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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, Hussan School of Journalism and Media, School of Data Science and Society, School of Medicine, School of Law and School of Government. 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 website. Find more information on:

  • The environmental 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)

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 The Ackerman Center for Excellence in Sustainability (ACES) at Kenan-Flagler Business School drives responsible thought leadership and inspired action to accelerate progress in social and environmental sustainability through innovative and profitable business solutions. The UNC Institute for the Environment’s Cleantech Corner Initiative partners with ACES to host the UNC Cleantech Summit each year.

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 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 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.

The Institute for the Environment fosters and conducts collaborations with faculty, students and staff across the university to identify and solve the world’s environmental challenges and sustain and improve the environment. Through their air and water research centers, community engagement, the field sites and experiential education programs, the Institute provides interdisciplinary forums for faculty, students and community partners to meet pressing environmental challenges.

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 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.

The North Carolina Collaboratory was established by the state legislature to utilize and disseminate the environmental research expertise of the University of North Carolina for practical use by state and local government.

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.

Launched in fall 2020, Sustainable Carolina is the University’s comprehensive initiative to advance and amplify all sustainability activities, including reducing the University’s environmental footprint through three goals: net zero water usage, zero waste to landfills and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The Sustainability Council advises the chancellor and his cabinet on sustainability strategy within the framework of Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good. To facilitate this work, the council will form four committees to set goals and track progress, integrate with other programs at the University, foster innovation and tell the University’s sustainability story. The council harnesses a broad range of expertise, experience and perspectives from across the University.

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.

UNC Energy Management is the university department responsible for monitoring, controlling and reducing energy and water use in the buildings at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The UNC Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling promotes comprehensive waste reduction practices and provides effective solid waste services including recycling, composting and trash disposal to the UNC-Chapel Hill community.

UNC Water Systems  is responsible for the oversight and management of the UNC-Chapel Hill stormwater system infrastructure and master planning. Water systems manages the water reclamation and reuse system, reducing potable water use on campus. Both support the Three Zeros Environmental Initiative, which aims to reduce water use on campus to achieve water neutrality.

Carolina has a long tradition of excellence in the environmental field, with educational programs located in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Law, Business, Government, and Media and Journalism. These programs include highly focused studies in the sciences, social sciences or humanities to professional applications. Both our Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and our campus-wide community in environmental policy are routinely ranked amongst the top 10 such programs in the country.

Graduate Studies

For students interested in advanced study environmental graduate degrees, Carolina offers degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Business, Data Science and Society, Journalism and Media and Public Health.

Undergraduate Studies

For students interested in pursuing an undergraduate environmental degree the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health offers a Bachelors of Science in Public Health (BSPH). In addition, the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program (E3P) in the College of Arts and Sciences offers two environmental degrees in environmental science (BS) and environmental studies (BA) and a minor in environmental science and studies and a minor in sustainability. Other departments offer environmental related degrees in biology, geography, geological sciences and anthropology.

E3P offers three dual degree programs