Educational Organizations

There are a number of groups and organizations that have educational and research missions related to water resources and land use.  Some of these focus specifically in the Cape Fear River basin; while others have broader missions.  This page includes university educational programs; as well as those sponsored by governmental or nonprofit organizations.  The organizations included here are either within the Cape Fear River watershed or serve the watershed.

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University Programs

Center for Marine Science at UNC Wilmington

The Center for Marine Science at UNC Wilmington is dedicated to providing an environment that fosters a multidisciplinary approach to questions in basic marine research. The mission of the center is to promote basic and applied research in the fields of oceanography, coastal and wetland studies, marine biomedical and environmental physiology, and marine biotechnology and aquaculture.  Faculty are conducting research that contributes to understanding environmental processes and problems. Through research, education and outreach, the Center strives to increase knowledge and cultivate public awareness about the marine sciences.  Currently there are more than 100 active research programs ongoing at CMS.

Duke Marine Laboratory

The Duke Marine Laboratory located in Beaufort.  Faculty study the biology of marine species, address global-scale marine issues, and use advanced technologies, analysis, and modeling that allow science and policy to be evaluated across space, time, and disciplines. Scientific endeavors highlight organisms and populations, ecosystems, and human affairs. We emphasize acquisition of basic knowledge to understand and manage ecological systems. This emphasis includes scientific discovery and problem solving within the context of human interactions with the environment identified through physical, biological, and social science studies, and can be found throughout the teaching and research activities at the Marine Lab.

Elon University Environmental Studies

The Department of Environmental Studies and the Elon University Center for Environmental Studies are housed in the Powell House, which has computers with the latest geographic information systems (GIS) software. An additional GIS computer lab and teaching laboratories are located in the state-of-the-art McMichael Science Center, where students have access to a full range of the latest technologies, scientific instruments and facilities. Students interested in sustainable food production can pursue courses that utilize the Elon Greenhouse and the Elon Community Garden. The studios of the Art Department represent another resource for Environmental Studies majors interested in exploring new dimensions in environmental expression and communication.  The goals of the Center for Environmental studies are to promote community outreach and education, champion conservation, encourage research, and support student initiatives.  Both the Loy Farm and the Community Garden grow a variety of crops throughout the year, and the Center directs a number of environmental projects and research at both locations.

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NC State University Sustainability Office

Institutions of higher education are crucial to preparing graduates equipped to lead, to serve, and to solve complex social, environmental and economic problems. As NC State integrates sustainability in its operations, academics and research, the university improves efficiency and stewardship while also developing leaders and innovations for a more sustainable future. Our communities, state, nation, and world face increasingly complex challenges that impact our environment, our economy and our society. Successful sustainability pursues balanced, ethical solutions that are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially just so that current and future generations may thrive.

UNC-Greensboro Environment Studies Program

The majors (B.A.) in Environmental & Sustainability Studies integrate perspectives of the natural sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities.  Students work with a diverse group of faculty from across campus to learn how to gather and integrate information about environmental problems from multiple disciplines, to think critically about the causes of environmental problems, to propose effective solutions and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and to communicate their ideas clearly.  Graduates will be well prepared for roles as educated citizens who are especially well informed about the environment and for diverse careers that require a broad range of knowledge about environmental issues. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and are eligible for internships and study abroad. The Program curricula build on the unique definition of sustainability at UNCG, where “Academics, operations, and outreach are conducted with careful attention to the enduring interconnectedness of social equity, the environment, the economy, and aesthetics.”

UNC Institute for Marine Sciences

The Marine Sciences Program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has a mission to conduct cutting-edge research, train young scientists, provide expertise to governmental agencies and industry, and to promote new knowledge to inform public policy.  The Institute is strategically located in North Carolina’s central coastal region on 6.5 acres of waterfront property on Bogue Sound. The unique environment is the second largest estuary system in the U.S. and an ideal site to study the ecology, conservation and restoration of coastal marine resources and to develop and apply new technologies in research.

