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re:search a journey of intellectual inquiry UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA WILMINGTON

re:search a journey of intellectual inquiry 2019



Record-Setting Research Funding


UNCW Participates in Statewide Study on PFAs


Research Could Aid in Creating New Medicines


Research as Protection: The International Marine Mammal Project


Seahawk-1 CubeSat Captures First Ocean Color Image


It All Adds Up: How Culture Influences Decision-Making


Three UNCW Students Awarded Funds to Travel Abroad for Holocaust Research


Virtual Reality Technology Encourages Students to Consider STEM Careers


Faculty, Student Research Efforts Garner Appointments, Awards and Fellowships


Pilot Program Works to Build Resiliency in Area Youth


UNCW Professors Receive NIH Grant for Opioid Research


Opportunity in Motion: Grants Boost Post-Hurricane Research for UNCW Scientists


Research Report 2019


18 COVER PHOTO: Till Wagner, assistant professor of physics and physical oceanography, extracts a sea ice core from a broken-up sea ice floe in the marginal ice zone in Fram Strait/Arctic Ocean. DENIS SINYAKOV/GREENPEACE


Polar Physicist Till Wagner Leads UNCW Team to the Arctic

Produced by the Office of University Relations

Chief Communications Officer Janine Iamunno Editor Jennifer Glatt Art Director Shirl New Graphic Design Thomas Cone Photography Joni “Osku” Backstrom Olly Boisseau Jeff Janowski Joe Long Anna Miller Denis Sinyakov UNCW Coastal Plant Ecology Lab Contributors Caroline Cropp ’99, ’06M Gena Guthrie Venita Jenkins Christina Schechtman Tricia Vance Tyler Anne Whichard ’19 Editorial Advisor Stuart R. Borrett

UNCW is a university on the move! Our student enrollment has climbed to more than 17,000 students, and in December 2018 the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education reclassified UNCW as a “Doctoral University with High Research Activity.” This recategorization is not a fundamental shift in the nature of UNCW, but instead a recognition of who we are and our promise for the future. In fact, we have exceeded the $5 million in research expenditures – one way of characterizing the magnitude of the research enterprise – required for this categorization for more than a decade, and in Fiscal Year 2018 our research expenditures were $16.83 million. Enhancing and expanding UNCW research and innovation efforts, as called for in the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, has the potential to benefit the university for at least two reasons. First, research and innovation have the power to uncover and build new knowledge, solve complex problems, and enhance the economic and cultural vitality of the community. Second, growing research work can enhance the quality of the UNCW education for all students. In his 2018 book Research Universities and the Public Good: Discovery for an Uncertain Future, Jason Owen-Smith asserts that the fundamental purpose of a university is knowledge. We typically consider this purpose in two parts. Knowledge production is the outcome of research and scholarly activities, and knowledge transfer is the university’s work in education, teaching and other forms of technology transfer. One of the foundational premises of the modern university is that knowledge production and transfer – research and teaching – are each enhanced when they are intimately entwined. This insight is at the heart of UNCW’s emphasis on applied learning, and a core strength of UNCW. We do high-quality research WITH students. This research magazine tells the stories and describes the impact of some of the research that UNCW investigators are conducting. These are impressive examples that merely scratch the surface. UNCW research spans from the Arctic to the Antarctic and across the globe, from space to the ocean depths, and has a special emphasis on the region of southeastern North Carolina around our home in Wilmington. FY19 was a good year for UNCW research, and I can’t wait to learn about the exciting new discoveries and innovations that lie in our future.

UNC Wilmington is committed to and will provide equal educational and employment opportunity. Questions regarding program access may be directed to the Compliance Officer, UNCW Chancellor’s Office, 910.962.3000, Fax 910.962.3483. UNCW does not discriminate on the basis of sex. Questions regarding UNCW’s Title IX compliance should be directed to TitleIX@UNCW.edu. 2,500 copies of this public document were printed at a cost of $4,625 or $1.85 per copy (G.S. 143-170.1).

