The rapid growth of the world’s population and an increasing demand for consumable goods and services are depleting natural resources and placing stresses on the environment. At the same time, vibrant economies and social justice bring important qualities of life to the table. This creates a challenge, and opportunity, to build a society that balances environmental quality, economic vitality and social justice.

The Carolina campus is responding to this challenge in a variety of ways. With environmental expertise in literally every discipline on the campus, we were faced with a question: How can we bring together these diverse groups, forming them into an interdisciplinary community, and focus them on the most significant environmental issues?

Our solution is the Institute for the Environment (IE), building on the collaborative spirit of Carolina. Through it, faculty, students and staff from across the campus have joined together to offer multidisciplinary programs in education, research and outreach, while retaining the disciplinary strengths of our College of Arts and Sciences, Kenan-Flagler Business School, Gillings School of Global Public Health, School of Medicine, School of Law, School of Government and School of Media and Journalism. This unique arrangement allows our students and faculty to move smoothly between the participating disciplines, and to adapt quickly to the ever-changing terrain of environmental studies. These schools and their departments are integrated through the Institute, which has three missions:

  1. To act as the “public face” of all environmental programs on the campus, providing information on these programs and a way to celebrate their success and expertise.
  2. To bring these programs together to tackle interdisciplinary environmental problems that lie at the intersection of their interests.
  3. To create new interdisciplinary areas of study, and to bring to campus the resources and expertise needed to tackle these areas.

All of the faculty, students and staff are organized in a number of ways through the activities you will find on this web site. Find more information on:

  • The environmental and clean tech faculty who comprise the environmental community on campus, or who advise that community;
  • The Programs that participate in this environmental community (listed below);
  • Other Environmental Centers, Programs and Institutes (listed below)

Environmental Programs at Carolina

The Carolina campus contains an impressive array of activities in environmental education, research and outreach. These are carried out in the units listed below, organized around three core areas of expertise on the Carolina campus. To learn more about each of the departments or curricula participating, please travel to their web sites through the links provided:

Anthropology, Department of
Applied Physical Sciences, Department of
Biology, Department of
Chemistry, Department of
City and Regional Planning, Department of
Communication Studies, Department of
Environment and Ecology, Curriculum for the
Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Department of
Epidemiology, Department of
Geography, Department of
Geological Sciences, Department of
Gillings School of Global Public Health
Government, School of
Institute of Marine Sciences
International and Area Studies, Curriculum in
Kenan-Flagler Business School
Law, School of
Marine Sciences, Department of
Mathematics, Department of (applied mathematics)
Media and Journalism, School of
Medicine, School of
Physics & Astronomy, Department of
Public Policy, Department of
Toxicology, Curriculum in

Other Environmental Centers, Programs and Institutes on Campus

The campus is home to more than a dozen centers focused on research into fundamental and applied aspects of environmental study. Some of these centers are housed within departments, some are housed within the College of Arts and Sciences or the professional schools, and others are campus-wide collaborations. Most of these integrate research by applying scientific methods to a specific set of environmental problems such as population and development, environmental health, or drinking water. For more information on any of these, contact the center through the links provided.

The Carolina Population Center provides its more than 50 faculty fellows from 16 departments of the university an organizational nexus, technical staff, facilities and resources for the conduct of their population research, and for research training of graduate students and post-docs. The Center’s research program incorporates several projects on population/environment relations, including land use and population dynamics in Southeast Asia, environmental impact on obesity in the U.S., demographic influences of pastoral land use in Tanzania, and the environmental impact of colonist and indigenous land use in Amazonian Ecuador.

The Center for Climate, Energy, Environment & Economics (CE3) addresses emerging environmental law issues, particularly serving as a leader on the laws related to climate change adaptation. The center helps inform policymakers, leaders, and practitioners about the circumstances brought about by environmental disruption, options for legal change given this disruption, and it provides a forum for educating the North Carolina and national legal and business communities about opportunities related to these changes.

The Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility develops knowledge concerning how individual and group susceptibilities interact with environmental and occupational factors to cause disease, fosters collaborations between Center scientists and community groups, educates the public on these issues, and provides information for public health programs and policy.

The Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology of the School of Medicine is broadly concerned with environmental impacts on human health and on respiratory health in particular. Its research programs are closely related to those of U.S. EPA’s Human Studies Division located on the UNC-Chapel Hill medical campus.

The Center for Galapagos Studies is a collaborative partnership between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador) designed to foster research, education, and outreach programs in the islands, with the larger goals of advancing conservation efforts in the Galapagos and promoting better understanding of ecologically sensitive and protected areas worldwide.

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise (CSE) at Kenan-Flagler Business School offers education programs, research and outreach to help companies and non-profit organizations grow and profit in non-traditional and emerging markets with economically, environmentally and socially sustainable strategies. The Kenan-Flagler Business School was recognized in Beyond Grey Pinstripes: Preparing MBAs for Social and Environmental Stewardship as the first and only business school to achieve excellence in all three categories of competitive strategy-Business School Innovation in Environmental Stewardship, Social Impact Management, and Sustainability.

