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Research @ Coastal

At Coastal Carolina University, we nurture a richly textured environment of creativity and discovery for our faculty and students. Research, a primary mission of the university, opens new pathways to interpret and understand our world. Whether in the classroom, the laboratory, on stage, or in the field, undergraduate and graduate students work side by side with scientists, scholars, educators, visual and performing artists, and others engaged in research, innovation, and performance.


Research News

Office of Research Services logo Alison Jo Bojarski, graduate student, and Dr. James Luken, Associate Provost and Director of Graduate Studiesreceived a $1,200 award from the Slocum-Lunz Foundation, Inc to study the relationship between elevation, inundation, and salinity on plant community distribution in an ocean-dominated lagoonal marsh in South Carolina.

Office of Research Services logo Douglas Van Hoewyk, Associate Professor of Biology, received a $5,500 award from the Toomey Foundation to support the purchase of lab reagents and travel to field sites related to his Fulbright Award to Turkey where he will be studying rare nickel-hyperaccumulating plants that are unique to the region.

Office of Research Services logo Paul Gayes, Director and Palmetto Professor for the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct geophyiscal data collection and processing for Folly Beach.

Office of Research Services logo Zhixiong Shen, Assistant Professor of Marine Science, and Eric Wright, Associate Professor of Marine Science, have received an award from the Belle W. Baruch Foundation.  The proposed study will investigate the stratigraphy and age of the Myrtle Beach barrier complex at the Hobcaw Barony located in Georgetown, South Carolina. Ground penetrating radar, sediment coring, and optically stimulated luminescence dating will be used in the study.

Office of Research Services logo Rick Peterson, Assistant Professor in the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the National Science Foundation. Three U.S. researchers, two early career faculty members and one doctoral student will travel to Rio Grande, Brazil to participate in a planning meeting to design a multi-faceted, international research program to quanitfy and describe the input of freshwater, nutrients and trace metals to the southern Brazilian continental shelf from the Plata River plume, the Patos Lagoon outflow and submarine groundwater discharge from along the coastline.  Participants will engage in seminars, workshops, and field trips during this visit. 

Office of Research Services logo Dan Abel, Professor of Marine Science, received an award from the Mullikin Law Firm.

Office of Research Services logo William Jones, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Information Systems, received an award from LANL.

Office of Research Services logo Megan Cevasco, Assistant Professor of Biology, received an award from S.C. Inbre.

Office of Research Services logo Paul Gayes, Director of the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium.

Office of Research Services logo Erin Hackett, Assistant Professor in the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the Office of Naval Research. 

Office of Research Services logo Eric Koepfler, Professor of Marine Science, and Michael Slattery, Coastal Process Specialist in the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the Sea Grant Consortium. 

Office of Research Services logo Susan Flynn, Assistant Professor in the Department of Early, Elementary, Physical & Special Education, received an award from the S.C. Department of Education

Office of Research Services logo Keith Walters, Professor of Marine Science, received an award from the Bunnelle Foundation. 

Office of Research Services logo Zan Wiggins, Director of the Biddle Center for Teaching, Learning, & Community Engagement, received an award from the Waccamaw Community Foundation.

Office of Research Services logo Jennifer Sellers, Sustainability Coordinator, received an award from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control


Office of Research Services logo Prashant Sansgiry, Associate Dean and Professor in the College of Science, received an award from the SC Department of Education.

Office of Research Services logo

Rick Peterson, Assistant Professor in the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium.

This project examines the nutrient and pollutant removal efficiencies of several representative stormwater detention ponds of the lower coastal plain throughout the Grand Strand.  The CCU portion of the project will quantify the water budget of each pond, accounting for all potential water sources (surface drainage through overland sheet-flow as well as piped/ditched drainage from impervious surfaces, direct precipitation to the pond surface, and groundwater inputs).  Collaborating with researchers from the USC Baruch Marine Field Laboratory in Georgetown, SC, these water budgets will be applied to measurements of incoming/outgoing water quality parameters (nutrient concentrations, suspended particle loads, and bacterial compositions) to assess whether the ponds are effective at removing these pollutants prior to discharge into stormwater conduits to the coastal ocean, and examine these removal efficiencies under various engineering practices employed in the studied ponds. 