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Stuart R. Borrett Associate Provost for Research and Innovation

RECORD-SETTING RESEARCH FUNDING UNCW continues to expand its research portfolio with 184 projects funded, totaling more than $12 million in funding in Fiscal Year 2019. The university’s record of success in sponsored research is one factor in its recently elevated Carnegie classification to Doctoral University with High Research Activity, said Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli. “This puts UNCW in an elite group of universities whose research is making an impact and whose teaching is transforming student learning.” Six researchers were recently inducted into the James F. Merritt Million Dollar Club, which honors faculty who have received $1 million or more in research funding. The club is named for the director emeritus of the Center for Marine Science. During his 34-year career at UNCW, Merritt procured more than $14 million in grants and contracts to support research endeavors at the university. The club includes more than 100 members from departments across campus. 


ASWANI VOLETY, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

$1 Million Club

NATASHA DAVIS, director of Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO) ANTJE ALMEIDA, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry DYLAN MCNAMARA, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography

D. ANN PABST, professor in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology

$10 Million Club

WILLIAM MCLELLAN, research associate in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology – Venita Jenkins

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UNCW PARTICIPATES IN STATEWIDE STUDY ON PER- AND POLYFLUOROALKYL SUBSTANCES (PFAS) Scientists from UNCW are participating in a multiinstitutional project to conduct baseline water quality testing for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the environment, including GenX, a potentially toxic compound detected in the Cape Fear River. The N.C. General Assembly recently passed legislation appropriating $5,013,000 to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory to fund the study for one year beginning fall 2018. More than 20 researchers from universities across the state received grants to support projects focusing on public and private water source sampling, air emission testing and public health impact assessment. UNCW faculty, along with colleagues from UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, Duke University, East Carolina University and North Carolina State University, will oversee the project. UNCW’s Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory (MACRL) composed of faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry will receive approximately $300,000 from the Collaboratory to fund event-based wet/dry deposition sampling for GenX and PFAS at its atmospheric testing station in Wilmington, as well as less intensive sampling at additional locations throughout the state. The team’s research will provide important insight into the potential transport of these compounds affecting other watersheds and drinking water supplies not directly impacted by point source industrial discharges.

“My colleagues and I are very excited to investigate the atmospheric transport and deposition of PFAS,” said Ralph Mead,

UNCW’s MACRL has conducted National Science Foundation funded rainwater research for over two decades, resulting in one of the most comprehensive long-term data sets of

professor in UNCW’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “There are

atmospheric contaminants in the world. Using the lab’s

numerous unanswered, fundamental

rainwater collection facilities, researchers from the MACRL

questions pertaining to the atmospheric

were the first group to demonstrate that GenX is present in

cycling and fate of PFAS. The outcomes

rainwater at significant concentrations, suggesting the possibility of atmospheric transport throughout the region. – Gena Guthrie

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from this research will be transformative and ultimately helpful to the scientific community as well as regulatory agencies.” 

Research by UNCW Chemistry Professor


Could Aid in Creating New Medicines In a lab he shares with three other faculty scholars, chemistry and biochemistry professor Jeremy Morgan is leading research that could lead to the creation of new medicines. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is focused on producing nitrogen-based molecules that could be used in the pharmaceutical manufacturing process. The molecules may not become new medicines, but they could potentially be used to develop them. A large number of new medicines are manmade, using synthetic molecules like the ones Morgan and his team of students are producing.

“We are creating synthetic compounds,” said Morgan, whose field is organic chemistry. “While we would love to discover a new drug, the research is focused on creating more efficient chemical processes for producing new pharmaceuticals.” Morgan was recently awarded a renewal of his NIH grant in a competitive process, this time for $360,250. Overall, the project has received funding totaling $682,841 through the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Soon, UNCW’s role in developing new medicines may grow. The university is exploring possible new programs related to pharmaceutical sciences, including a Ph.D., to help meet the workforce needs of an industry that is well represented in the state and southeastern North Carolina. Morgan is one of many UNCW faculty members who had to relocate following extensive damage to Dobo Hall resulting from Hurricane Florence in 2018. His temporary office and lab are in the MARBIONC building at the Center for Marine Science at Myrtle Grove. The shared lab accommodates his undergraduate and graduate research assistants, who work with him to create compounds that are stored in tiny vials for future testing to determine their potential use in creating new medicines. “Dr. Morgan’s work is the perfect example of UNCW faculty research in action. He is conducting vital research that will positively impact lives well beyond the region, and he does not let limitations get in his way,” said Rich Ogle, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His and his students’ resiliency in the face of the impact of Hurricane Florence is laudable.”  – Tricia Vance

