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Marine Sciences Research

To explore the dynamics of our global oceans — past and present — the department offers research programs across the breadth of the marine sciences.

Bonaire Night Dive

We have specialization and research programs in the four fundamental disciplines of oceanography (physical, chemical, biological and geological), as well as in the emerging area of marine meteorology.

NC State is also a member of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, an association based in Washington, D.C, whose members represent the nucleus of U.S. research and education in ocean science.

The following are some of the topics addressed by our research, with relevant faculty links.

Benthic Studies

Biogeochemical cycles in continental margins; transport of carbon and related elements from terrestrial watersheds to the marine environment; biogenic methane production and transport; stable and radioisotope studies; animal-sediment interactions; sediment transport; benthic ecology.

Faculty: Chris Osburn, Dave Eggleston, Lonnie Leithold, Bill Showers

Coastal Ocean Initiatives

Air-sea interactions and their role in dictating coastal ocean circulation patterns and coastal weather fronts between cold-air outbreaks and larval fish recruitment; upwelling systems forced by Gulf Stream fronts; relationships between water-column chemistry and benthic habitats of shallow carbonate depositional regimes; physical, geological and geochemical investigations of some of the world’s largest dispersal systems; phytoplankton behavior and physiology in the upper ocean; larval behavior, transport and recruitment; coastal upwelling systems; surface and bottom boundary layer dynamics, shelf-break frontal dynamics and exchanges processes; tides; design and implementation of coastal ocean observing system and data assimilative ocean models.

Faculty: Lian Xie, Ruoying He

Estuarine and Coastal Processes

Determining the effects of multiple stressors on marine ecosystems; testing landscape ecological theory in seascapes; fisheries stock assessment and enhancement; experimental evaluation of marine protected areas; behavioral ecology; predator-prey interactions in estuaries using behavioral biotelemetry; chemical modeling of carbon diagenesis in coastal wetlands and shallow marine ecosystems; 3-D models of estuarine and coastal circulation; shallow and finite depth wind-wave generation; tidal-inlet dynamics; sea-level change and its impact on coastal processes or environs; physiological ecology of estuarine and terrestrial crustaceans; transport and settlement of planktonic larvae; recruitment dynamics of temperate and tropical fish and invertebrates; estuarine and coastal hydrodynamics and nutrient dynamics, sediment transport, and related depositional regimes; intertidal and shallow subtidal ecosystem dynamics.

Faculty: Ryan Paerl, Dave Eggleston, Ruoying He, Astrid Schnetzer

Global Biogeochemical Cycles of Carbon and Silica

Animal-sediment interactions; benthic food webs; methane production; diagenetic transformations of organic carbon.

Faculty: Ryan Paerl, Carrie Thomas, Chris OsburnAstrid Schnetzer

Harmful Algal Blooms

Field, laboratory and modeling studies of toxic dinoflagellates including Karenia brevis in the Gulf of Mexico and Alexandrium fundyense in the Gulf of Maine; field effort includes deployment of behaving mimics; laboratory effort uses 65 gal mesocosms; modeling effort uses individual-based as well as 3-D coupled biophysical modeling approaches.

Faculty: Ryan Paerl, Ruoying HeAstrid Schnetzer

Marine Ecology and Conservation Program (MarECo)

Ecological research in marine ecosystems that addresses both basic ecological theory and important management issues so that results can be applied to conservation and sustainable resource use; educational outreach activities that promote scientific literacy, provide hands-on examples of the scientific method, and promote conservation of marine resources and ecosystems.

Faculty: Dave Eggleston 

Marine Geophysics and Underwater Acoustics

Mapping of the seafloor and shallow subsurface using active source acoustic methods within the coastal ocean and mid-ocean ridge environments; passive underwater acoustic studies with applications to marine seismology, ocean noise and explosion monitoring.

Faculty: Del Bohnenstiehl, Paul Liu


Cenozoic climate change; carbon and oxygen stable-isotope stratigraphy, phoshogenesis and related authigenic mineralization associated with ancient upwelling systems.

Faculty: Bill Showers

Riverine/Estuarine Nutrient Dynamics

Faculty: Ryan Paerl, Bill Showers

Sea-Level Change, Land-Ocean Interactions

Late Quaternary sea-level changes and their paleo-climatic and paleo-environmental implications; flux and fate of river-derived sediment in the marginal sea; riverine sediment dispersal, transport and accumulation in different continental margin environments, in particular those deltaic and clinoform deposits from the large rivers.

Faculty: Carli Arendt, Paul Liu, Lonnie Leithold

Watershed, Estuarine and Coastal Waters Modeling

Assessment of land use, sediment budget, total maximum daily load (TMDL), water quality, ecosystem, coastal erosion, and barrier islands protection and development.

Faculty: Paul Liu

Galapagos Oceanography

Hydrographic, optical and biological characterization of the waters throughout the archipelago; modeling studies of the currents and water mass influences on the archipelago.

Faculty: Lian Xie