The 2016 Marine Conservation Summer Institute immerses students in the world of marine conservation biology and policy, giving them the tools they need to address and understand the issues of conserving marine biodiversity in the context of 21st Century society and the ‘anthropocene’ epoch. The Institute is set in the vibrant educational and research setting of the Duke University Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, North Carolina. Information about the 2016 course instructors will be announced soon.

Dr. Doug Nowacek is an Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Technology in the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School of Engineering and he also serves as the director of the Marine Conservation Summer Institute.  His research focuses on the link between acoustic and motor behavior in marine mammals, primarily cetaceans and manatees, specifically, how they use sound in ecological processes. He is specifically interested in the use of echolocation and foraging behavior in one of the odontocetes, the bottlenose dolphin. Another focus of his current research is the effect(s) of anthropogenic noise on marine animals.  Nowacek works on the effects of anthropogenic noise at local, regional and global scales, and this work is a prime conservation concern for him.  He has been educating students on the biology, ecology and bioacoustics of marine mammals for over 15 years, and as the Director of the MCSI he hopes to bring this experience to aid in building capacity for marine conservation.
Dr. Lesley ThorneDr. Lesley Thorne is an Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. Dr. Thorne’s research interests focus on understanding the environmental factors that underlie the ecology, habitat use and conservation issues facing different marine predators. In particular, much of Dr. Thorne’s work applies spatial analysis and landscape ecology techniques to examine how oceanographic and bathymetric features influence the habitat use of marine predators. Most recently, she used predictive habitat modeling to assess and quantify the environmental and bathymetric factors that define suitable resting habitat for spinner dolphins in Hawaii. This information was then used to generate predictive spatial habitat maps in order to indicate areas where future survey efforts should be focused and to highlight potential areas of conflict with human activities. Dr. Thorne is currently working on habitat modeling studies that use satellite images and boat-based survey data to investigate how seabirds, whales and dolphins in the South Atlantic Bight use the Gulf Stream and associated fronts and eddies to forage. She is also interested in long-term projects that can be used to document how previous populations of marine predators have responded to ecological change, and how we can use this knowledge to inform and predict future change. Examples include a collaborative study examining how oceanographic change has influenced the habitat use and reproductive success of North Pacific albatrosses over a 30-year period, and a long-term study investigating changes in the diet of loggerhead sea turtles over the last 15 years in relation to broad-scale ecological change. 
morris1Dr. James Morris is an ecologist in the NCCOS Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort, North Carolina who  conducts primary research on invasive species, aquaculture, and other issues that affect coastal ecosystems.
Read1Dr. Read’s research interests are in the conservation biology of long-lived marine vertebrates, particularly marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles. Much of his current research documents the effects of human activities on populations of these species and attempts to find solutions to such conflicts. This work involves field work, experimentation and modeling. He is particularly interested in the development and application of new conservation tools.
Steve RoadySteve Roady is an attorney with Earthjustice (formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), where he works on ocean conservation, ecosystem protection, and other environmental issues. A 1976 Duke Law School graduate, he has been closely involved with ocean issues since 1998, when he joined Earthjustice as the director of the Ocean Law Project (OLP). At OLP, he led a team of lawyers working to protect United States ocean resources in cases arising under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act. During 2001 and 2002, Roady served as the first president of Oceana, a non-profit, international ocean conservation organization dedicated to protecting life in the sea through education, advocacy, communications, science, and litigation. During 1989 and 1990, he served as legal advisor to U.S. Senator John H. Chafee (R.-R.I.) on a wide range of environmental issues, including coastal protection and water quality initiatives. He has served as a visiting professor of ocean and coastal law at the University of Hawaii, and as a senior lecturing fellow in environmental litigation at Duke Law School. Harvard Law School named him a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow for 2007-2008.
Wendy Dow PiniakDr. Wendy Dow Piniak is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies department at Gettysburg College. Dr. Dow Piniak completed a PhD in Marine Science and Conservation in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Her research interests lie in marine conservation ecology and the use of sensory ecology research to generate solutions to conservation questions and problems. Her dissertation research focused on the auditory physiology of sea turtles and the potential impacts of marine sound on their physiology and behavior.

