Department of Marine Sciences

3202 Venable and Murray Halls, CB# 3300; (919) 962-1252



The Department of Marine Sciences provides instruction and conducts research in biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography. Although it emphasizes graduate training, the department offers basic coursework, opportunities for supervised practical experience, and an academic minor to all advanced undergraduates. The minor is designed to allow students access to departmental courses, facilities, and advisors in order to develop marine specializations related to their majors and to prepare for postgraduate study in marine sciences or a related field. Introductory courses are also offered for all undergraduates who are interested in marine sciences.

Marine Sciences Minor

To fulfill the requirements for the marine sciences minor, a student should take four courses, as follows:


The director of undergraduate studies advises students on selecting appropriate coursework in marine sciences, reviews progress toward completion of the minor, and assists in approving equivalent courses. All current and prospective minors are strongly encouraged to meet with the director of undergraduate studies prior to declaring their minor.

Special Opportunities in Marine Sciences

Undergraduate Research

The department offers opportunities to undergraduates to conduct directed research in our laboratories. Students work directly with faculty members and may enroll for credit as part of an honors or research project. The liaison for undergraduate research provides information about research opportunities in marine sciences, and assists undergraduates in finding a faculty advisor/research group that matches their interests.

Experiential Education

There are three opportunities for experiential education in the Department of Marine Sciences:

MASC 220 North Carolina Estuaries: Environmental Processes and Problems is taught during Maymester at the main campus with one week at the UNC–Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, NC.

MASC 395 Undergraduate Research in Marine Sciences can be taken with the permission of a faculty advisor.

MASC 472 Barrier Island Ecology and Geology is taught at the UNC–Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, NC, during the summer session and provides an experience in the field.


Research laboratories are equipped for general studies in marine sciences and special research interests of faculty and students. The Institute of Marine Sciences, located in Morehead City, NC, houses laboratory buildings with dock and ocean access. The Institute operates a modern 48-foot coastal vessel, the R.V. Capricorn, and a fleet of outboard-powered boats.

Graduate School and Career Opportunities

The director of undergraduate studies advises students on graduate school and/or career opportunities in marine sciences.


Distinguished Professors

Richard A. Luettich, Christopher S. Martens, Brent A. McKee, Hans W. Paerl, Charles H. Peterson.


Carol Arnosti, John M. Bane Jr., Larry K. Benninger, Jaye E. Cable, Niels Lindquist, Rachel Noble, Harvey Seim, Andreas Teske.

Associate Professors

Marc J. Alperin, Michael Piehler, Antonio Rodriguez, Alberto Scotti, Brian L. White.

Assistant Professors

Karl Castillo, F. Joel Fodrie, Scott Gifford, Adrian Marchetti, Alicia Septer.

Research Associate Professor

Stephen Fegley.

Research Assistant Professors

Barbara MacGregor, Johanna Rosman.

Adjunct Professors

Frederick Bingham (UNC–Wilmington), Jeffry Hanson (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility, Duck, NC), Samantha Joye (University of Georgia), R. Wayne Litaker (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Lab, Beaufort, NC), Kenneth J. Lohmann (Biology), Stephen A. Skrabal (UNC–Wilmington), Patricia Tester (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Lab, Beaufort, NC), Joan D. Willey (UNC–Wilmington).

Professors Emeriti

Dan Albert, Brigitte Kohlmeyer, Jan J. Kohlmeyer, A. Conrad Neumann.

Contact Information

Professor Marc Alperin, Director of Undergraduate Studies,

Violet Anderson, Student Services Manager,, (919) 962-1270.


MASC–Marine Sciences

MASC 51 First-Year Seminar: Global Warming: Serious Threat or Hot Air? (3). Students will examine evidence that human activity has caused global warming, investigate scientists' ability to predict climate change, and discuss the political and social dimensions of global climate change.

MASC 52 First-Year Seminar: Living with Our Oceans and Atmosphere (3). Modern theories of changing weather, severe weather events, oceanic hazards, interactions between the oceans and atmosphere, and changes that are linked to human activity.

MASC 53 First-Year Seminar: The Ends of the Earth: Polar Oceanography and Exploration (3). What explains the "pull of the poles"? This seminar combines a modern survey of polar oceanography with historical views of early polar explorations, as reported by the explorers themselves.

