Research & Students Connected

Natural Sciences in Action At USCB

Lowcountry Dolphin Conservation Program


In 2011, Dr. Eric Montie and the USCB Marine Sensory and Neurobiology Lab founded the Lowcountry Dolphin Conservation Program with the support of foundations and private funding.

Donate to USCB Dolphin Conservation

Twice a month, a team of students and technicians go by boat to perform dolphin visual surveys and water quality measurements in tidal estuaries of Beaufort County. When a dolphin group is sighted, they count the total number of adults, newborns, and calves and record the GPS location of these animals. High quality photographs of each dolphin’s dorsal fin are captured. Software programs are used to identify individual dolphins from a catalogue of known dorsal fins. Residency of each animal is determined using seasonal sighting patterns, and animals are categorized as residents, seasonal residents, or non-residents. A YSI 556 Handheld Multiparameter Instrument is used to measure temperature, salinity, pH, and dissolved.

It is always a challenge to keep monitoring programs alive. Generous community support helps ensure that future generations can enjoy watching dolphins from the May River to the Port Royal sound. 

Follow Dr. Monite and local dolphins on Facebook

Vagabond Cruises InternshipsVagabond

Biology students conduct research and learn to be environmental educators through their internships with Vagabond Cruises on Hilton Head Island. Here students Abby Brown and Ian Derry work with Dr. Stephen Borgianini aboard Vagabond’s “Tammy Jane” shrimp trawler. 

Tidal Marsh Task Force

Students Sampling Dock

Dr. Mercer Brugler's students use molecular tools to identify prokaryotes, protists, fungi, plants and invertebrates living near Beaufort, SC. Here Anyya Jones, Sayge LaRocco, Yessenia Becerra (left to right) take samples of organisms living on a floating dock at the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center. Learn more about the Tidal Marsh Task Force.

Environmental Acoustics and Sensing Research

Caleb and Ashlee Recording Data

Biology major Caleb Shedd (left) measures water temperature, pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, while Ashlee Seder records these data during a seining trip in the May River. Learn more about this work at Dr. Eric Montie's Marine Sensory and Neurobiology Lab FaceBook Page.

Target-Based Drug Discovery for Coronavirus Disease

Target based COVID research

USCB undergraduate researcher Shane M. Carey (left) assists associate professor of biochemistry and structural biology Dr. Edward L. D'Antonio on the overexpression of a target protein belonging to SARS-CoV-2 for COVID-19 drug discovery research.  Learn more about the D’Antonio Laboratory.

Water Quality 

Students with teacher on dock

Dr. Tye Pettay discusses environmental sensors used to measure water quality with two summer research assistants. In a program new to Beaufort County, local residents are collecting samples, performing simple water quality tests and providing their data to scientists as part of South Carolina Adopt-a-Stream, a partnership of Clemson Extension, the Port Royal Foundation and University of South Carolina Beaufort.  USCB students will analyze these samples in Dr. Pettay’s lab. Learn more about protecting water quality at Dr. Pettay's lab.

OCEARCH OCEARCH research expedition

USCB students including Lincoln Fuller have been guest researchers on OCEARCH research expeditions studying sharks. The nonprofit organization tags and tracks sharks, whales, turtles and other marine life. USCB’s Dr. Kim Ritchie collaborates with OCEARCH to collect data about the health, reproduction and migratory patterns of North Atlantic White Sharks.


POSea Conference

Three students Marine BiologyUSCB Marine Biology students dominated the virtual stage at the 2021 POSea Conference, which showcased the work of BIPOC marine scientists from around the world. Jicayla Johnson-Rosemond (left) presented her research entitled Bioinformatically mining next-gen capture libraries for black coral mitogenomes and won the Best Presentation Award in the 5-minute lightning talk category. Yessenia Bledsoe-Becerra (right) and Iesha Whittaker (middle) presented Elucidating the black coral microbiome using amplicon sequencing and Assessing the biodiversity of oyster reefs using eDNA, respectively. Learn more about POSea.

Summer Research Opportunites 

Student with Alligator

USCB undergraduate Kristen Mullins inspecting a juvenile alligator for leeches (Summer 2021, Spring Island). More than two dozen University of South Carolina Beaufort undergraduates and recent graduates spent last summer conducting research.  USCB’s inaugural Summer Research Experience (SRE) initiative supported students and interns who worked with faculty members in research about coral reef ecology, estuarine soundscapes, health markers in wastewater and other topics. Learn more about USCB summer research opportunities.

Internship Sites – 2023

Port Royal Sound Foundation's Maritime Center: 

Palmetto Bluff Conservancy: 

The Spring Island Trust: 

Nemours Wildlife Foundation: 

Waddell Mariculture Center:

Coastal Discovery Museum:

Oldfield Outfitters:

Fripp Island Naturalist Internship:

Audubon Newhall Preserve on Hilton Head Island:

Pritchards Island Sea Turtle Patrol: 

Shrimp Trawling Expedition:

Vagabond Cruise Internship:

SC DNR Coastal Conservations Internships (Diversity Outreach Specialist is Juan Aristizabal;

SC DHEC (Internship coordinator is Ronald Miller;

Opterra Solutions (Walterboro, SC; agriculture industry:

Student Research and Scholarship Day 2023