Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center

Mission Statement

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center (MCERC) is dedicated to providing research and education opportunities aimed at increasing an investment in conservation and preservation of healthy marine and coastal ecosystems.

MCERC supports scientific research of marine habitats and encourages participation of investigators with a similar mission. We welcome collaborations with scientists and university students who are invested in the MCERC mission.

Who We Are

Our programs and research projects are developed by qualified scientists and educators with an aim at creating dynamic opportunities for humans with a desire to participate in field based projects. Our Board of directors is tasked with assuring our programs and research projects adhere to our mission.

What We Do

MCERC scientists, interns, and students collect scientific data promoting a further understanding of the organisms in marine and coastal habitats. Our Board of Directors review research projects and curriculum with an eye towards the creation of programs meeting the needs of scientific research and the students in our programs. Our interns develop tools essential for future careers research, education, and management by participating in data collection and management, outreach, and mentoring students.

Where We Are

MCERC‘s base station is located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, USA. Research and programs are conducted all over the island, off shore, and include habitats on the smaller islands included in the Puerto Rico archipelago. Programs are being developed for Texas, USA and will compliment the curriculum developed for Puerto Rico.

MCERC collaborates with universities to run courses for credit hours. Many of our students earn undergraduate and graduate credit hours as independent study courses with advisers from their university.


MCERC’s focal project is an investigation of North Atlantic humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) wintering off Puerto Rico, USA. Research effort is directed at understanding the importance of this low density area and its relationship to the larger aggregation of wintering humpbacks off Dominican Republic. Our research team is comprised of the principal investigator (Mithriel MacKay), support staff, full time interns, students participating in the Humpback Whale Field Intensive program at MCERC, and a large group of dedicated volunteers.

In addition to collecting data aimed at answering questions about humpback whale movement, occupancy, and habitat use, the low density aggregation of whales off Puerto Rico facilitates a study of behaviors of individual animals. Our team records data on other marine species encountered during boat, land, and aerial surveys. It is our hope that future projects in our study area will include investigations aimed at in-depth studies of other marine fauna, and that MCERC will be able to provide data for future projects in the Caribbean.


MCERC is committed to providing programs for students, naturalists, and people interested in the conservation of marine and coastal environments. Courses are designed to submerge participants in the habitats in our study area. It is our aim to aid in the development of research skills and infuse a sense of excitement while we explore the relationship between humans and marine habitats. Our participants include students working with advisers at their university to obtain undergraduate and graduate credit hours, people from all professions interested in understanding marine and coastal habitats, and interns with a desire to develop research and mentoring skills.

Curriculum for MCERC programs are structured in a “shorty” format. One week field submersion programs fit well into vacation schedules and budgets. Program fees are directed at supporting MCERC research and education projects. Many of our program participants remain in contact with our staff and each other creating a web of resources across the globe. Our long term efforts continue to be aimed at developing opportunities for outreach and education for as many humans interested in understanding the complex relationships in marine ecosystems.