MASC 55 First-Year Seminar: Change in the Coastal Ocean (3). This course provides an opportunity to explore changes in marine and closely linked terrestrial environments caused by the interactions of fascinating oceanographic processes. Introductory presentations and discussions will focus on published works of active marine scientists who combine disciplinary training with knowledge and skills from other fields.

MASC 57 First-Year Seminar: From "The Sound of Music" to "The Perfect Storm" (MATH 63) (3). Students will develop the conceptual framework necessary to understand waves of any kind, starting from laboratory observations.

MASC 58 First-Year Seminar: Connections to the Sea: Challenges Faced by Using and Living near Coastal Inlets (3). This course explores the natural history of several inlets, impact of human intervention, and political/policy challenges faced; includes several group projects/presentations and a field trip to a coastal inlet.

MASC 59 First-Year Seminar: Extreme Microorganisms: Pushing the Limits of Life on Earth and Beyond (3). We will expand our horizons in biology by learning about some of the most extreme microorganisms on the planet–microorganisms that thrive without oxygen, under high temperatures (for example, in pressurized water above the boiling point), and under chemical stress factors (high sulfide and heavy metal concentrations) that were once thought to be incompatible with life.

MASC 89 First-Year Seminar: Special Topics (3). Special topics course. Content will vary each semester.

MASC 101 The Marine Environment (GEOL 103) (3). Introduction to marine sciences emphasizing physical, chemical, biological, and geological phenomenon in oceanic and coastal environments. Human use of, and impact on, marine resources. (Science majors should take MASC 401.)

MASC 108 Our Energy and Environmental Crises: Challenges and Opportunities (4). Students quantify global depletion of energy resources and accompanying environmental degradation, discovering the profound changes in attitudes and behavior required to adjust to diminished fossil fuels and modified climate.

MASC 190 Special Topics in Marine Sciences (3). An undergraduate seminar course that is designed to be a participatory intellectual adventure on an advanced, emergent, and stimulating topic within a selected discipline in marine sciences.

MASC 220 North Carolina Estuaries: Environmental Processes and Problems (3). Natural processes and human impacts on estuarine systems using the Neuse River estuary as a case study. Course includes one week of intensive field work based at the Institute of Marine Sciences. A student may not receive credit for this course after receiving credit for ENEC 222.

MASC 223 Geology of Beaches and Coasts (GEOL 223) (3). See GEOL 223 for description.

MASC 310 Our Changing Planet: Science, Social Impacts, Solutions (3). An overview of the scientific basis for global warming, current and future impacts on society, options for mitigation and adaptation, and the role of politics and the media.

MASC 312 From the Equator to the Poles: Case Studies in Global Environmental Change (3). Case studies in environmental change, highlighting human and environmental dynamics in terrestrial and marine ecosystems on multiple spatial and temporal scales. Includes active-learning modules, group presentations, writing assignments.

MASC 314 Earth Systems in a Changing World (3). This course presents an integrated view of our planet, how it evolved during the past, why it has changed (and continues to change) and what makes earth a habitable planet.

MASC 390 Special Topics in Marine Sciences (1–4). Special topics in marine sciences for undergraduate students.

MASC 395 Undergraduate Research in Marine Sciences (2–4). Permission of a faculty research director. Directed readings with laboratory study on a selected topic.

MASC 396 Independent Study in Marine Sciences (1–3). Permission of the instructor. Directed readings on a selected topic.

MASC 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.

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

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

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

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

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

MASC 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.

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

MASC 441 Marine Physiological Ecology (ENEC 441) (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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 444 Marine Phytoplankton (ENEC 444) (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.

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

MASC 448 Coastal and Estuarine Ecology (ENEC 448) (4). Prerequisites, CHEM 102 and MATH 231. A field-intensive study of the ecology of marine organisms and their interactions with their environment, including commercially important organisms. Laboratory/recitation/field work is included and contributes two credit hours to the course.

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

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

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

MASC 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.

MASC 480 Modeling of Marine and Earth Systems (ENVR 480, GEOL 480) (3). Prerequisite, MATH 232. Permission of the instructor for students lacking the prerequisite. Mathematical modeling of dynamic systems, linear and nonlinear. The fundamental budget equation. Case studies in modeling transport, biogeochemical processes, population dynamics. Analytical and numerical techniques; chaos theory; fractal geometry.

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

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

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

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

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.

MASC 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.