Marine Ecology

Through the analysis of marine ecosystems such as the open ocean, estuaries, salt marshes, sandy beaches, rocky shores, seagrass beds, coral reefs, and deep sea, in this lecture and laboratory course we examine how interactions between marine organisms and their environment and each other influence their distribution, abundance, and diversity. In addition to investigating topics such as reproduction, dispersal and migration of marine organisms, primary production, benthic biodiversity, and fisheries ecology (among others!), we critically review foundational and current peer-reviewed literature and apply ecological principles to current marine environmental issues. This course includes a five-day field trip to the Duke University Marine Lab where students gain hands on experience collecting and analyzing marine ecological data, while doing what marine ecologists do best – getting wet, salty, sandy, and very muddy! Our
laboratory activities emulate the research style of present-day ecologists in that students work collaboratively to conduct their research and report findings.


Principles of Ecology

This lecture and laboratory course introduces students to fundamental concepts and current topics in ecology. Throughout this semester we examine how individuals, populations, and communities interact with each other and their environment. We cover topics including adaptations to the environment, population ecology, species interactions, community ecology, and geographic ecology (among others!), and discuss the application of ecological principles to the study of current environmental issues. Students participate in active, hands-on field laboratory activities to examine the ecology of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater habitats.

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Marine Megafauna

This course introduces students to marine ecology and conservation through the ocean’s largest inhabitants including marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, invertebrates, bony fishes, and sharks. Using marine megafauna examples we examine ocean ecosystems, animal ecophysiology, morphology, and behavior, population dynamics, methodological approaches and technologies for studying marine ecosystems, and marine biodiversity. Through specific marine megafauna case studies we discuss the interdisciplinary nature of marine conservation, and how science and research, societal and cultural values, and law and policy each play a role in marine conservation and management.

Senior Seminar Research Capstone: Biodiversity in the Anthropocene

Observations of rapidly increasing species and ecosystem extinction rates in what has been called the “6th extinction” in the age of humans (the Anthropocene) have resulted in broad public awareness and recognition that biodiversity is an irreplaceable and valuable global asset to both present and future generations. As the conservation and management of biodiversity is a local, national, and international and interdisciplinary challenge, in this senior seminar research capstone course we explore biodiversity through the lenses of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities at multiple spatial scales, from Gettysburg and Chesapeake Bay watershed to the entire globe. We use a variety of materials including scientific articles, scholarly books, non-fiction books, and documentaries and field trips to meet with local organizations tasked with researching, conserving, and managing biodiversity to help frame and inform our seminar discussions. To gain hands-on experience and dig more deeply into the topics discussed during the course, students design and implement a semester-long collaborative research project and present their results in a research capstone paper and presentation.

Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles

This lecture and field/laboratory course is taught in the spring and summer and covers sea turtle evolution, anatomy, physiology, behavior, life history and population dynamics; the class emphasizes the role of sea turtles in marine ecosystem structure and function. Basic ecological concepts are integrated into issues related to the conservation and management of endangered species, the contributions of technology to the study of migratory marine species, and the role of research in national and international law and policy. In the spring during a ten day field excursion to Puerto Rico and St. Croix, undergraduate and masters students are able to interact directly with resource managers, community conservationists, fishermen and other stakeholders and gain first-hand experience with in-water assessment methods. Summer course participants hail from around the globe (through the Duke Global Fellows in Marine Conservation program) and we spend time learning about North Carolina sea turtle biology and conservation through night-time nesting beach surveys, necropsies, a visit to the Sea Turtle Hospital and a class debate on local management issues.

Sound in the Sea: An Introduction to Marine Bioacoustics

This lecture and laboratory course introduces the concepts of marine bioacoustics and the theories and controversies surrounding marine sound. Students gain fundamental understanding of how sounds are generated by natural and anthropogenic sources, how sounds propagate through complex marine environments, and how marine organisms and humans receive, interpret and use sound. In laboratory exercises we learn to use equipment, research techniques and analytical methodologies frequently used in the marine bioacoustics field. The course culminates with case studies and individual research projects focusing on current topics in marine sound. Students use what they’ve learned throughout the semester to analyze their research topic and make recommendations for the conservation and management of marine organisms and their acoustic environments.