Rachel Carson Campus Fellows and Stanback Interns Articles

More Universities Should Invest in Solar Energy: What Holds Them Back?

Emma Fry


As a student at a small women’s college in North Carolina, I work to see changes on our campus that reflect the ideals and values that Meredith College promotes in its pronouncements and marketing. I want to see my administrators uphold priorities that will provide the most authentic learning environment possible, and commit to taking visible steps toward a greener campus culture. Such actions would affect all Meredith students. A commitment to clean energy would demonstrate a credible concern for the climate crisis and solidify the college’s claims to sustainability and to racial and environmental justice.

In my efforts to advocate for sustainable actions on Meredith’s campus, I connected with mentors and professors who have been pushing for solar installations for years. Their passion for change sparked my initial interest in finding a way to integrate solar into Meredith’s utility systems; it continues to provide insights into how Meredith College can improve its energy efficiency. More specifically, how can we, as students, compel our universities to take meaningful action on the climate crisis? Click here to read more

As Campuses Close, Where Does That Leave Students Without Housing?
Julianna Tresca


“You know we have students who go here living out of their cars, right?” she said. It was spring, before COVID-19, and just another week for me volunteering at the student food pantry. But I suddenly stopped stocking shelves. Sister Rose, who runs the Hawks Harvest student food pantry at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington (UNCW), made me do a double take.

“I keep a list of students that are struggling with issues like this. If they get into any problems, I’m first on the list to call. They need all the help they can get.” Click here to read more

Climate Action: The Carbon Commitment and Sustainability on Campus

Lindsey Nystrom


As the climate crisis becomes more and more visible around the globe, student activists have worked here at the University of North Carolina Asheville to take steps to adapt, mitigate, and prepare for its effects. Sustainability has long been a core value at our institution. UNCA has already taken a number of steps to lessen its carbon footprint — implementing sustainable dining practices, placing solar on campus, supporting our entirely student-run Student Environmental Center, placing composting programs in the residence halls, and advancing a bike-friendly campus.

Importantly, UNCA has divested 10% of its endowment from fossil fuels and will potentially divest more in the future. Now students and faculty are strongly advocating for the university to sign onto the Carbon Commitment, a pledge to work to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 that offers campus sustainability organizers a flexible, effective and measurable way to fight climate change. Click here to read more

The Bitter Side of Sugar

Emily Irigoyen


The COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives in countless ways, but for some residents in Palm Beach County, Fla., the respiratory virus poses an even deadlier risk to their health and well-being.

While thousands of parents fear sending their kids back to school because of COVID-19, those in Glades, a small rural community south of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, fear sending their kids back because of exposure to particulate-polluted air.

he cause for this pollution? The outdated practice of sugarcane burning. The cheap yet effective method works well because the water-rich sugarcane stalks permit farmers to freely set the surrounding dry cane leaves ablaze before harvest. This leaves only the sugar-rich stalks behind along with the harmful byproducts of smoke, soot and ash. Despite these consequences, sugarcane burning is the preferred method of harvest in this area, as it reduces transportation costs. Click here to read more

Hurricanes and Marginalization: How Climate Disasters Affect LGBTQ+ Persons

Brandon Rothrock

In the early morning of August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina battered the coastal shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The Category 4 hurricane brought extreme flooding, resulting in the failure of New Orleans’ aging levee system. Torrential downpours, combined with the inundation of the city’s two rivers, led to 80% of New Orleans being underwater. Local agencies tasked with providing aid and community support were immobilized, prompting widespread chaos as residents struggled to find adequate food, shelter, and clean water. Many of the tens of thousands of residents that stayed behind huddled in shelters such as the Mercedes Superdome, where tensions ran high, supplies ran low, and the threat of waterborne bacteria became an increasing concern. Others chose to evacuate and seek shelter in the surrounding inland areas of Louisiana, creating massive traffic jams that left evacuees stranded on the interstate. Click here to read more.

Swapping Sea Walls for Salt Marsh? Can Plants Save a North Carolina Island?

