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August 30, 2001

Coastal Carolina University has been awarded a $221,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish a microbial ecology laboratory on campus.

The new lab, which will be located in Coastal's Center for Marine and Wetland Studies, will give Coastal faculty and students the tools to conduct better research, particularly relating to microbial ecology and water quality, according to Eric Koepfler, associate professor of marine science at Coastal and recipient of the grant. The three-year grant will also enable Coastal's College of Natural and Applied Sciences to expand its microbial ecology and biology curricula. Microbial ecology is the study of microscopic organisms and how they interact with the physical and chemical environment. Changes in water quality rapidly affect microbial communities in shallow coastal environments, and monitoring these communities may be an important way to gage environmental impacts due to population growth.

"This grant will allow us to better conduct local research, both in the lab and out in the field in places like Waites Island and the Waccamaw River," says Koepfler. Similar research in microbial ecology has been conducted in cooperation with the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory near Georgetown, a facility of the University of South Carolina.

According to Koepfler, the grant will be used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment including a research-quality compound microscope, image analysis system, oxygen and carbon dioxide respirometers, in situ fluorometers, temperature controlled incubators, computers, and a GPS equipped multiprobe.

Koepfler, who earned a Ph.D. from the College of William and Mary, is also director of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle Protection Program sponsored by Coastal's Center for Marine and Wetland Studies.