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) serves as a campus center for research on urban and regional affairs, examining a wide variety of issues and problems faced by the nation’s cities and regions. It is the second oldest, university-based, urban research center in the country.

The Coastal Resilience Center (CRC) is made possible through a five-year, $20 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The CRC is a consortium of universities, private companies, and government agencies focused on applied research, education and outreach addressing threats to coastal communities due to natural hazards and climate change.

The Environmental Finance Center is dedicated to enhancing the ability of governments to provide environmental services in fair, effective and sustainable ways. It provides a bridge between students and faculty working principally on environmental financing, management and planning tools, and governments who use these tools for the public interest.

The Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases is a pan-university Institute that was created to unify and bolster global health research, teaching, and service across UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Institute of Government is a core component of the UNC School of Government. It was established in 1931 to provide educational, advisory, and research services for state and local governments. Today, the Institute of Government is the largest university-based local government training, advisory, and research organization in the United States, offering up to 200 classes, seminars, schools, and specialized conferences for more than 12,000 public officials each year. In addition, faculty members annually publish approximately 50 books, periodicals, and other reference works related to state and local government. Each day that the General Assembly is in session, the Institute’s Daily Bulletin, available in electronic format, reports on the day’s activities for members of the legislature and others who need to follow the course of legislation. The Institute of Government and School of Government collaborate closely with the Institute for the Environment and its Environmental Resource Program in providing environmental public service and engagement for the people of North Carolina.

The Institute of Marine Sciences conducts basic and applied research on important scientific questions related to the nature, use, development, protection, and enhancement of marine resources; develops and applies technologically-advanced approaches to field, laboratory, and analytical problems; communicates research results to professional and public audiences; and provides consultative assistance to facilitate the application of knowledge to practical problems. The Institute of Marine Sciences hosts the Institute for the Environment’s Morehead City Field Site.

The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a regional center for research, conservation, and interpretation of plants, particularly those native to the southeastern United States, but also including those with special botanical and human interest. The University of North Carolina Herbarium, a unit of the Garden and the largest museum collection of plant specimens in the Southeast, is a fundamental resource for the study of plant identification, evolution and distribution, endangered species, and new weeds in North Carolina and surrounding states. The Garden protects Nature Preserves, including the Mason Farm Biological Reserve, holds the region’s National Collection of Endangered Species as a last resort against extinction in the wild, and has programs in restoration, plant invasions, plant propagation, ecology, and public education.

The North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) is the service and outreach arm of the Gillings School of Global Public Health, bringing the public health scholarship and practice communities together.

RENCI (RENaissance Computing Institute) develops and deploys advanced technologies to enable research discoveries and practical innovations. RENCI partners with researchers, policy makers, and technology leaders to engage and solve the challenging problems that affect North Carolina, our nation and the world. The institute was launched in 2004 as a collaborative effort involving the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University and North Carolina State University.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Superfund Research Program studies the human health and environmental risks associated with hazardous waste sites, which will ultimately help devise strategies for remediating such sites in order to minimize public health concerns.

The Water Institute at UNC brings together individuals and institutions from diverse disciplines and sectors and empower them to work together to solve the most critical global issues in water and health through academic leadership in research, information, and education. The Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recognizes that water is a linchpin of public health in the 21st century, and that we have both the unique opportunity and the responsibility to take our leadership role in water and health to a new level. The school’s commitment is demonstrated by the creation and support of The Water Institute at UNC.

The Institute for the Environment also collaborates closely with two field research stations of the University of North Carolina – the Coastal Studies Institute and the Highlands Biological Station.

The UNC Coastal Studies Institute (UNC-CSI), formed in 2003, is an inter-university research institute located in Manteo on Roanoke Island. It is the mission of the UNC Coastal Studies Institute to undertake research, offer educational opportunities, provide community outreach programs, and enhance communication among those concerned with the unique history, culture and environment of the maritime counties of North Carolina. UNC-CSI’s research focuses on four main areas: Estuarine Ecology and Human Health, Estuarine and Coastal Processes, Coastal Sustainability and Maritime History. While the institute emphasizes northeastern North Carolina in its outreach and education programs, its research draws on the resources of the entire region and encompasses all of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern coast of the United States. CSI is the host of the Institute for the Environment’s Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS) and offers internship opportunities to OBXFS students.

The Highlands Biological Station, located in Highlands, North Carolina, was founded over 80 years ago to foster education and research focused on the rich natural heritage of the Highlands Plateau, while preserving and celebrating the integrity of the “biological crown of the southern Appalachian Mountains.” The Highlands Biological Station hosts the Institute for the Environment’s Highlands Field Site.