About the COAST Lab

About the COAST Lab


The Coastal Ocean Applied Science & Technology Lab (PI Phil Bresnahan) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (affiliated with the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Center for Marine Science) seeks to find answers to and develop and communicate solutions for our most pressing environmental questions and problems. We focus largely on coastal and estuarine environments and use a combination of engineering and applied science approaches. Our tools include (1) existing sensors and our own inventions paired with buoys, profilers, ships, and autonomous vessels for in situ monitoring, (2) satellites and drones for remote sensing, and (3) techniques including time-series analysis and machine learning approaches to better understand the changing ocean. We also enjoy working in the interrelated fields of science/engineering education, outreach, and citizen science1, see footnote as we firmly believe that our urgent environmental problems demand much more than just academic research. We frequently post open code and other design files to GitHub (see links attached to individual projects on this website) and we rely heavily on others’ contributions to the free and open source ecosystem as well.

Topics of interest include (but aren’t limited to!):

  • blue carbon, carbon cycling, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and eutrophication,
  • the effects of human activity on water quality,
  • variability over small spatial and temporal scales, especially in coastal waters,
  • low-cost sensor development to facilitate public participation in scientific research and expanded monitoring networks, and
  • platform development and sensor integration for novel sensing approaches.

We are actively seeking new undergraduate and graduate students. Potential undergraduate student researchers: please reach out to me at bresnahanp@uncw.edu to explore opportunities for a Directed Independent Study (DIS), Honors Thesis, or other ways of getting involved in COAST Lab research. Potential graduate student researchers: please take a look at the M.S. in Marine Science and M.S. in Geoscience options and reach out if one of those and COAST Lab research are of interest. UNCW and CMS recently had a new Ph.D. program approved titled Applied Coastal and Ocean Science (ACOS). Details are still unfolding, but please let me know if you are interested in this nascent Ph.D. program.

The primary qualities we seek in students are curiosity and a determination to learn. While lab members use skills like coding, 3D design and printing, laboratory analyses, etc., we do not expect that candidates will have prior experience in these. Rather, we strive to teach new skills to those who are excited to put the time and effort into learning them and applying them toward specific scientific and engineering challenges with societal relevance. If you do have such skills, they will likely be put to good use, but if you do not, you might still be a great candidate for this lab!

The source code for this website, including that for most of the data visualizations, is available at github.com/SUPScientist/supscientist.github.io.

Huge thanks to Luke Edwards for our awesome lab logo!

1Citizen science is sometimes also referred to as public participation in scientific research or community science; please see this thread for an explanation of our choice to use the fraught term of citizen science.