Earth: Exploring Our Planet

Water Over the Bridge

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.

The Guava Hunter

From the time he was a child, Bryan Reatini has always held an inherent fascination for the natural world. Now, as he pursues his PhD in biology, Reatini has the unique opportunity to collect data from one of the most distinct ecosystems in the world — the Galápagos Islands.

In Sync

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.

Conserving Rare Plants: It Takes an Army

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.

Measuring the Health of a Marsh

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.

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.

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.