Kendall Jeffrys

Long marsh grasses fringe the shoreline on Pivers Island, home to NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the Duke Marine Lab, in Beaufort, North Carolina. On a calm day, waves lap at the rock sill that frames salt marsh planted along the shore. As waves tumble over the marsh, woody-stemmed plants trap sediment and dissipate wave energy, holding the shoreline together.

The salt marsh around Pivers Island has not always been there—it was planted in the early 2000’s, replacing a degraded bulkhead with a living shoreline. Made of plants, sand, or rock, living shorelines protect and stabilize coastal land using native vegetation and habitats. Click here to read more.

Opening the Doors for Future Marine Scientists

Kendall Jeffrys

Marine science fixates on biodiversity, measuring it, monitoring it, estimating its value—and for good reason.

Biodiversity indicates a healthy ecosystem. But what about diversity among scientists in the field? Research reveals that the geosciences, which include earth, atmosphere and ocean science, are the least diverse of all STEM fields. “Despite the focus of biodiversity in our work, we lack equity, diversity and inclusion in the workforce,” writes marine scientist Stephanie Macdonald who is also the founder of the non-profit The Kaimu Initiative that focuses on environmental education and social equity in its mission to protect our planet. Click here to read more.

Climate Injustice in Florida

Andrei Santos

I grew up in Florida, wading through the sawgrass of the Everglades and lounging on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale. I worked for the Town Hall of my Everglades border city, Davie, and spent many early rising weekends traveling to the coast for beach cleanups, service events, and school board meetings. I love my state. I know it to be a place as rich in diversity as it is in alligator sightings and gorgeous beaches. And yet, cities and towns across Florida have been swept up in protests against police brutality this summer following the killing of George Floyd. In many parts of the country, the threat of climate change will become just as present for many vulnerable communities; in Florida, it already is. Click here to read more.

This Fall, Students Look to Make Their Campuses More Just

Andrei Santos

Over the last couple of weeks, protestors have responded to the death of George Floyd with demonstrations in all fifty states. Although the protests were started in response to Floyd’s death, they have quickly transformed into protests surrounding the broader issue of racism in police forces across the country and systemic racism in the country as a whole. While youth organizers have been responsible for many of the protests throughout the country, students must carry this momentum into the fall semester. The systemic abuse of people of color is not localized to their interactions with the police. In order to progress towards a truly just society we must confront the racial disparities not only in policing, but also the environmental sector. Click here to read more.

Ephemeral Waters

Kendall Jeffrys

In graduate school in marine biology at Johns Hopkins, Rachel Carson conducted research on eels that sparked a fascination in the mysteries of eel migration. This fascination shines through in her later writing on ocean life. “From every river and stream along the whole Atlantic Coast, eels are hurrying to the sea,” Carson wrote in an October 1938 article for the Baltimore Sun. Today, Rachel Carson would be deeply disturbed to know that the waters of the United States, which feed the streams and rivers that eels travel, are at a greater risk of pollution and degradation than they have been in decades. Click here to read more.

Left in Limbo: College Food Insecurity, Job Losses and Waste Rise Amid COVID-19

Julianna Tresca

Picture this: You’re a college student working a few part-time jobs and going to school full time. You barely make enough money to cover tuition expenses, groceries, gas money, and textbooks. You are living paycheck to paycheck. You hear about a virus spreading in China, but you aren’t that concerned and are preoccupied with your own day-to-day worries. Then March, 2020 comes around. You are kicked off your campus, scrambling to go home as your classes transition to an online format. Those part-time jobs you had? Gone. Apparently, you’re not an essential worker. Your parents don’t have the extra income to help support you any longer; they have the rest of your family to support. Oh, and your on-campus housing and meal plan aren’t being prorated, so you have to apply for unemployment and SNAP to afford groceries. You’re an adult after all, you should be able to take care of yourself on your own…right?  Click here to read more.

How COVID-19 Is Revealing America’s Food Insecurity


Julianna Tresca

There’s a reason why my college’s campus food pantry, Hawks Harvest, is still open. There is a reason why, for the first time, they are including the food pantry in all email updates for student resources. And there is a reason why students experiencing food insecurity are reaching out more than ever to get support. Those of us attending the University of North Carolina — Wilmington, who live just a few miles from North Carolina’s coast, are used to natural disasters like seasonal hurricanes; missing a week’s worth of school and then picking up where we left off. But a global pandemic with no end in sight with ever-increasing numbers of infected cases? Uncharted territory. Click here to read more.