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UNC Institute of The Environment

The Institute for the Environment offers amazing experiential education opportunities through their field site network. The Institute’s field sites, with locations throughout North Carolina and abroad, focus on themes specific to the six regions where they are located. The field sites provide semester-long opportunities for students to explore real-world issues through a combination of course work, field trips, group research projects and internships with local organizations.  The IE focuses on multidisciplinary collaborations to understand major environmental issues and interface with many academic disciplines, public and private partners, and an informed and committed community.

UNC-Wilminton Environmental Studies

This department focuses on the relationship between humans, other organisms, and the physical, chemical, and biological aspects that influence both natural and engineered environments. They study natural environmental processes to understand their effects on society and the effects society has on those processes.  Their curriculum is designed to give students the scholarly background necessary to understand and solve today’s environmental problems. It is an interdisciplinary curriculum drawing upon the resources of many related fields to provide the rigorous analysis necessary to understand environmental problems and formulate environmentally sound solutions.


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Nonprofit Organizations

American Forest Foundation

“The American Forest Foundation (AFF) works on-the-ground with families, teachers and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect the values provided by our nation’s forest heritage. A commitment to the next generation unites our nationwide network of forest owners and teachers. These devoted professionals work to keep our forests healthy and our children well-prepared for the future they will inherit.”

American Rivers

“American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers.”

Audubon North Carolina

The mission of the National Audubon Society’s North Carolina State Office is to help conserve and restore the North Carolina habitats we share with all wildlife, focusing on the needs of birds. Audubon North Carolina achieves its mission through a blend of science-based research and conservation, education and outreach, and advocacy.  The official Audubon North Carolina state office was incorporated in 1997. The state office is currently located in Chapel Hill and there are field offices in Wilmington, Corolla and Boone.

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Bald Head Island Conservancy

The Bald Head Island Conservancy is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1983. The Conservancy’s mission is barrier island conservation, education, and preservation. It is located in a unique area within the Smith Island Complex which includes Bald Head, Middle and Bluff Islands, all of which are bounded by the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.  The Conservancy sponsors and facilitates scientific research that benefits coastal communities and provides numerous recreational and educational activities to the public. In collaboration with various organizations, the Conservancy is uniquely poised to become a national leader in barrier island conservation.

Cape Fear Botanical Garden

The Cape Fear Botanical Garden delights the eye –and the heart– year round. The 77 acre urban forest provides nature trails, a natural amphitheater, steep ravines sheltering unusual plants, and a varied riparian terrain which steps from open pine forest down hardwood slopes to lush riverbank. Ponds, pools and waterways attract birds and other fauna and provide habitat for aquatic plants.  In this stunning natural setting, the garden’s botanists, designers and gardeners have added structures and plantings to enhance the visitor’s enjoyment. A gazebo and Great Lawn, bordered by beds of perennial flowers, host casual visitors as well as wedding parties and group festivities. Children can search the trails expectantly while playing a botanical treasure hunt or bingo game. The specialty gardens offer fresh ideas for their own gardens, provide a lovely backdrop for a weekend stroll, and serve as living classrooms for botany and horticulture students.

Carolina Ocean Studies

Founded in 1992, Carolina Ocean Studies has shared the wonder of the Carolina coast with thousands of children and adults. We take groups to magnificent barrier islands and ocean reefs for thrilling environmental education. The sea’s wonders are revealed when participants go fishing, crabbing and exploring remote beaches.  Our school programs are curriculum-based and are conducted by experienced instructors, many of whom have years’ worth of classroom experience. Each year we take over 25,000 students on educational programs. Teachers have been recommending our cruises for 25 years. While our organization primarily caters to school groups, we also work with homeschool, scout, senior, church, and 4-H groups.

