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UNC’s Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS) offers a semester-long program that combines a multidisciplinary approach to the sustainable management of coastal resources with a rich set of experiences set in the ecology and culture of North Carolina’s coastline and estuaries. Students receive a strong grounding in applied policy and ecology and a unique experience in integrating diverse academic and community perspectives to issues of immediate relevance. The support of OBXFS faculty, community leaders, and internship mentors in a coastal, small-group setting have provided a valuable and memorable complement to on-campus education for more than a decade of UNC students.


The OBXFS is based on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, which is surrounded by two small sounds, Roanoke and Croatan, to the east and west, and the two largest sounds in North Carolina, the Albemarle and Pamlico, to the North and South. Roanoke Island is four miles from the Atlantic Ocean at Nags Head and about ten miles from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. OBXFS students will explore the Outer Banks and other parts of northeastern NC through OBXFS activities, but the majority of classes will be held at the UNC Coastal Studies Institute that features a new, state of the art campus overlooking the Roanoke Sound.

ecotone_transect2Students will live in the Roanoke Island Festival Park guest house in Manteo (also on Roanoke Island), which is within walking distance of downtown Manteo and biking distance of UNC CSI. The guest house offers bedrooms arranged in suites and ample common space, including living areas with couches and televisions, a fully-equipped kitchen, and a laundry room.

The proximity of the OBXFS to the sounds and ocean provides students opportunities to learn about and experience multiple coastal ecosystems and observe human interactions with them during activities, internships, and classes. OBXFS students also enjoy surfing, kayaking, beach bonfires, fishing, and flying kites on Jockey’s Ridge in their spare time.

OBXFS participants benefit from frequent interactions with the community, which is facilitated by a Community Advisory Board (CAB). CAB members are residents of the Outer Banks and Eastern NC who bring a diversity of disciplines, professional practices, and experiences to enrich the student experience.


Currently, the OBXFS is offered during the fall semester.


Award Opportunities

Please visit the Institute’s Awards + Scholarships page for more information on these awards.


Students typically spend two days per week in classes, two days per week at internships, and one day per week participating in an extended laboratory exercise, field work, or field trip.

Students who enroll at the OBXFS take the following courses:

  • ENEC 204 : Seminar on Coastal Issues (1 credit)
  • ENEC 395 : Research in Environmental Science and Studies (3 credits)
  • ENEC 351: Coastal Law and Policy (3 credits)
  • ENEC 474: Sustainable Coastal Management (3 credits)
  • ENEC 489: Ecological Processes in Environmental Systems (4 credits)
  • ENEC 698: Capstone (3 credits)


Coursework at this field site would be suitable for students pursuing interests in environmental decision-making, public policy, law, natural resource management, and city and regional planning. The required internship with a local organization or independent study with an OBXFS faculty member provides students real world experience working in local, state, or federal government agencies, non-profits, or research institutes.

aefs2Recent Capstone Reports

Faculty and Staff

The following faculty and staff are involved with the OBXFS:

  • Andy Keeler is Emeritus Professor of Economics and Integrated Coastal Programs at East Carolina University. Dr. Keeler has a B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in Resource Economics from UC-Berkeley. He has held staff positions at the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, USEPA, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Dr. Keeler was on the White House climate change task forces of both President Clinton and President Bush, and served US diplomatic missions in both climate change negotiations and coordination of sustainability policies. He has held faculty positions at the University of Georgia and Ohio State University and has a current appointment at ECU. Dr. Keeler brings an economic and public policy perspective to the curriculum on sustainability, climate change policy, and energy generation and use and teaches ENEC 351: Coastal Law and Policy.
  • Lindsay Dubbs is the director of the Outer Banks Field Site and Research Associate Professor at the UNC Institute for the Environment. Dr. Dubbs received a BS from Tufts University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research interests include biogeochemical processes that influence climate and the environmental impacts of ocean energy generation. She teaches ENEC 489: Ecological Processes in Environmental Systems: Coastal and Estuarine Ecology and oversees internships, the Capstone, and seminar.
  • Linda D’Anna a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, leads human dimensions aspects of the Capstone Research Project. Dr. D’Anna is an interdisciplinary ecologist with expertise in applying qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the social-ecological dynamics of coastal systems.

Contact Information

For more information, please get in touch with Site Associate Director, Lindsay Dubbs, at