MASC 506 or MATH 529. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Computational methods used in modeling oceanic circulation. Numerical solution of equations governing mass, momentum, and energy equations.

765 Small-Scale Physics of the Ocean (3). Prerequisites, MASC 506 and 560. Physics of sub-mesoscale processes in the ocean. Nonequilibrium thermodynamics. Air-sea interaction. Mixing in the ocean boundary layer, convection, double diffusion. Near-inertial and high frequency internal waves. Three lecture hours a week.

781 Numerical ODE/PDE, I (MATH 761, ENVR 761) (3). See MATH 761 for description.

782 Numerical ODE/PDE, II (MATH 762, ENVR 762) (3). See MATH 762 for description.

783 Mathematical Modeling I (MATH 768, ENVR 763) (3). See MATH 768 for description.

784 Mathematical Modeling II (MATH 769, ENVR 764) (3). See MATH 769 for description.

940 Research in Marine Sciences (2–21).

993 Master's Research and Thesis (3).

994 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (3).