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Chatham Conservation Partnership

The mission of the Chatham Conservation Partnership (CCP) is to develop and implement strategies for a community conservation vision that builds awareness, protection and stewardship of Chatham County’s natural resources.  The Chatham Conservation Partnership has created an innovative tool, the Comprehensive Conservation Plan, to help with land protection and development decisions in Chatham County. This plan is the first of its kind created for a county in North Carolina.

Childrens’ Museum of Wilmington

The Children’s Museum of Wilmington or CMoW, as we call it, is a community supported 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization located in historic downtown Wilmington, NC. Our mission is to educate and inspire imaginative, independent thinking through hands-on science, math, and art experiences. We provide hands-on exhibits and educational programs for kids ages 0-10.

Environmental Educators of North Carolina

Our organization grew  from the desire of environmental educators across North Carolina to meet and share their experiences, aspirations, and tools.  Since its inception in 1990, EENC has grown into something much greater.  Our organization represents a network of outstanding environmental educators, individuals, and organizations who work together to accomplish our core mission: to build connections, provide professional development, and promote excellence in environmental education.

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Good Work

Good Work helps entrepreneurs and communities be more self-reliant, resilient, and collaborative. Good Work is a community development collaborative with a mission to strengthen local entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders through culturally appropriate support and partnerships. The program offers young people an introduction to internationally recognized Permaculture Design curriculum. The principles of Permaculture provide the backbone for the training course and introduce a holistic pathway for sustainable design and practice.  Participants will leave the program as more innovative, sensitive and cooperative stewards of our shared environments; and as inspired leaders, cultivating a more sustainable culture. They will have an understanding of green economies and how to create opportunities for themselves that leverage their unique talents.


Greensboro Science Center

The Greensboro Science Center’s (GSC) mission is to provide our community with a dynamic, experiential and family-focused attraction designed to inspire scientific curiosity as well as to encourage personal discovery about life and the natural world. With a zoo and aquarium fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as well as a museum accredited by the American Association of Museums, visitors can be assured that we adhere to the highest standards for facilities of our kind. The community has supported us for more than 60 years, so we are always looking for ways to pay that kindness forward. Knowing that not everyone is able to absorb the full admission price of a visit here, we’ve established the Group Visit Scholarship Assistance Fund, a reserve for nonprofit organizations to apply to receive financial assistance to help with offsetting admission costs.

It’s Our Water

The Environmental Education Fund created It’s Our Water, a North Carolina specific, educational curriculum focused on water quality for the state’s 8th grade and high school level Earth and Environmental Science teachers and educators to use with their students. The goal of It’s Our Water is to educate young citizens about the scientific principles at the heart of the increasingly urgent water quality and quantity issues in our country. With a solid understanding of the science, our future decision-makers will be better equipped to make the many difficult choices that lie ahead.

Museum of Coastal Carolina

The Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, Inc. (OIMF) is a non-profit organization with two facilities, the Museum of Coastal Carolina and Ingram Planetarium.  It shall be the mission of the Ocean Isle Museum Foundation, Inc. to stimulate the general public’s interest in and understanding of the natural science, environment, and cultural history of the coastal region of the Carolinas, as well as a broader understanding of our earth, our solar system, and our universe, by providing quality educational facilities for both the public and school students through activities and exhibits

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National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education

The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) promotes outdoor adventures and educational experience through authentic learning, personal growth, technical skills, and stewardship.  We believe people create positive and profoundly empowering experiences when they intentionally engage in unique educational settings. NCOAE is the values-based outdoor and adventure education provider for teens and adults interested in personal growth and professional development.  NCOAE develops and facilitates professionally guided outdoor experiences to foster an engaged educational community, through personal growth and the acquisition of technical and academic skills.

