Press\Press Releases\Bald Head Island Takes Lead in International Barrier Island Research

Bald Head Island Takes Lead in International Barrier Island Research

Bald Head Island , N.C. The Bald Head Island Conservancy, an independent non-profit organization, has launched an in-depth program to study conservation and development strategies that promote barrier island sustainability, taking a lead role in international barrier island research. The program’s objective is to better understand the behavior of North Carolina’s barrier islands and to identify worldwide solutions to save and maintain these environments. 

            Previously recognized across the region for its contributions in studying and protecting Loggerhead sea turtles, the Conservancy is now planning the world’s first BarrierIslandStudyCenter in response to growing global concern regarding barrier island sustainability. The center will promote community-based conservation by integrating scientific research about barrier island sustainability and effective management strategies. 

            The proposed BarrierIslandStudyCenter will provide a long-term and short-term facility dedicated to barrier island research and education. BaldHeadIsland’s unique environment, which includes beach, marshland and maritime forest in 12,000 acres, offers researchers both pristine and developed habitats to study. Construction on the $2.5 million, certified “green” study center will begin in the Fall of 2007, for a 2008 completion.

Ecologically critical to the protection of the mainland, barrier islands stand as one of the fastest disappearing habitats on Earth because of overdevelopment and rising sea levels. In addition to analyzing barrier island behavior, the study will examine the conservation efforts and conscientious planning used on BaldHeadIsland by its owners and developers, the Mitchell family.

BaldHeadIsland is one of the only islands that has taken a sustainable perspective in development,” said Conservancy Executive Director, Dr. Suzanne Dorsey.  “Here, there has been a developer who approached the island with that purpose in mind.”

Bald Head Island is a vacation and second-home destination located two miles off the southeastern coast of North Carolina – a 20-minute ferry ride from Indigo Plantation and Marina in Southport, N.C. Open to the public, the island features more than 800 homes, including condominiums and single-family residences, with nearly 200 year-round residents. The island also includes a 10-acre marina and a championship golf course in one of the East Coast’s most pristine barrier island environments. Of the island’s 12,000 acres, 10,000 acres of beaches, salt marsh and maritime forest are protected and will remain undeveloped. Visit to learn more.

For more information on barrier island sustainability, please contact the Bald Head Island Conservancy at (910) 457-0089 or visit



Note to editor:

Background information on barrier islands and the Bald Head Island Conservancy’s study is attached.  Please contact Kirsty Piper at Talk PR, Inc. (910) 616-0102, to arrange interviews with Conservancy experts. Photos of BaldHeadIsland’s unique environments, including beaches, marshland and maritime forest are available for download at





BACKGROUNDER – Bald HeadIslandConservancyBarrierIsland Study

What are BarrierIslands?

·         Barrier islands are dynamic geological features found mainly on gentle continental slopes around the world.  They are characterized as a long, narrow accumulation of sediments that collect parallel to the coast and are separated from the shore by bays or marshes.

·         Due to their sensitivity to winds, waves, tidal currents and storms, barrier islands gradually change over time in a cycle of erosion and build up.  Island erosion can be a result of sea level rise, while sediment accumulates on the opposite, marsh end. 

·         Though barrier islands can be found across the globe, some of the most established barrier islands in the world are located on the southeastern coast of the U.S..  In fact 85% of the East and Gulf coasts are protected by barrier islands.

·         Barrier islands are home to a number of vital ecosystems, including estuaries, maritime forest, which are categorized as globally imperiled by the Natural Heritage Foundation, and salt marshes – the starting points for numerous species of birds, reptiles and fish.  

·         According to the Bald Head Island Conservancy,, barrier islands are disappearing due to a rise in sea levels created by global warming. In addition, an increase in the number of severe storms has devastated many barrier islands, leaving little time for their ecosystems to recuperate.


Barrier Island Study Facts

·         The Barrier  IslandStudyCenter is a LEEDs certified green building located on the campus of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.  The Center will nurture research and education to better understand barrier island environments. 

·         The Bald Head Island Conservancy’s Barrier Island Program will be the first to examine real-time conservation efforts for barrier islands, and will take place in four phases.  The first phase will enable researches to gain a basic understanding of the island environment by creating a matrix of all the species that live there.  Next, researchers will assess the health of the island and what the community can to do improve and sustain it.  Phase three will emphasize the importance of continuous monitoring and adjustment of the conservation efforts put in place during the study.  The final phase will work to network barrier island communities and provide effective conservation and management models for other communities.

·         The Bald Head Island Conservancy has raised $1 million of the total $3.5 million needed to build and endow the new structure dedicated to barrier island research. 

·         The Bald Head Island Conservancy fosters public-private partnerships between the developer, Bald Head Island Limited; property owners; the Village of Bald Head Island; and businesses on BaldHeadIsland.

·         The Bald Head Island Conservancy will partner with University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the NC Wildlife Resource Commission, the NC Agricultural Cooperative Extensions Service, and the NC Coastal Reserve to administer the Barrier Island Study.



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