Coastal Environmental Management

The CEM program focuses on the complex interactions between people and our oceans. Students gain a scientifically rigorous understanding of the physical and biological environments and processes along coasts and learn to assess how human activities affect—and are affected by—these vital environments. CEM is one of eight available concentrations in the two-year residential Master of Environmental Management (MEM) program.

Our Vision

With a dual emphasis on science and policy, the CEM program equips students to become scientifically informed professionals in fields such as coastal policy and management, research, and advocacy. The Duke Marine Laboratory provides an ideal setting for the study of natural and social scientific phenomena in the coastal and marine environment, and for interaction with coastal and marine constituencies and policy makers in the application of science to policy. Students enjoy a small class size, a low faculty-student ratio and access to world-class marine research facilities.

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The Curriculum

CEM students emphasize subjects such as marine conservation biology and policy, fisheries management, marine protected area management, coastal zone management, water quality management and coastal processes. Your faculty advisor will help you select core courses, quantitative courses, electives and a master’s project topic that fit your interests and career goals. 

Most CEM students spend their first year at our campus in Durham taking courses in ecology, natural resource economics, environmental policy and methodological skills. The second year is typically spent at the Duke Marine Laboratory in Beaufort, NC, where students prepare their master’s project and take courses specific to the coastal and marine environment.

Your Future

The Nicholas School’s dedicated Career Center has helped our graduates find fulfilling positions in federal and state agencies, industry, consulting firms and nonprofit organizations. Example employers include The Nature Conservancy, National Estuarine Research Reserves, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service and the Environmental Defense Fund. (See more alumni profiles)



Find out if our program is right for you. Feel free to contact us with questions.  

•  Full Program Description
•  Prerequisites & Required Courses
•  How to Apply


Welcome to the family! Here are some resources to get you started. 

•   Before You Arrive
•   When You Arrive
•   Student Advising
•   Curriculum Planning Spreadsheet
•   Master’s Projects

  • CEM Student

    Kimberly Hernandez, CEM ‘14

    “With the multi-disciplinary nature of the MEM/MF programs, and the diversity of people the programs attract, I learned just as much from my peers as I did from classes. They pushed me to think creatively, to work with purpose, and to have fun while doing it. I realized that even though we all come from different places and have different passions, we are all ultimately working toward the same end goal – protecting the environment.”

  • CEM Alum

    Nicholas Mallos, CEM ’10

    “The Nicholas School taught me how to translate complex science into digestible knowledge to inform ocean policy and resource management. Duke’s coursework, professors and classmates, combined with world-class field studies that showed firsthand the challenge and successes of resource management, have provided me the diversified skill set necessary to succeed in ocean conservation."



“Our program prepares future leaders in the conservation and management of marine ecosystems, including the human communities that form an integral part of these systems. We produce young professionals who are prepared and eager to engage in current and emerging issues that will affect the structure and function of the oceans. Our graduates work for federal and state government, in the non-profit sector and in industry, tackling issues such as climate change, ocean acidification, fisheries management, the conservation of endangered and protected species and marine spatial planning, to name just a few.”

Pat Halpin
CEM Program Chair
Associate Professor of Marine Geospatial Ecology
(919) 613-8062


participating faculty