MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Phillips Island, across from the bridge connecting Morehead City to Beaufort, is a new addition to the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences.

The Phillips family donated the land for research and education this summer.

“The Phillips family who’ve owned the island since the 1930s,” said Rick Luettich, director at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences. “It had a Menhaden processing plant on it, and that stopped operating and burned actually in the 1950s.”

The Phillips felt there was no longer a need for the island and wanted to donate it for good use.

“I would just say how grateful we are to the Phillips family for thinking about the university and the institute,” said Luettich.

One major focus the institute has is on climate change, and how the 17-acre island shrank over time. They plan to possibly experiment with different methods to protect it from further erosion.

“The research and the teaching and engagement that we do there will probably be focused around how that island is changing, has changed over the last century or more as far back as we can find information about it, and how it’s likely to be changing as we go forward in the future,” said Luettich.

As well as take a look at what’s been left behind.

“One of the first things we’re going to do is take a sort of a scientific inventory of the various things that are there,” said Luettich. “It’s got an old brick chimney on it, which is a leftover from the menhaden plant that was there.”

Their fall 2023 undergraduates will likely get the first opportunity to explore the island and decide how to move forward from there.

Phillips Island has been open to the public in recent years. The institute is unsure if it will change because of its research.