Earth: Exploring Our Planet

Eyes in the Sky

Ever since the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina has proudly proclaimed to be “first in flight." Less well-known is Carolina’s connection to deep space — from the first astronomical observatory on a college campus, to the first planetarium in the South, to one of the first administrators at NASA, UNC scientists have long been connected to and inspired by the night sky.

Cheng Cao

Cheng Cao is a PhD student studying geological sciences within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. Her research focuses on understanding Earth’s evolution over time, as well as the chemical processes that take place on the planet’s surface.

Rachel Willis

Rachel Willis is a professor of American studies, global studies, and economics within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. Her research focuses on how sea-level rise, drought, and increased storm severity threaten port communities, influence migration, alter global food sheds, and impact future access to work through complex water connections related to infrastructure for global freight transportation.

The 0.3 Percent

From the basalt lava fields of Hawaii to the vast white expanse of Antarctica, UNC alumna Zena Cardman has ventured to some of Earth’s most unique and remote places. Now she’s setting her sights on the ultimate frontier — space. Over 18,000 people applied to be in NASA’s newest class of astronauts, and Cardman found out on May 25 that she was among the top 12 accepted. She reports to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in August to begin her training.

Utilizing Geophysics to Uncover History

Central North Carolina is home to a vast array of historic landscapes that weave in and out of our day-to-day paths. On Saturday, April 30, Mike Shore’s Geological Archaeology class spent a day investigating the historic Ayr Mount site in Hillsborough, where several structures that once stood above ground now lie beneath the surface.

A Volcanologist’s Vigilance

As director of Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute, Mario Ruiz has monitored some of the most active (and potentially destructive) volcanoes in South America. After earning his PhD at UNC 10 years ago, Ruiz has come back to Carolina to sift through data from the recent eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano.

A RAPID Response to Hurricane Matthew

In the months following one of the most destructive hurricanes of the past decade, UNC researchers had to act fast. Using a unique grant from the NSF, they’re testing water quality in Lumberton — one of the hardest-hit places during the storm.