Graduate Opportunities

There are opportunities for two types of graduate study in marine conservation ecology at Duke. The first is a Ph.D. program, in either the Division of Marine Science and Conservation or in the University Program in Ecology.  The second is the professional Master’s program in Coastal Environmental Management, in the Nicholas School of the Environment. The distinction between the two degrees is very important. The CEM program is designed to train young professionals for a career in management and conservation.  It is not a traditional MS degree.  The Ph.D. program is designed to train students for careers in science, typically in academia or a governmental science agency.

It is important to contact potential faculty advisors prior to applying to any graduate program, so if you are interested in joining our lab, please drop me an e-mail.

The members of the Nowacek lab, past and present, come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Together we celebrate our differences and embrace their power to drive our science forward. We’re committed to cultivating and maintaining a culture of inclusion and equity where everyone can thrive. The lab welcomes all applicants interested in bioacoustics & engineering and related marine mammal conservation fields and admits students regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality, color, culture, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, age, languages spoken, religion, veteran status, disability, beliefs, lifestyle, or socioeconomic or educational background.

Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program requires completion of a dissertation containing the results of original and substantive research. Typically, graduate students spend several years conducting field or laboratory work after completion of courses and successful defense of their preliminary examinations. All Ph.D. students are supported by an external fellowship, a Research Assistantship, or Teaching Assistantship, all of which provide an annual stipend and benefits. There are usually about five Ph.D. students in the lab at any time, so the number of new Ph.D. students entering the lab each year is low (typically one or two) and competition for space is very keen.  I am fortunate to be able to be very selective about the students joining the lab.

I look for prospective Ph.D. students who have demonstrated an aptitude for and commitment to conservation and research. Almost all of my past Ph.D. students completed Master’s degrees before entering the Ph.D. program; I rarely accept a student without some training at the graduate level. I look for mature students who already have a clear idea of their research and conservation interests when they enter the program. Finally, I am interested in students whose interests, skills and outlook mesh well with our existing program in marine conservation ecology. I will expect you to work hard, be devoted to research, committed to making a difference in conservation and to have fun.  I will also expect you to be a good lab citizen.  We have a very collaborative and supportive lab group which provides many opportunities for teaching, conservation and field work outside your dissertation research.

Applications to both Ph.D. programs are administered through the Duke Graduate School.  The application is fully electronic and the deadline is December 8th.  As noted above, if you are interested, please send me an e-mail outlining your research and conservation interests and a statement of future career goals.  A resume and summary of academic history are also helpful.

Masters Degree in Coastal Environmental Management

The Coastal Environmental Management (CEM) Master’s program provides a rigorous academic and practical training in the coastal environment and in the nature of human activities and policies that affect it. The program is designed to train graduate students for professional careers in management, policy, research or advocacy. CEM students spend the first year of the program on main campus in Durham taking courses in ecology, economics, policy and analytical techniques. The second year is spent at the Marine Laboratory in Beaufort taking additional courses and working on a Master’s Project. The summer between the first and second year provides an opportunity for focused research or internships in a particular area of interest that leads to development of the Master’s Project.

There are usually two or three second-year CEM students working in my laboratory at any particular time. These students work on a wide variety of Master’s Projects, mostly involving issues surrounding the  conservation of sea turtles, seabirds and marine mammals. There are new opportunities for entrance into the CEM program each year, but we always have more qualified applicants than openings.

Applications are made through the Nicholas School of the Environment and the deadline is February 1st.