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RESEARCH AS PROTECTION: THE INTERNATIONAL MARINE MAMMAL PROJECT Early in 2019, UNCW researchers participated in an exploration of ocean waters far off the coast of North and South Carolina to gather data that can be used to protect marine mammals. William McLellan, a research associate in the Department of Biology and Marine Biology, and marine biology graduate student Laura Murley were among the first group of scientists selected to take part in the research cruises for the Marine Mammal Passive Acoustics and Spatial Ecology Project (MAPS). The first of its type in the region, MAPS focused on offshore and relatively difficult to detect species, including sperm whales, beaked whales and sei whales. As a part of the project, scientists studied the animals’ distribution, dive behavior and habits. On Jan. 17, Murley and McLellan joined scientists and students from Duke University to embark on the first leg of a research cruise on the RV Song of the Whale, a vessel designed for cetacean visual and acoustic surveys. The RV Song of the Whale is run by a MAPS research partner, Marine Conservation Research International. Ph.D. marine biology student Tiffany Keenan-Bateman and professor D. Ann Pabst also participated in later legs of the research cruises. In all, research legs were conducted from January through May and yielded new insights into the presence of deep-diving whales off our coast.

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The research area is within the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, which hosts some of the greatest concentration of marine mammal diversity within U.S. waters. Data collected will be used for smart ocean planning and to strengthen efforts to avoid or limit the impacts these species might experience from human activities like energy resource development. MAPS’ goals include creating a more efficient regulatory process. Biologists and marine biologists are now working with the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and UNCW MarineQuest to develop outreach and education materials about the science conducted during the research cruise. MAPS is also working with scientists, leading high-tech developers and citizen science experts from Aarhus University, a public research university located in Aarhus, Denmark; Conserve.IO; and WildMe to create an app to provide vital data and better engage the maritime industry.  This project is funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as a cooperative agreement with UNCW. – Venita Jenkins


Captures First Ocean Color Image Thanks to the Seahawk-1 CubeSat, a researcher at the University of North Carolina Wilmington has a better-than-bird’s-eye view of the world’s oceans. UNCW, NASA, ACC Clyde Space, Cloudland Instruments and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced the successful acquisition and retrieval of nanosatellite’s first ocean color image from space. “SeaHawk-1 will make ocean observations at significantly higher spatial resolution and at much lower costs than standard satellite systems,” said UNCW Professor John Morrison, SeaHawk-1’s co-project manager and lead principal investigator. “Since the data collected will be publicly available, our hope is that it will benefit not only researchers, but policymakers and others to make informed decisions when addressing issues related to the environment.” The SeaHawk-1 engineering test image was captured on March 21, 2019 by the HawkEye Ocean Color Imager from an altitude of 588 km. The image was downlinked from SeaHawk-1 CubeSat to the ground station at NASA Wallops on March 22 and immediately transferred to NASA Goddard, where it was processed. The image is a true-color full resolution image taken by HawkEye (image overlay) as it flew southward over the coast of California from San Francisco to south of Santa Barbara.

UNCW’s SeaHawk-1, launched in December 2018 aboard SpaceX Falcon 9, was one of the 64 satellites included in the Spaceflight SSO-A Small Sat Express, the company’s first dedicated ride-share mission for small satellites. The goal for SeaHawk-1 is to provide free high-spatial resolution images of Earth’s coastal regions. The small but powerful device will expand UNCW’s marine research capabilities, providing a unique vantage point for observing the changing biology on the ocean’s surface and understanding key coastal processes and ecosystems, like early detection and expansion of harmful algal blooms, according to Morrison. Once SeaHawk-1 is fully commissioned and begins operations, data will be available at no cost through NASA’s Ocean Biology Processing Group and UNCW, Morrison added. In the near future, the scientific community will also be able to submit requests for image acquisition through UNCW. This project is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through Grant GBMF4526 to UNCW Wilmington, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, and Space Act Agreement 450-AGMT-0149 between NASA and UNCW. 