Is Food Insecurity an Environmental Justice Issue?

Julianna Tresca

At least 15% of University of North Carolina Wilmington students are struggling to get adequate food. We have students at UNCW dealing with food insecurity and housing insecurity who live out of their cars, Resident Assistants (RAs) who rely on school meal plans, don’t have access to healthy options, and are at the whim of school restaurant hours. We have students who are caught between parents going through a messy divorce and having to pay tuition themselves while somehow managing to afford groceries. Click here to read more

UNC Asheville Fossil Fuel Divestment: Four Years of Action

Kelsey Hall

The UNC Asheville divestment campaign started in 2015, which for many was the height of active university fossil fuel divestment campaigns surrounding the energy of the Peoples’ Climate March. The movement started with a passionate and dedicated group of Asheville students citing three major tenets for divestment: that our school’s investments should be in accordance with our mission and student values; universities should benefit communities in the long and short term; and fossil fuel investments carry increasing environmental, social and economic risk. Click here to read more

A Little Fish and a Very Big Pipeline

Laura Cross

The Roanoke logperch lives in the pebble stream bottoms of the Roanoke river tributaries. A small green and yellow fish, known mostly to people local to the Roanoke Valley watershed, it’s a bottom dweller that lays its eggs and makes its home in stream beds. The logperch officially became endangered in 1989 after several large reservoirs and dams built in the 1950s and 1960s dramatically reduced its population. Today this endangered species faces yet another threat to thriving in the Roanoke Valley watershed — the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Click here to read more

Awareness is Not Action

Zakaria Kronemer

The first time I heard the words “climate change,” I was thirteen years old. My older brother urged my parents to take us to a documentary called “An Inconvenient Truth.” I lamented as our parents loaded us into the car to go see it. I don’t remember being affected much by Al Gore’s forklift-sized graphs. But the words — climate change—have echoed through my life ever since.

It was another six years before I heard the words “climate movement.” And I kept hearing it. But I didn’t know what this thing was, or where it was, or how to be a part of it. In my second year at university, those questions drove me to a conference in Pittsburgh called National Powershift. Click here to read more

How Would You Resist a Natural Gas Pipeline in Your Backyard?

Michael James-Deramo

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Southwest Virginia in Montgomery County. I grew up playing in the forests of Brush Mountain, and later hiking the trails of Peters Mountain. I grew up to the smell of earth and woke to the sound of birds. Then, the place where I grew up became a neighbor to the proposed crossing of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Click here to read more.

Let ‘em Spawn, Before They’re Gone

Jenny Sab

North Carolina is known for the beauty of its Atlantic beaches and coast that first inspired Rachel Carson. “What Might Have Been” But tourism to the fabled Outer Banks is just one part of the economy on which North Carolina depends. Fishing for fun and for business — is critical to the Tar Heel State.

Unfortunately, fish numbers of six commercially important species are in decline, especially from overfishing. Reproduction is vital to maintaining population numbers, but some marine fish in North Carolina do not have the opportunity to spawn before they are caught. Click here to read more.

Climate Justice Rally in Asheville, North Carolina

Kelsey Hall

We are in the midst of the largest global movement towards climate action ever seen, thanks to the persistence and passion of young leaders around the world, including sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

In late September, students, young people, and activists around the world in support of climate action participated in strikes, walkouts, and demonstrations. The support for and participation in these events were unprecedented, with estimates from organizers of over seven million people taking part, including some 12,000 climate strikes in the U.S. Click here to read more.

Suffering Silently: University Food Insecurity on the UNC-Wilmington Campus

Julianna Tresca

Growing up in an Italian household where there was always food in the kitchen and my plate was always full, with my mom constantly calling, “Mangia! Mangia!” telling me to eat in Italian has always been a constant part of my life. I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve never had to wonder where a meal may come from and I have always had healthy options for my meals. I learned how to be passionate about food early in my life and I learned how to cook from my mother; how to cook recipes passed down from my grandmother and other generations before me. Click here to read more.