The Institute for Coastal Science and Policy

The wide array of marine environments along the North Carolina coastline are ideal for the interdisciplinary ICSP.

This diversity of thought helps the institute decipher the complex interactions between human behavior and the coastal environment and its resources. The research of these scientists is funded by a variety of sources, including the National Science Foundation, Carnegie-Mellon, Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NC Sea Grant, the Office of Naval Research, Potash Corp, and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The PhD program in Coastal Resources Management graduated 23 students in its first 10 years. The program emphasizes the links between coastal science and policy through an integrated, interdisciplinary program of research and education in the social and natural sciences. It prepares students for resource-focused careers in government service, private and nonprofit organizations, and university research and teaching. Students in the program take core curriculum classes, and also focus on one of three main areas of emphasis: coastal ecology, coastal geosciences, and social science and policy.

“The institute hopes to be able to nurture an appropriate research environment and to provide service to the coast through that research and—of course—through education,” said ICSP director, Dr. John Rummel.

PhD student Jennifer Cudney implants a dogfish with a tag, which may be found later by a fisherman, who will return it with the location of the catch.

A former US Naval officer and senior scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC, Rummel has spent his career studying the relationship between life and its environment. An ecologist by training, he is leading the institute in its study of the interconnectivity of life through the diverse array of disciplines serviced by the institute.

Research in the institute concentrates on four main areas and their interrelationships: coastal ecology, coastal geoscience, social science, and public policy.


Coastal ecology focuses on near-shore and estuarine ecological interactions important for living-marine resources and environmental quality.

“We do a lot of interesting fisheries research, from looking at the ecological impact of these water resources, to basic population biology of fish to a study of catch-and-release methods,” said Rummel.

Other institute research includes passive and active acoustic surveys of fishes. The institute operates an auditory fence at two inlets, which is used to monitor for audio fish tags. The fence can tell when a particular tag is passing a particular station. According to Rummel, fish that have been tagged near the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds have been found as far away as Iceland, while some make regular runs to the New England states in the summer.


Coastal geoscience emphasizes coastal processes, geomorphology, climatology, and hydrology as they affect the use and development of watersheds, the coastal plain, barrier islands, and aquatic systems. Just as coastal ecology is the field of science for studying what is happening now in the coastal areas of North Carolina, coastal geoscience is how scientists discover what happened in the past.

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