ALA grant, Barbara Burd, Dust Drought and Dreams Gone Dry

The Kimbel Library has been awarded a grant that features a photographic exhibit and several community programs focusing on “Dust, Drought, and Dreams Gone Dry: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries about the Dust Bowl.” This programming explores the following themes: the nature of the connection between humans and nature, the many ways human beings respond to adversity, and how people came to understand and to describe the experience of living in the Plains during the Dust Bowl. The photographic exhibit will be on display in the Bryan Information Commons from Oct. 24-Dec. 12 with an opening reception on Oct. 24 at 4pm. and will feature panels from the exhibit and photographs and artifacts on loan from the Horry County Museum to compare and contrast the effects on the depression between those living in the Plains’ states and those living in Horry County. Programming includes two panel discussions with excerpts from the films Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl. Dr. Eldred “Wink” Prince and Dr. Matthew McDonough will lead discussions on Oct. 29 and on Nov. 12. Both panels will be held at 4pm in the Edwards Recital Hall. Dr. Maggi Morehouse will conduct a workshop on Nov. 18th at 4pm on constructing an oral history using the oral histories from the Oklahoma State University online collection as examples and for study. All programs are free and open to the public.

This grant is made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor project and the American Library Association.

Office of Research Services logo Paul Gayes, Director and Palmetto Professor in the School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science, received an award from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium.

Office of Research Services logo Louis Keiner, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Physics, received an award from the South Carolina Space Grant Consortium.

Erin Burge, Associate Professor in the Department of Marine Science, received an award from the George Maier Fund.

In mid-Atlantic and southeastern estuaries of the United States five members of the killifish genus Fundulus typically occur, but only one, the spotfin killifish, F. luciae, is exclusively found in the high intertidal zone of salt marshes. Little is known about the ecology or parasites of spotfin killifish. This fish has historically been considered rare, but recent surveys at Waties Island, SC, indicate that it may be locally abundant. The goals of this project are to survey spotfin killifish populations in South Carolina, to develop a catalog of the parasites that infect spotfins, and to evaluate how competition with a closely related and co-occurring fish, the mummichog F. heteroclitus, impacts spotfins.


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Dr. Christopher Moore and Dr. Louis Rubbo, Department of Chemistry and Physics, have received a grant from the Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science (TUES) program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). In this project, Drs. Moore and Rubbo will be creating and assessing curriculum strategies for developing increased scientific reasoning abilities among non-science and physics/engineering majors. The 3-year, $118,214 award will be used for the development of the conceptual physics and astronomy core science courses at CCU. For non-science majors, these classes typically serve as their terminal science course for their academic careers. By maturing their scientific reasoning skills it is hoped that these students will continue evidence based reasoning in other disciplines. For the freshmen physics majors, this course will play an essential role in their development as scientists and serve as a transitional course for underprepared physics and engineering freshman, with the goal of increasing student retention.

 Susan Flynn, grants

Dr. Susan Flynn, Assistant Professor of Special Education, received a grant from College Transition Connection to fund research on developing resources on transportation instruction for individuals with an intellectual disability (ID). Dr. Flynn will collaborate with the Community Transportation Association, the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, and the South Carolina Assistive Technology Program to locate available transportation options for individuals with ID and to develop guidelines to support individuals with ID in accessing transportation (e.g., teaching travel concepts, environmental analysis, systems of transportation, travel skills and techniques). The outcome of this research will be a resource manual that includes assessment of pre-travel skills, development of individualized goals and objectives, instruction in the classroom and community, and evaluation and progress.

