Don Fejfar is a junior and Morehead-Cain Scholar majoring in biostatistics within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He studies how disease relates to food and water quality, security, and accessibility on Isabela Island in Galápagos, Ecuador.
The Davie Poplar. Walter’s Pine. The Monarch of the Forest. While these natural landmarks on UNC’s campus were here long before the university was, they’ve become a prominent part of its history. But what happens if they die? A team at Carolina has an innovative solution for preserving their stories.
After Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto Rico in 2017, millions of people lost power — some for nearly a year. But the blackout wasn’t just the work of a powerful hurricane. Decades of debt, economic dependence, and bad financial deals set up the territory and its electrical company, PREPA, for failure. To get to the root of the catastrophe, UNC anthropologist Sandy Smith-Nonini and filmmaker Roque Nonini teamed up to create a documentary about the underlying forces of Puerto Rico’s energy crisis.
Seagrasses are vital habitats in North Carolina coastal waters, but their numbers have dwindled over the years. A team at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences is exploring what type of seagrass structure marine life prefer in order to best approach restoring these important aquatic environments.
Native only to a 90-mile inland radius around Wilmington, the Venus flytrap is a symbol of the Atlantic coastal plain’s unique ecology — and a contender for the federal endangered species list. As wild populations suffer due to poaching and habitat loss, UNC researchers work to preserve these carnivorous wonders through genetic testing and seed banking.
In the past decade, the Cape Fear River has become more susceptible to algal blooms — a potential public health concern for more than 1.5 million people relying on the river as a drinking water source. UNC researcher Nathan Hall thinks droughts and slow flows are the culprit, and aims to predict when future blooms will occur.
In its mission to inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants, the North Carolina Botanical Garden conducts a series of controlled burns each year to manage wildfires and maintain rare plant and animal habitats in Chapel Hill and Durham.
In 2016, a group of North Carolina researchers published evidence of high rates of PFAS in the Cape Fear River basin. While this unregulated family of chemicals is used in the production of everyday goods, its impact on human health is largely unknown. For the past year, scientists from UNC-Chapel Hill, five other UNC system universities, and Duke University, have researched these potentially dangerous chemicals found in drinking water sources across the state.
Environmental education and research have deep roots at Carolina, but a lot has changed since the natural sciences came to campus almost 200 years ago. From the creation of a sanitary engineering department to relationships stoked by the internet, environmental study at UNC has evolved into a hotbed of research, education, and community outreach.
From the shores of New Jersey to the North Carolina coast, Pete Peterson has always loved the ocean. He's spent nearly five decades researching its marine life, fighting for its protection, and guiding the next generation of marine scientists to do the same.