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College of Arts & Sciences
Maritime Research Division


MRD staff onducting remote sensing operations aboard survey vessel.

MRD Staff

The MRD employs three full-time staff in Columbia

James D. Spirek State Underwater Archaeologist

Jim is Head of the Maritime Research Division, and is responsible for implementing archaeological research, overseeing the regulatory aspects of the Division, and issuing Exclusive Licenses. Research interests lie in Civil War naval operations, shipbuilding and seafaring of the 16th-century, remote-sensing operations, and in providing public access to submerged maritime resources. Before joining the Institute, Jim spent three and a half years locating and recording shipwrecks in Pensacola Bay, Florida. Research and contract projects have taken him throughout the US and International waters to document sites ranging from 16th-century Spanish shipwrecks to Great Lakes bulk freighters. He received his M.A. in Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology from East Carolina University in 1993 and a B.A. in History from George Mason University in 1987.

Ryan Bradley Underwater Archaeologist

Ryan plays an essential role in planning and conducting archaeological research, facilitating public educational and outreach programs and coordinating public notices under Federal Section 106 requirements.  He also administers and assists in all diving operations undertaken by the Division.  His research interests include historic fisheries, maritime landscapes, photogrammetry as an archaeological and outreach tool and educating the public on submerged cultural resources.  Ryan is a certified scuba diving instructor (SDI) and Diver Alert Network Diver Emergency Management Provider (DAN DEMP) Instructor.  Prior to joining MRD, Ryan worked for the UNC Coastal Studies Institute as an education and outreach specialist on the Outer Banks, NC and on a remote sensing survey of Hatteras Inlet with Tidewater Atlantic Research. He received his M.A. in Maritime Studies from East Carolina University in 2015.

William Nassif Underwater Archaeologist

Will administrates the Hobby License processing for the Division, conducts site and collection assessments throughout the state, and participates in underwater archaeological projects. He was born in Durham, North Carolina and spent most of his childhood between there and Cary, NC. After graduating high school, he enrolled at Appalachian State University and graduated with a B.A. in History with a minor in Accounting. He returned to the Triangle and taught at Athens Drive High School for two years, where he also coached the school’s football and lacrosse teams. Building on his childhood love of North Carolina’s rivers and coastline, he returned to higher education as a student in East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies. His thesis research into the historic Pamlico River port of Washington sought to examine the relationship between port infrastructure technology and economic trends. Along with his excursions into the Pamlico River, he has conducted maritime archaeological surveys at several other Tar/Pamlico River sites, shipwrecks off the NC coast, military equipment in the Marshall Islands, and terrestrial surveys on the Outer Banks. He looks forward to protecting South Carolina’s maritime heritage.