Since she was 14 years old, Liah McPherson has studied the lives of wild dolphins. This past summer, the freediving fanatic and UNC junior worked as a field assistant with The Wild Dolphin Project in the northern Bahamas — where she photographed and researched four generations of Atlantic spotted dolphins.
For 70 years, the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, located in Morehead City, has provided a home for Carolina scientists — from undergraduate students to tenured professors — to study the complex marine and coastal systems of North Carolina and beyond.
Senior Jeliyah Clark is an undergraduate researcher studying environmental health sciences within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a Chancellor’s Science Scholar, McNair Scholar, and undergraduate research assistant in the Fry lab. Her research focuses on the impacts of human exposure to environmental contaminants.
UNC earth scientists have crossed oceans and traveled to far-away continents to pursue their research, as well as studied natural systems right here in North Carolina. In celebration of Earth Science Week, check out where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to.
From the competitive ports of China, to the innovative flood gates of the Netherlands, to the shifting sands of the Outer Banks, the sea creeps farther up the coastline every single day, and the distance between the top of the water and the bottom of bridges decreases — a major issue for port economies. UNC American studies professor Rachel Willis searches for solutions to help these communities cope with the impact of sea-level rise.
Senior Madeline Fisher is an undergraduate researcher double-majoring in environmental studies and music within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She is also a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow. Her research focuses on gathering oral histories from musicians who have come from coal-mining communities and the role environmental science plays in their lives.
12,340 miles separates the North Pole from the South Pole. But many geophysicists believe the two points are connected. How has always been a mystery, but UNC geophysicist José A. Rial has a hypothesis — they actually “talk” to each other through a natural process called synchronization.
Fort Bragg, the largest military installation in North Carolina, spans 500 square miles packed with sand dunes, longleaf pines, and a handful of rare and endangered plants. To protect the vital vegetation covering training lands, the army base has partnered with the North Carolina Botanical Garden to reintroduce four species endemic to the region.
Carter Smith, a PhD candidate at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, uses underwater sonar to count fish in low-visibility environments - a good indicator for the overall health of a marsh ecosystem.
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.