On the Edge of Discovery

Carolina Covenant alumna Stacy Zhang first got her feet wet in marine ecology as an undergraduate. Now a postdoctoral researcher with the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, Zhang serves on the frontlines to help navigate challenges facing North Carolina’s coast.

Zhang calls it an “exciting and mildly terrifying” opportunity, but it’s one she’s been working toward for more than a decade, dating back to when she was an undergraduate at Carolina.

Her junior year, Zhang applied for the Institute for the Environment’s Morehead City Field Site program, a semester-long program that provides Carolina students experience conducting independent research at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences and learning from the institute’s faculty.

Supported by her Carolina Covenant scholarship, Zhang spent the fall semester of her senior year in the field site program, which she said set the direction of her research career.

North Carolina’s wild commercial industry is a nearly $300 million enterprise. Zhang’s current research looks at how hurricane damage and warming waters affect the entire dynamic of the ecosystem, impacting the bottom line for a fishery.

“The oceans are such an important and vast environment, and our near-shore, coastal ecosystems are so valuable,” Zhang said. “We need that happy medium of making sure that we have these ecosystems for the future and that they’re able to still provide those benefits for society.”

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