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Polar Physicist TILL WAGNER Leads UNCW Team to the Arctic to Study Sea Ice Melt

Till Wagner, assistant professor of physics and physical oceanography at UNCW, led an Arctic expedition to explore the relationship between sea ice melt and marine species that depend on the ice for survival. Eight of the nine team members were UNCW faculty, staff and students representing two academic departments and the Center for Marine Science. “We are looking to understand how the springtime sea ice melt kickstarts the local ecosystem. The melting ice releases valuable nutrients that attract plankton and fish, and eventually larger predators like whales and polar bears,” Wagner said. “All these components are carefully interlinked and balanced, but our understanding of the system is still very much in its infancy.” Melting sea ice is vital to allow plankton and other microorganisms that are the foundation of the ocean food chain to “bloom” in the spring, he explained. “The Arctic ocean between Svalbard and Greenland is one of the most dynamic and fertile seas in the world,” Wagner said. “The ice is important in that you need ice to have ice melt.” Looking at the preliminary data, it appears that in areas where there was sea ice, plankton was abundant. But areas of the ocean where ice was nonexistent were devoid of life, he said. “If you don’t have nutrient-rich fresh water, nothing can grow.” Participants from UNCW were Wagner; Heather Koopman, chair of the Department of Biology and Marine Biology; post-doctoral research associate Hillary Glandon; graduate student Andrew Castagno; undergraduate students Elizabeth Bailey and Conner Lester; David Wells of CMS, who served as oceanographic instrumentation specialist; and Yvonne Marsan, research laboratory manager for the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography. Biological oceanographer Mattias Cape from the University of Washington-Seattle Campus was also part of the team.

Each member of the team had a specific job that made use of his or her expertise or research focus. Wagner, a polar physicist, focused on the physical elements, such as the structure of the ice and melting water and the environmental parameters. Koopman and Glandon, her post-doctoral student, examined the larger biological organisms, from larger plankton to birds and whales, while Cape worked with the small-scale organisms like phytoplankton. Castagno’s research focused on the intersection between the biology and physics of the ecosystem. Bailey’s job was to extract ice cores, which were melted down so the organisms inside the ice could be filtered out for further examination. Lester was assigned to fly the drone – which, it turns out, is not so easy because of magnetic interference – to get an overview of the sea ice and the ocean environment. “We had this big pod of beluga whales that would go under the ice to feed and then come up to breathe,” Wagner said. “We have beautiful footage.” Faculty, staff and student research is a key component of UNCW’s Strategic Plan. “I think it is fair to say that the expedition was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the UNCW undergraduate and graduate students who joined us,” Wagner said. Greenpeace provided a ship and logistical support for the expedition. Wagner got short notice that the ship could take them. “I was racing to get everyone together,” he said. He also credited UNCW faculty and staff for widespread support of the expedition and of the student researchers, who had to arrange with their professors to take final exams early because of the timing of the departure. “It was an incredible collaboration.”  – Tricia Vance Above, from left: David Wells, Andrew Castagno, Conner Lester, Hillary Glandon, Elizabeth Bailey

Watch the research in action at uncw.edu/arctic_exploration 7 uncw re:search


The trip was all about work, but the group couldn’t help but take in the beauty and nature that surrounded them.

Till Wagner, Elizabeth Bailey and Hillary Glandon work to measure the depth of the ice by first drilling into it. uncw re:search 8

IT ALL ADDS UP: How Culture Influences Decision-Making Culture can be defined in a myriad of ways, but put simply, it’s

Gupta has also applied cultural dimensions to study the use

the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of a nation, people or social

of performance measurement systems in companies, and

group. It can also be described as “symbolic communication,”

specifically accountants’ intentions to report wrongdoing.

motivating people in intangible yet significant ways.

