We strive to be at the forefront of understanding marine environmental systems, their conservation, and their governance through leadership in research, training, communication, and application.

Who We Are, Our Goals and Values

Working across Duke’s main campus and the Duke University Marine Lab, we represent multiple disciplines and coastal and marine sectors, build conceptual foundations within our fields, and bridge concepts across disciplines to create new ways of understanding. 

  • We value disciplinary excellence in the basic and applied natural science, social science, and engineering fields; and we are committed to their integration.
  • We work to understand environmental problems and to develop solutions that support the sustainability of coastal and marine ecosystems and the wellbeing of human communities that depend on them.                                              
  • We embrace diversity in cultures as well as ideas, promoting the inclusion of individuals and perspectives historically underrepresented in academia, in our research, teaching, service, and outreach.     
  • We connect science to action through research that informs policy, trains leaders, creates innovative products, empowers communities, and supports environmental entrepreneurship.  
  • We emphasize innovation in teaching across diverse class formats, which allows us to maximize field opportunities, integrate modern technological resources, and support student development of technical skills in small class settings and through compelling laboratory courses.
  • We build collegial environments that support individual growth and creativity, to foster both academic excellence and personal well-being.
  • We promote sustainability through our individual, collective, and institutional actions.


The Marine Laboratory is a campus of Duke University and a unit within the Nicholas School of the Environment. Programs at the Marine Laboratory are central to the Nicholas School of the Environment's mission to provide interdisciplinary educational and research opportunities addressing an area of vital concern--the quality of the Earth's environment and the sustainable use of its natural resources. Oceans dominate the Earth's surface and greatly affect daily life. Oceans regulate climate, play a critical role in the hydrologic cycle, sustain a large portion of the Earth's plant and animal species, supply food and mineral resources, and inspire the aesthetic nature of humankind. Ocean studies are central to the resolution of global environmental problems related to the impacts of humans on ecological systems, biodiversity, climate change, coastal land management, environmental quality, and environmental health.

During the 1930s, Dr. A.S. Pearse and colleagues from Duke University were attracted to Pivers Island and its surrounding abundance of marine life for their summer field studies. The island afforded an excellent location for a field station and through the subsequent efforts of Dr. Pearse and others, the land was acquired for the Duke University Marine Laboratory. By 1938 the first buildings were erected. Originally, the laboratory served only as a summer training and research facility.

Today, the Marine Laboratory operates year-round to provide educational, training, and research opportunities to about 1,000 individuals annually, including undergraduate, graduate and professional students enrolled in the university's academic programs; visiting student groups who use the laboratory's facilities; and scientists who come from North America and abroad to conduct their own research. A seminar/lecture series features many distinguished scientific speakers from across the nation and abroad.

The resident faculty represent the disciplines of biological and physical oceanography, marine biology and conservation, marine environmental health, marine biotechnology, and marine policy and management.

The Marine Laboratory is a member of the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML), a nonprofit organization of over 90 members providing a variety of academic, research, and public service programs. These laboratories are unique "windows on the sea," providing information on the rich environmental mosaic of coastal habitats where land meets sea. Their "sense of place" encourages wise local land management and protection of our precious natural resources.