Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab


Learn about geospatial analysis in environmental science

MGEL is dedicated to providing professional and scientific training to the next generation of scientists. We equip students with the best tools, quality research experiences, and development to prepare them for successful careers in environmental science and management.

Geospatial analyses are a rapidly growing approach to problem solving across a wide array of environmental and earth science disciplines. The Geospatial analysis certificate program teaches GIS as a tool and promotes hands-on skill development that is applicable to almost all environmental science and management problems.


This course is the gateway into more advanced training in the Geospatial Analysis curriculum. ENVIRON 559 covers fundamental aspects of geographic information systems and satellite remote sensing for environmental applications.

Instructor: Pat Halpin / Peter Harrell
Lecture / Lab

ENVIRON 5594 credits

This application course focuses on spatial analysis and image processing applications to support coastal and marine management. The course covers benthic habitat mapping, spatial analysis of marine animal movements, habitat modeling, and the optimization of marine protected areas. The course requires a fundamental knowledge of geospatial analysis theory and analysis tools. 

Instructor: Pat Halpin / Jesse Cleary
Lecture / Lab

ENVIRON 765 – 4 credits

Required symposium for the Coastal Environmental Management degree. This course provides professional development guidance, trainings, and opportunities for students to present their master’s project research.

Instructor: Pat Halpin / Grant Murray

ENVIRON 898 – 1 credits

An applied study of a forestry or environmental management problem or a theoretical research effort. A seminar presentation of the objectives, methodology, and preliminary findings is required. A written (or other medium) report at the conclusion of the project is also required. Undertaken with the guidance of the student’s adviser. Open to qualified students with consent of instructor and director of graduate/undergraduate studies.

Instructor: Pat Halpin

ENVIRON 899 4-6 credits

Marine Geospatial Ecology Tools is a free, open-source geoprocessing toolbox that can help you solve a wide variety of marine research, conservation, and spatial planning problems. It is used by students and researchers to access oceanographic data, identifying ecologically-relevant features, and modeling spatiotemporal patterns.

MGEL supports professional masters, PhD & undergraduate students

Master’s Degree in Environmental Management

The Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree is offered through Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. The MEM degree trains students to understand the scientific basis of environmental problems, as well as the social, political and economic factors that determine effective policy options. Students opting for a MEM degree in Coastal Environmental Management spend the first year in Durham fulfilling required course work; the second year is typically spent at the Marine Lab, where further course work and a Master’s Project are completed.

For additional information, please visit CEM program page.

Doctoral Program

The PhD degree is offered through the Duke Graduate School via the Division of Marine Science and Conservation, the University Program in Ecology, or the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program.

For additional information on the PhD degree please visit the PhD Degree page or the Graduate School website.

Undergraduate Programs

Our rigorous academic programs prepare students to be leaders and innovators in environmental science, policy, management, and other high-impact fields. The Marine Science & Conservation majors and minors will be available beginning fall 2021.

For additional information  please visit the Nicholas School website.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

As a lab, we are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive community built on collaboration, innovation, creativity, and belonging. Our commitment to diversity and inclusivity builds upon Duke University’s commitment as well as the Nicholas School of the Environment. We are actively promoting an anti-racist environment both within our lab and across the wider community working within our local and regional communities to elevate opportunities. Every member of our lab embraces these core values and shares the responsibility to uphold them. To find out more please visit the Nicholas School Strategic Plan, Anti-Harassment, Sexual Misconduct & Accommodations Policies, the Accountability Committee, Land Acknowledgement, and the Office for Institutional Equity.

Featured student Projects

The high seas lie beyond national jurisdiction, and species there are caught by industrial fleets and destined mainly for high-end markets. 

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This summer the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab is lucky enough to have seven bright interns to help conduct research on topics from sea level rise, to marine mammal modeling to the high seas!

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Advancing technologies for visualizing and mapping our ocean planet are rapidly breaking down past barriers to both our understanding of ocean ecosystems and ocean resource use.

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An important international policy struggle is underway, one that is invisible to most citizens. Countries are preparing to mine the ocean floor in the deep sea…

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Prospective Students

Thank you for your interest in the Marine Geospatial Ecology Laboratory (MGEL)! If you are interested in applying to this lab as a graduate student, we invite you to carefully read this page to get a sense of the lab and whether we would be a good fit for you. To read more about the graduate program requirements please refer to the Graduate School website.

We look for students with strong analytical skills, previous field experience, geospatial analysis, interdisciplinary interests, and a foundation in ecology and conservation.

Do your research interests align with MGEL?

As a member of the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, you would be focused on utilizing geospatial analysis to better understand the marine environment. Our lab and students are actively involved with science and policy engagements that include:

Want to join the lab?

We would like to discuss your potential research ideas that align with the interests of the lab. Please contact us with:

  • your CV,
  • a statement of your research interests,
  • how your interests fit in with the lab’s current research,
  • examples of your previous research

If possible, find time to visit both the Duke University in Durham and the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC, to meet both of our labs in person. When you come, organize a time to meet with current graduate and doctoral students in the lab – they have valuable insights and advice to share. We look forward to meeting you!