Upon first glance, the building somewhat resembles some sort of top secret research facility, bristling with covert MI6 agents set to interrupt some wily network of bad guys. What you will find inside, however, is far from a James Bond slice of life.

While this crew does gather intelligence and perform experiments, its focus is not necessarily of the human variety.

Its focus area includes: estuarine ecology, coastal engineering and ocean energy, marine heritage and coastal processes — all of which are led by ECU in partnership with NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.

“At CSI, we use an interdisciplinary approach,” says John McCord, assistant director for engagement and outreach. “We have a breadth of programming that provides effective solutions to complex problems that impact not only Eastern NC but also the Mid-Atlantic and the entire east coast of the U.S.”

With the institute for over 14 years, it’s up to McCord to communicate what CSI does for students, for faculty and to communicate the work of all the researchers.

“When we first started out, we worked out of a 100-year-old building in Manteo,” he says. “We have seen a lot of change and growth. It’s really exciting to be a part of this.”

Situated in Wanchese, the facility sits on 213 acres of marshes, scrub, and forested wetlands and a variety of sound ecosystems. It strives to do an exemplary job of demonstrating how an architectural design can co-exist flawlessly with its surrounding environment.

“Currently at the facility, we have 22 faculty members, with others out in the field and other locations such as ECU and across the state.”

What these folks are doing is nothing short of inspirational.

“We are performing experiments and researching new ways to protect shore lines, and we are developing renewable ocean energy programs, amongst a whole slew of other things.”

In fact, if you were to visit the institute’s website, one could access live wave data from the institute’s wave rider buoy. CSI also makes it a point to provide education and outreach for youth.

Since 2005, K-12 programs have been made available, so that kids may learn in the same space where scientists conduct their work.

“This year alone, we are slated to serve over 2,600 students from all over North Carolina and offer over 17 weeks of summer camp,” McCord says.

“It’s a team effort, and it’s a whole lot of fun,” he says. “Each year, we like to offer an Open House, so that the public can come and learn about all the things we have going on.”

As guests make their way around the facility, interactive presentations will be present in order to convey the mission of CSI.

“Our goal is to relate the type of programming we offer and how it all ties back to the research being done,” he says.

Tours of the ground will be given from the horticulturist, who will instruct visitors how to plant native species. In addition, research vessels will be available for tours, and there will be hands-on activities for the kids that highlight camp themes that involve microscopes, building boats and racing them.

Research Associate Lindsey Dubbs will also be on site.

“She will be chatting about ocean energy development and renewable energy development, and then having games to have folks see if they can tell the difference between marine mammal sounds versus human sounds,” McCord says. “This helps us learn what kind of impact we have on them.”

There will even be virtual reality tours of shipwrecks for those who like a bit of adventure.

With the facility open since 2012, McCord and his crew expect even more growth and hope to share their journey with even more visitors.

“We usually attract around 500 hundred people and hope to have even more this year,” he says. “It really is an amazing place.”

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