NC Coastal Federation Education Center

For 35 years, the federation has been in the field restoring miles of coastline; training and educating students, adults and communities to take actions that result in cleaner coastal waters and advocating for an accessible, healthy, productive coast. The North Carolina Coastal Federation opened the Fred & Alice Stanback Education Center on May 3, 2014 in Wrightsville Beach. The center is housed in a restored beach cottage that was saved from demolition and moved to the Wrightsville Beach Historic Square. The center contains education exhibits, outdoor displays, indoor and outdoor learning areas and event space. Located adjacent to tidal creeks, salt marshes and beach habitats, the center will offer hands on lessons to students and adults. The center offers speaker series, coastal tours and touch tank lessons. Education programs are available for schools and organized groups will also be offered.

NC Envirothon

The NC Envirothon is an exciting natural resource education program designed to challenge students in an interactive, outdoor competition where middle and high school teams (consisting of 3-5 students) are tested in areas of Wildlife, Forestry, Aquatic Ecology, Soils and Land Use and Current Environmental Issues. The NC Envirothon has been providing quality education and enrichment opportunities to North Carolina students for 25 years. A leader in natural resource, ecology and environmental education, the Envirothon has been helping to develop NC’s leaders for the future.

NC Association of Environmental Education Centers

This organization grew from the desire of environmental educators across North Carolina to meet and share their experiences, aspirations, and tools.  Since its inception in 1990, EENC has grown into something much greater.  Our organization represents a network of outstanding environmental educators, individuals, and organizations who work together to accomplish our core mission: to build connections, provide professional development, and promote excellence in environmental education.

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The North Carolina Children and Nature Coalition

The North Carolina Children and Nature Coalition (NCCAN!) is part of a growing worldwide movement to reconnect children with nature, inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. NCCAN raises awareness of the issue of children’s healthy development as inextricably linked to play and a relationship to the natural world. To create a world in which all children play, learn, and grow with nature in their everyday lives, NCCAN! engages individuals, agencies and organizations to promote personal, institutional, policy and cultural change

Project Learning Tree

PLT uses the forest as a “window” on the world to increase students’ understanding of our environment; stimulate students’ critical and creative thinking; develop students’ ability to make informed decisions on environmental issues; and instill in students the commitment to take responsible action on behalf of the environment.


Sustainable Sandhills

Sustainable Sandhills is a tiny environmental nonprofit with a giant mission- to save the planet and preserve the environment of the Sandhills through education, demonstration, and collaboration. Our mission is fulfilled through five core program areas: Clean Air, Clean Water, Green Schools, Green Business, and Local Food.  We work as change agents to empower youth, combat climate change, document and demand stronger protection for our environment.

Wilmington Earth Day Alliance

Every year, Wilmington celebrates Earth Day at Hugh MacRae Park around the 3rd Saturday in April. The event usually runs from 12pm-6pm and is completely free to attend. Residents and visitors enjoy food, beverage, live entertainment, a learning center, children’s zone, and even shopping — all to celebrate our planet.  The purpose of the Earth Day Celebration is to allow us all to discover what is available in our own back yard — in terms of environmental issues, actions being taken, and volunteer opportunities.

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Government Agencies

EPA Environmental Education

Environmental education increases public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues or problems. In doing so, it provides the public with the necessary skills to make informed decisions and take responsible action.

EPA Watershed Central

“Watershed Central provides state, local, and voluntary watershed management entities with the key tools, resources, guidance, and data sets to aide in a successful watershed management.  Watershed Central includes a feature called Watershed Wiki, which is web site that allows the user to submit and edit content so that the information is constantly updated by the watershed community (just like Wikipedia). The wiki includes case studies, information on watershed organizations and various watershed management tools.”

North Carolina Office of Environmental Education

The environmental education section of the N.C. Office of Environmental Education was established to increase environmental literacy and natural resource stewardship in North Carolina by encouraging, promoting and supporting environmental education programs, facilities and resources throughout the state.  The office was established in 1993 under Governor Martin’s administration to balance the department’s regulatory functions with a commitment to environmental literacy and environmental education outreach.  The office was created to serve as North Carolina’s clearinghouse, or central source, for all of the environmental education resources in the state. The office’s mission has remained one of identifying, leveraging and facilitating existing environmental education resources for the public good.

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