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UNC’s Outer Banks Field Site (OBXFS) offers a semester-long program that combines multidisciplinary study of 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 integrating diverse academic and community perspectives on 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 two decades 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 explore the Outer Banks and other parts of northeastern NC through OBXFS activities, and take the majority of their classes at the Coastal Studies Institute, which features a state of the art campus overlooking the Roanoke Sound.
Students live in the Manteo Community guest house (also on Roanoke Island), which is within walking distance of downtown Manteo and biking distance of 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 social-ecological systems 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 students 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 insights, disciplines, professional practices, and experiences to enrich the student experience.
Currently, the OBXFS is offered during the fall semester.
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.
Recent Capstone Reports
- 2022 – Roots in the Sand: Human Perspectives and Vegetation Change of Buxton Woods
- 2021 – A Temporal Analysis of Vegetation Dynamics and Community Perceptions of Buxton Woods
- 2020 – What lies beneath: A socio-ecological case study of septic systems in Nags Head
- 2019 – People, Water, and Septic: A Coastal Case Study | Where to find the Flushed podcast
- 2018 – Environmental Change and Septic Systems in Nags Head: Local Perspectives and Impacts on Water Quality and Quantity
- 2017 – Estuarine Shoreline Stabilization: Public Perceptions and Greenhouse Gas Implications
- 2016 – What Comes With the Territory: Predators and Their Place in Northeastern North Carolina
- 2015 – The Social-Ecological Role of Oyster Aquaculture in North
- 2014 – The Oyster Banks: A Dive into the Political, Scientific, and Social Realms of Oysters and Oyster Aquaculture in North Carolina
- 2013 – Predator Management for the Protection of Threatened and Endangered Species: A Multidisciplinary Study
- 2012 – The Roanoke Island Water System Expansion Project: A Study of Residents’ Viewpoints
Faculty and Staff
The following faculty and staff are involved with the OBXFS:
- Linda D’Anna is the associate director of the field site and a research associate at the Coastal Studies Institute. D’Anna is an ecologist by training, who uses qualitative and quantitative social science methods to investigate the social-ecological dynamics of coastal systems. She teaches ENEC 474: Sustainable Coastal Management and co-leads the Capstone course, focusing on its human dimensions components. D’Anna received a B.S. from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill.
- Lindsay Dubbs is the director of the Outer Banks Field Site and research associate professor at the UNC Institute for the Environment. Her research focuses on how energy and nutrient dynamics in terrestrial, coastal, and nearshore marine ecosystems are influenced by energy generation and natural resource management decisions. For the Outer Banks Field Site, she teaches ENEC 489: Ecological Processes in Environmental Systems: Coastal and Estuarine Ecology, the Capstone, and seminar. Dubbs received her graduate degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. She lives in Nags Head with her husband, Corey; son, Rowan; and dog, cat, and 30+ year-old turtle.
- Andy Keeler is a Chapel Hill native and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate who has lived on the Outer Banks for twelve years. He retired from the faculty at the Coastal Studies Institute and the co-directorship of the OBXFS at the end of 2020. He previously served as the senior staff economist for environment at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, where he was a member of the U.S. negotiating team for climate change and a diplomatic representative to OECD meetings on coordinating national sustainability policies. He also has held positions at U.S. EPA and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and held faculty positions at the University of Georgia and the Ohio State University. His research for the past two decades has focused on economic aspects of climate change policy.
- Lee Lewis Leidy is the attorney and northeast regional director for North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. Lee has also been a Coastal Law and Policy instructor for the UNC-Chapel Hill Outer Banks Field Site. Prior to working with the Coastal Land Trust, Lee was a partner in the law offices of Hornthal, Riley, Ellis and Maland, L.L.P. where her practice focused on real property transactions and corporate matters. Lee received her B.A. degree from Wake Forest University and J.D. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lee and her husband, John, live in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and they have two children, Hannah Lee and Julian.
For more information, please get in touch with Site Director, Lindsay Dubbs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.