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Photo of the North Carolina Coast.This past semester, Fall 2019, professor Brent McKee of the marine science department and Bland Simpson of the English department taught ENGL/MASC 473: Creative non-fiction: The Changing Coasts of Carolina.

“There is a very big gap in the hard sciences between learning those sciences and communicating them well with people,’ said Sydney Thomas, a junior biology major.

This course was designed to close that gap. Simpson and McKee combined their expertise in creative writing and marine sciences, respectively, to teach students how to clearly communicate ideas relating to environmental issues. In addition to reading scientific articles and creative fiction, this course also included excursions to explore the coast of North Carolina.

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Course Description

The Coasts of Carolina are enormous and complex: ocean beaches, sounds great and small, vast marshes both saltwater and fresh, blackwater and brownwater rivers, tidal creeks. Eastern North Carolina’s waters and lands – the first reached by Spanish and English explorers and colonists in the 16th century – are an amazing territory of biodiversity with Northern flora and fauna reaching their Southern limits and overlapping with Southern flora and fauna reaching their Northern limits.

A rigorous combination of fieldwork, occasional lab work, and colorful, original contemporary writing on the natural world will help tell the story of our many, evolving North Carolina coasts. Combining marine science and the creative literary arts, this immersive course will explore issues of change on the coast and coastal interior of North Carolina over many eras, including our own, from the barrier islands to headwaters above the fall line, using scientific observation and reports as well as literature and journalism. This course will include three (3) field trips to the coast, at no expense to students.

Our goal is that close scientific observation in both field and in the lab, combined with social and cultural observation, will lead to imaginatively constructed, well-written non-fiction reportage about one of North America’s most productive, compelling, and challenging regions.

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