“We studied whistleblowing behavior in India because

Gaurav Gupta, assistant professor in the Department of

U.S. businesses offshore a wide variety of business functions

Accountancy and Business Law in the Cameron School of

to India,” Gupta said. “Due to the volume of work being

Business, is fascinated by the ways culture influences the

performed and the degree to which Indian service providers

decision-making behavior of accountants.

are interconnected with their U.S. affiliates, it is important to

“Understanding the decision-making processes is the key to operating successful businesses not only locally but globally,” he explained. Gupta, along with his co-authors, studied the interpretation of International Financial Reporting Standards by accountants in culturally diverse countries. The standards are set common

understand whistleblowing practices as a means of ensuring the integrity of offshored work. An environment of corruption and bribery can damage perceptions of quality surrounding a company’s product.” Gupta also recently began a project on the emotional intelligence levels of business students in Chile and the U.S.

rules so that financial statements can be consistent,

“Our initial results suggest while culture is the major driver

transparent and comparable around the world.

of emotional intelligence, socioeconomic status or class

Gupta used several models for his research, including Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. The theory is a framework for cross-cultural communication that describes the effects of a society’s culture on the values of its members, and how these values

membership may also influence those levels within a country,” he said. “In all the projects, my co-authors and I have found that culture is a prominent factor in the decision-making process.”  – Venita Jenkins

relate to behavior. Cultural dimensions include the “power distance index,” or the degree of inequality that exists between people with and without power; individualism versus collectivism, which is the strength of the ties that people have with others within their community; masculinity versus femininity, or roles traditionally held by men and by women; and the “uncertainty avoidance index,” or how well people cope with anxiety.

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Gaurav Gupta is an assistant professor of Accounting for the Cameron School of Business.

Three UNCW Students Awarded Funds to

TRAVEL ABROAD for Holocaust Research

Three UNCW students were awarded the Alfred and Anita Schnog Travel Award for Holocaust Studies for the 2018-19 academic year, giving each one the opportunity to travel internationally while pursuing separate research projects that delve into the lasting impact of the Holocaust. The awards provide $4,000 grants to conduct faculty-mentored research into the societal, cultural and geo-political forces that enabled the Holocaust to occur as well as its impact and legacy. “The Alfred and Anita Schnog Travel Awards will be lifechanging for these UNCW students,” said Lynn Wood Mollenauer, associate professor of history and chair of the history department. “They now have the opportunity to travel to places where they will learn firsthand how the history and memory of the Holocaust continue to affect politics, culture and society today.” All three of the students who received travel awards went to Europe in summer 2019 for their research projects. Emma Cowen spent several weeks in Lyon, France, investigating the French Resistance during World War II; Lynn Rawls visited sites in Warsaw and Krakow to examine how the Nazi genocide is commemorated in Poland today and the controversy that has surrounded it; and Stephanie Taylor performed archival research on women forced into prostitution in the Nazi concentration camps of Westerbork, Ravensbruck and Auschwitz-Birkenau. “I have been interested in the Holocaust since I was 10 years old,” Taylor said. “It has always been my dream to write

about this event. As a graduate student, this grant means the world to me. I cannot thank the Schnog family enough for this opportunity.” The Schnog Travel Award reflects UNCW’s mission as a university dedicated to the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. Cowen, Rawls and Taylor are committed to making the most of their time as students so they can leave UNCW equipped to better serve the world around them. “When I found out I won the award, I can’t tell you how much I cried,” Rawls said. “This whole experience has been an emotional one, considering what my topic will be covering as well as my own feelings toward winning this award.”  – Tyler Anne Whichard ’19

“Students now have the opportunity to learn firsthand how the history and memory of the Holocaust continue to affect politics, culture and society today.”

