Research Overview

 MACRL is composed of scientists that collaborate on research projects including studies of the atmosphere, water column and sediments. Their diverse backgrounds allows for a comprehensive study of Earth's processes involving all of these important environmental compartments. These studies address both natural functioning of the environment as well as anthropogenic impacts on Earths systems.

MARCL's approach to environmental studies.  Diagram above shows the interconnectivity and potential fluxes between various environmental components

An example of the complexity within an estuarine system that MACRL studies.


Atmospheric Deposition

We are interested in studying the natural systems which shape and guide the processes of the natural world. Our long-term goal is to identify and characterize the scientific mechanisms specific to our principal areas of research. You can read on to find out more about these projects below.

JD Willey Atmospheric Research Station

Bald Head Island Atmospheric Research Station

Our Collaborator Dr. Bob Swarthout's Appalachian State University atmospheric station. Collections are made for both dry and wet deposition for our NC Collaboratory funded PFAS research.  

MACRL's Local NC Atmospheric work spans from the coast to mountains 


Sediment Biogeochemistry

Sediments are an important aspect of team MACRL's research. MACRL is interested in the ability of sediments to act as a reservoir for carbon as well as anthropogenic substances. On  the other hand, MACRL has shown that sediments can also release carbon and anthropogenic substances back into the water column resulting in a long-term non-point source to aquatic systems.  

Sediment Resuspension

Sediments can be resuspended into the water column through both natural and anthropogenic events.  This can result in a transport of biologically important substances such as organic carbon and nutrients as well as pollutants.


In 2006 MACRL published the first journal article describing the photochemical release of organic matter from resuspended sediments.  MACRL has also published the results of similar studies documenting the release of nutrients, metals, algal toxins, and many other compounds by this process. Above Drs. Skrabal and Kieber conduct a on-board solar experiment with marine sediments using a highly sophisticated temperature control incubator!

Open Ocean Sediment Studies

MACRL has been involved in a variety of coastal ocean sediment studies.  Above team MACRL retrieves a sediment multicore collector off the coast of North Carolina.

Estuarine Sediment Studies

MACRL is interested in the sediment biogeochemistry of estuarine systems. Residing in the transition zone between fresh and salt water conditions, these sediments can have a significant effect on the water column and biota.


Water Column Research

Aquatic systems research is important to gauge to the health and functioning of the Earth. They are impacted by both atmospheric and sediment processes providing a unifying link in MACRL's research of the environment as a whole.

Linking Atmospheric and Water Column Processes

MACRL's rainwater research allows for a more comprehensive understanding of surface water processes.  Above is an obvious example of summer thunderstorms impact on the waters near Wrightsville Beach NC.

Intracoastal Waterway

The intracoastal waterway is not only a link between the southern and northern navigational reaches of the east coast, but it also represents and connection between local inlets and estuarine systems.  Above Dr. Mead passes the UNCW research vessel RV Cape Fear docked at UNCW's Center for Marine Sciences after a successful sampling trip aboard one of MACRL's private vessels.

The Cape Fear River Estuary

The Cape Fear river estuary is the link between urban areas in the central part of North Carolina and the Atlantic Ocean.  This highly impacted system is both the repository for industrial and municipality effluents but a source of drinking water for communities such as Wilmington NC. MACRL has recently become involved in the study of emerging contaminants found in this system such as PFAS.

Long Bay

Long Bay is the receiving basin fro the Cape Fear river.  Several MACRL publications have calculated the impact of both atmospheric and riverine flues of both biologically important and anthropogenic substances to this coastal bay.


University of North Carolina Wilmington

Center for Marine Science

CREST Campus MARBIONC – RM 2018 

5600 Marvin K Moss Lane
Wilmington, NC 28409

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