 Marcie Ellerbe

Dr. Marcie Ellerbe, assistant professor of Literacy Education, received a grant from the Hootie and the Blowfish Foundation to fund summer reading camps for K-12 students in conjunction with the Chanticleer Literacy Lab (CLL), which is housed within the Spadoni College of Education.  The purpose of the CLL's Summer Reading Camps is to promote general awareness of the role of literacy in our lives while enhancing the reading and writing skills of K-12 students.  Camp participants will work with Dr. Ellerbe and certified teachers in the CLL to develop critical reading and writing skills related to different literacy themes such as environmental literacy, artistic literacy, and digital literacy.  Each camp session will culminate with a guest expert who will support the building of content knowledge and lead camp participants in an authentic field-study experience designed to heighten connections between the camp's literacy theme and real wold applications.

 Dr. Catherine Scott

Professor Catherine Scott will work with K-6  teachers from Horry County public and private schools to learn about the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics through a 96-hour professional development program.  The Math and Science Partnership grant, funded through the Department of Education, will enable Dr. Scott to research changes in teachers' mathematical pedagogical and content knowledge as a result of long-term professional development.  Dr. Scott will work with teachers throughout the year to learn about the standards, best practices for teaching, and how to assess student learning trajectories in mathematics.  Professor Jim Solazzo and Lecturer Jamie Hedges, both from the College of Science, will join her as instructors for the professional development sessions.

Seaside Sparrow, Assessing the status of MacGillivray's Seaside Sparrows Ammodramus maritimus macgillivraii in South Carolina 

Chris Hill, Ph.D. receives State Wildlife Grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, administered through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

MacGillivray's Seaside Sparrow is a habitat specialist bird, nesting and wintering exclusively in tidal marshes from North Carolina to northern Florida.  Limits to available tidal marsh habitat and threats to those tidal marshes from development, pollution and sea level rise could threaten the MacGillivrays' Seaside Sparrow.  South Carolina's extensive tidal marshes are at the core of the range of this taxon, but the status of passerine birds nesting in these marshes is poorly monitored by standardized national efforts such as the Breeding Bird Survey. 

This project, Assessing the status of MacGillivray's Seaside Sparrows Ammodramus maritimus macgillivraii in South Carolina, consists of a statewide survey (during breeding season: April to July) of salt marsh habitat to determine nesting locations and density.  This study will also build on a previous database of winter banding records to ask whether winter-occupied habitat predicts breeding occupancy, because, in winter, local (A. m. macgillivraii) Seaside Sparrows are joined by very similar migrants from populations farther north, and it is unknown to what extent prime wintering and breeding habitat coincide.  Finally, a more intensive study at one site will obtain basic information on demographics, nesting density and success. 

Pictured to the left is a fledgling Seaside Sparrow

John Goodwin 

Professor John Goodwin has been using the POGIL method (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) in teaching chemistry at Coastal Carolina University (CCU) since 1997, and was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) CCLI grant in 2006 for creating new POGIL activities that focused on solving everyday problems and dealing with chemical situations from other science disciplines than chemistry.  These are called POGIL-in-Context activities and have been published in a book called "Solving Real Problems with Chemistry."  Recently, he was awarded a grant from Georgia State University, also sponsored by the NSF, for presenting a two-day dissemination workshop at CCU in January 2014 for chemistry faculty in the region as training for writing POGIL-in-Context activities.  Professor David Hanson from Stony Brook Unviersity will join him as co-instructor for the workshop.

Chemistry major Tyler Aslund worked on this project during the summer of 2013


Professor John Goodwin has been working on catalysts that activate oxygen in the air for different kinds of reactions since coming to CCU in 1996.  A current project was recently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in a collaborative grant made to the University of South Carolina (USC) and several other universities including CCU, "EPSCoR GEAR: CI Program SC Computational Chemistry Consortium (SC4): Statewide Collaboration for Research Teaching, and Participation Broadening using Computational Chemistry."  In this grant computational chemistry resources will be made available to CCU to examine the structures and thermodynamics of likely intermediates in the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalyzed by a (nitro) cobalt complex.  This type of work is related to fuel cell technology.

Pictured to the left is chemistry major, Tyler Aslund, working on the project.