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VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY Encourages Students to Consider STEM Careers

A collaborative effort led by computer science assistant professor Toni Pence and Watson College of Education assistant professor James Stocker will use virtual reality technology to enhance learning and encourage students from underrepresented groups to consider STEM careers. The project is funded by a $394,606 grant from the National Science Foundation. The immersive experience is tied to the curriculum, and the students learn by stepping into the virtual shoes of a STEM occupation. The project will focus initially on grades 3-5 but eventually could expand to middle school curriculum, said Pence, the principal investigator. “We have found that if we get students interested in their elementary school years, there is a much higher chance that they will go on to college and choose a STEM career,” she said. The project, which involves collaboration between the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, Literacy, and Special Education, will use VR technology to enhance learning and to introduce students to real-life problems and challenges encountered by people working in STEM jobs. Stocker, WCE associate professors Amelia Moody and Amy Taylor, and computer science assistant professors Elham Ebrahimi and Brittany Morago are the project’s co-PIs. Several undergraduate students will have the opportunity to participate in the research.

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As part of the experience, students will take a virtual field trip to the beach, assuming the role of a park ranger, wildlife officer, water quality expert, researcher or other STEM-related occupation. They will encounter real-life problems that involve decision-making, applied learning and critical thinking skills. The project has several goals, among them to encourage more students, especially those from underrepresented groups, to consider careers in STEM fields, and to create a virtual learning experience that is affordable for school systems with limited resources. The need for more STEM workers is widely known, and many jobs do not require advanced degrees, Stocker said. Another goal is to prevent students from becoming disengaged as they approach middle school, Stocker said. The VR-enhanced curriculum is designed to support learning by helping students see where their education can lead them and how what they learn can be applied outside the classroom. “It is academic rigor,” Stocker said. “The kids will have ‘fun’ things they can do. But we also have to ensure that they get academic skills they can use.” Eventually, the software and accompanying curriculum could be expanded for other age groups and adapted for use by state parks, government or conservation-related organizations for use in educational programing, Pence said.  – Tricia Vance


In keeping with the excellence that earned UNCW an elevation to the category of “Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity” in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education Universities, students and faculty are participating in research spanning the globe.

NOTED RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS INCLUDE: Professor Daniel Johnson of the UNCW Department of Music received a Fulbright Award to research and teach integrated arts education in Salzburg, Austria. An international expert on Orff-Schulwerk and other music education pedagogies, he has more than 25 years of experience in teacher education, focusing on innovative music instruction, cross-cultural comparisons and meaningful arts integration. He is co-chair of the International Society for Music Education Special Interest Group on Applied Pedagogies. UNCW associate professor of geography Narcisa Pricope received a Fulbright Award to research landscape degradation and teach courses in satellite remote sensing and unmanned aerial systems photogrammetry at the University of Namibia. An expert in land change science, water resources and climate change, she will work with international researchers to address the linkages between land degradation and livelihoods in Namibia and the larger Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area as part of a global effort to achieve land degradation neutrality. UNCW associate professor of plant genetics Ann Stapleton is serving a one-year rotation as a temporary program officer with the National Science Foundation. As part of the prestigious appointment, she is contributing her scientific expertise to review grant proposals, as well as serving as a program officer for EPSCoR, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which was created to strengthen scientific research throughout the United States.


UNCW graduate student Kyle Woodward ’20M was awarded a highly competitive research fellowship funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to document changes in vegetation in parts of southern Africa. The $8,000 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship will allow him to finish his master’s thesis, as well as contribute to the research of his faculty supervisor, Narcisa Pricope.  – Caroline Cropp ’99, ’06M

Ann Stapleton

Narcisa Pricope

Kyle Woodward ’20M

Daniel Johnson

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Anka Roberto School of Nursing

Josalin Hunter-Jones School of Social Work


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Researchers in UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services have partnered with the Life is Good Kids Foundation on a pilot program in New Hanover County for children ages 5-15. The Life is Good Playmakers (LIGP) program utilizes the power of optimism to build resilience to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include various forms of abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. The LIGP approach works to limit the long-term effects of ACEs on the brain and body by teaching clinicians and educators how to apply trauma- and resilience-informed approaches and cultivate both an educational and healing environment for children. The program leads, