Estuarine Ecology & Human Health

The estuaries of Northeastern North Carolina are a valuable natural and economic resource. Tourists and residents are drawn to their natural beauty and recreational value while the fishing community rely on their bounty for economic prosperity. The natural variables that once dominated and shaped our estuarine systems are now matched by the increasing pressures of coastal development and human derived impacts. It is the goal of this program area to improve our understanding of estuarine function and its relationship to human activities while providing valuable data and information to decision makers, educators and the public to answer the pressing issues and questions of the region.

Estuarine Ecology & Human Health Research

Ocean Outfall Stormwater Monitoring

stormwater_ocean_outfallThis project is designed to investigate the key microbial pollutants found within stormwater found in Dare County’s nine ocean outfalls. In addition, UNC-CSI scientists are working to identify the concentrations and likely sources of these microorganisms while providing measures of patterns of loading within the outfall systems in both storm and ambient conditions. A second phase of the project will look at alleviating some of these impacts though best management practices that help reduce the sources of pollution.

Sustainable Estuarine Shoreline Stabilization

Bulkheads are a common shoreline stabilzation method. This project examines the ecosystem structure and function associated with bulkheaded shorelines. In addition, the project will assess ecosystem impacts of alternative shoreline stabilization approaches such as offshore stone sills, oyster reefs and salt marshes. The data from this project will provide us with a better understanding of the problems and challenges associated with estuarine shoreline erosion and stabilization.

Albemarle/Pamlico Coastal Lake Research

UNC-CSI researchers have been studying many of the lakes found within the Albemarle/Pamlico lake system. Sediment cores are used by UNC-CSI scientists to gain insight into lake formation and history while nutrient bioassays and plankton sampling allow researchers to understand the function of these current systems. The data gained from this research can be used to assist in the management of these fragile natural resources.

For more information on the Coastal Studies Institute’s Estuarine Ecology and Human Health research programs, contact Dr. Michael Piehler

Program Head, Estuarine Ecology & Human Health

Piehler_250Dr. Michael Piehler

Program Head, Estuarine Ecology & Human Health

Dr. Piehler’s research focuses on microorganisms and microbially mediated processes in coastal land-water interfaces (particularly wetlands) and near-shore waters. He has conducted work on a broad range of microbial systems including microphytobenthic communities, epiphytic microalgae, benthic bacterial communities, bacterioplankton, and phytoplankton.

For more information on Dr. Michael Piehler, click HERE.
For a selected list of his publications, click HERE.
or a link to his lab webpage, click HERE.

Latest News
  • Dr. Michael Piehler Named Interim Executive Director of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute

    Effective July 1, 2017, Dr. Michael Piehler assumed the role of Interim Executive Director of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute (UNC CSI).  Dr. Piehler has been an integral part of the growth and success of UNC CSI, serving as the Program Head for the Estuarine Ecology and Human Health research program since 2004.  Dr. Piehler …Read More

  • Science on the Sound Lecture on Oyster Reef Research Archive Video

    On December 12, 2016, The UNC Coastal Studies Institute (UNC CSI) hosted a lecture on oyster reef function research as part of its “Science on the Sound” lecture series. This series, held monthly, highlights research on coastal topics and issues in northeast North Carolina. This month, the program featured Dr. Michael Piehler, UNC CSI Estuarine …Read More

  • Black Bears, Red Wolves, and Coyotes: Predators of the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula

    Each year the Coastal Studies Institute hosts students from UNC’s Institute for the Environment program to participate in the Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS).  In addition to classes and field work held at CSI and in the surrounding region, students are required to complete a capstone research project that pertains to current issues of the …Read More

  • In Search of Sargassum and Sea Turtles

    Researchers from the UNC Coastal Studies Institute (UNC CSI) and National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center (NMFS SEFSC) NOAA Laboratory in Beaufort, NC embarked on a one-day cruise to the Gulf Stream offshore of Cape Hatteras, NC as part of a project to better understand the ecology of the Gulf Stream. Sargassum is …Read More

  • Nature-based infrastructure research featured on NPR

    NC Sea Grant recently funded a group led by Estuarine Ecology and Human Health Program head Mike Piehler to conduct research and educational activities in Wilson Bay, near Jacksonville, NC.  Partners include the City of Jacksonville, NOAA, and the NC Sentinel Site Cooperative.  Listen to and read about the project here .