Prior to her doctoral studies Dr. Dow Piniak worked for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network as a Research Scientist, where she developed a digital atlas of sea turtle nesting habitat for the Wider Caribbean Region for use by regional and global managers, researchers and conservationists (available online at OBIS-SEAMAP). Dr. Dow Piniak obtained a Masters of Environmental Management (Coastal Environmental Management focus) from Duke University. Her Master’s research focused on the spatial distributions of harbor and gray seals in the Gulf of Maine.

Dr. Dow Piniak completed the Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship (National Sea Grant College Program Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship) in the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources.

Matthew GodfreyDr. Matthew Godfrey is the Sea Turtle Biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Dr. Godfrey is an adjunct Assistant Professor & has taught Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation for nearly 10 years at the Duke University Marine Lab. [more coming soon]
Dave JDr. Dave Johnston is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation & Ecology at the Duke University Marine Laboratory in the Marine Science and Conservation Division of the Nicholas School of the Environment. My research focuses on the foraging ecology and habitat needs of marine animals in relation to pressing conservation issues.  Dr. Johnston has active projects in the following areas: population assessments and foraging ecology of marine vertebrates, the design and utility of marine protected areas; the effects of climate variability and global change on marine animals and the sustainability of incidental mortality and directed harvests of marine animals. Dr. Johnston is also involved in projects addressing the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals and the suitable application of new technological approaches to marine ecology and conservation.
Dr. Mike Kingston is the Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies and Chair of the IMG_1556Department of Environmental Studies at Elon University. Over the last 20 years, Dr. Kingston’s research interests have centered on the evolutionary ecology of benthic marine and freshwater microalgae with a focus on the genus Euglena.  He has conducted field research in California, Oregon, and Alaska as well as North Carolina.  Undergraduate students have served as co-investigators and coauthors on some of these projects.

In addition to his position as a Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Dr. Kingston serves as the Interim Chair of the Environmental Studies Department and Curator of the Elon University Roger Barbour Collection of wildlife images.  He served as the Biology Department Chair from 2002-2006 and the Environmental Studies Interim Chair from 2009-2011.  He has taught a variety of courses on the following topics:  population biology, aquatic biology, field biology in Jamaica, field biology in Belize, biostatistics, environmental issues of Southeast Asia, and ecological research.  Dr. Kingston has taught Marine Ecology and Marine Invertebrate Zoology at the Duke University Marine Laboratory for many years.

History of MCSI

The Duke University Marine Lab has provided summer courses to emerging environmental professionals for over 70 years.  In the last two decades, the organization has placed an emphasis on engaging scholars and professionals on an international scale with the institution of the Global Fellows program.  The Marine Conservation Summer Institute is the latest step in the Duke Marine Lab’s efforts to prepare tomorrow’s marine conservation leaders by providing cutting-edge programs and resources.


The Marine Conservation Summer Institute is made possible by the generosity of our funders and by the dedicated efforts of many faculty and staff around the Duke Marine Lab.  It took a collaborative effort to bring this program into fruition; in particular, we would like to thank Doug Nowacek, Cindy Van Dover, Xavier Basurto, James Kraska, James Morris, Steve Roady, Andy Read, Dave Johnston, Katie Wood, Rachel Lo Piccolo, Nichola Clark, Leslie Acton, Courtney Pickett, and Daniel Dunn for contributing so much of their time and talents to ensuring that this Institute is of the highest quality.  Thank you!

2014  Student Feedback

Had such a wonderful time!  Thank you so much for all that went into making this such an amazing experience for everyone. 

The faculty members and TAs are excellent, knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. They could support whatever we needed. Overall, they did a great job 🙂

Overall, the course exceeded my expectations. Brilliant academic input and hands-on experience. I liked the way the courses were structured, and lined up and the fact that we contributed to solve real-world conservation issues. The office hours were really useful and the effort of the TAs to bring out the best in us is much appreciated.

The faculty were very engaging, enthusiastic, and overall brilliant.  The TA’s were immensely helpful.  As a whole, I appreciated how accessible everyone was–faculty and staff.

An incredible opportunity made possible through incredible people.

The distinguished faculty, competent staff, and impressive curriculum exceeded my expectations. DUML’s warm and collaborative environment was a welcome change from that of my host institution. The community (yet competitive) atmosphere makes a difference – academically and emotionally. I feel honored to have been a part of such an impressive program. Many thanks to ALL of those involved in the planning and execution. The contributions of the support staff did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.    

Brian JohnsonAbout