Each fall for more than a decade, undergraduates have relocated to the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) and UNC Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) to participate in the field sites in Morehead City and Wanchese, NC. Among the five classes at each field site is ENEC 698, a Capstone course in which students design, conduct, and present an original research project targeted toward a significant coastal issue. Capstone projects at the coastal field sites prepare students through an immersive experience in field and laboratory research. Faculty at the sites conceive and facilitate the Capstones, which are enhanced by ongoing extramural research at the institutes.
Like the many other ENEC 698 capstone sections offered every semester on campus in Chapel Hill, these coastal capstones provide students experience working with a client on a real-world problem. Students in Environment and Ecology capstones are responsible for addressing objectives determined by a client’s needs and learning to work collaboratively with each other. Through this process, they develop team-building and project management skills. Each member of the group identifies their core strengths and uses those talents to enhance the final product.
The Fall 2014 coastal capstones represent a new and exciting direction for student learning opportunities. IMS and CSI developed collaborative capstones that brought together students from the natural and social sciences to address an issue facing coastal North Carolina fisheres – that is eastern oysters. IMS students compared the function and value of oyster reefs located in areas opened and closed to shellfishing, while the CSI group evaluated the economic and ecological benefits and costs of oyster aquaculture. Students spent months doing research including field assessments of the role that the natural and cultured oysters play in the coastal ecosystem
As part of this innovative joint capstone project, students and faculty recently participated in the first Coastal Capstone Retreat. The capstone faculty leaders, Mike Piehler (IMS/CSI/CEE), Lindsay Dubbs (CSI/UNC-CH) and Andy Keeler (CSI/ECU), developed the concept of the retreat and joint projects to engage students in science and policy with the help of Adam Gibson (CSI), Alyson Lewis (ECU) and Kathleen Onorevole (IMS). Pocosin Arts Center in Plymouth, NC hosted the first day, where the group discussed valuation of non-market goods and the social science components of their respective Capstone components. The second day of the retreat was held at UNC Coastal Studies Institute where they focused on discussion of the natural science components of their Capstones. This joint session allowed students at the two sites to learn from each other’s experiences and share expertise.
Each student group will present their final project results, at their respective coastal institutes in early December.
UNC IMS Capstone presentation – 10:30am on December 4th
UNC CSI Capstone presentation – 2pm on December 11th