Haley Moser

Senior Haley Moser is an undergraduate researcher within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences double-majoring in environmental sciences and geography. Her research focuses on utilizing geographic data to identify the spread and level of nutrients and contamination within waterbodies after a major weather event like a hurricane — information that helps local governments better prepare for when the next storm hits.

a young girl (Haley Moser) collects a water sample from an outdoor hose faucet attached to a brick wallphoto by Alyssa LaFaro
March 28th, 2018

When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Describe your research in five words.

“What’s in the river post-hurricane?”

I grew up watching “Mythbusters,” and I always wanted to be part of the team. They took the “nerdy scientist” you always see on TV and showed the fun sides of science — especially when explosions were involved! The show did a great job of showing how the team completed the scientific process from beginning to end when they tested myths, and it always excited me to see the guys move from the idea stage to implementation to results. It was science, in real life, done by cool people, in so many different types of ways.

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

I always loved science, but I thought the only types of science that you could make a career out of were chemistry or medicine. I tried being a biology major, but Chemistry 101 ended that pretty quickly. I didn’t want to leave STEM, so my love of nature and being outside led me to environmental science. I spent sophomore and junior years just going through the motions dictated by my Tar Heel Tracker, and it wasn’t until I took Dr. Chip Konrad’s Synoptic Meteorology class that I found my passion for understanding Earth’s natural processes. I actually learned why the sky is blue — how cool is that?!

the sun sets behind a young girl on the Galapágos islands

Over winter break, Moser worked on a research project in the Galapágos islands with PhD student Angélica Gómez.

Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

When I don’t know how to do something, I feel afraid to ask questions because I don’t want to come across as unintelligent or failing. I use mapping software all the time and, sometimes,  I sit and sit and sit and try to work out which tool is the right one or which method will work best, when in reality my problem would be fixed much quicker if I just asked my boss to show me which way he would complete the task or to Google the issue and see what others have tried. It’s so much better to ask for help and to learn than to be stuck in a problem.

What are your passions outside of science?

I fell in love with travelling after studying abroad in New Zealand. There are so many places to see, people to meet, and foods to eat! (Can somebody reading this figure out how to make flying less scary??) Also, of course, UNC basketball! #TAR

Women in Science Wednesday highlights UNC researchers at all levels of their careers across dozens of fields. From nursing to economics to computer science, women at Carolina excel in research, mentorship, and advocacy. Click here to nominate an exceptional scientist.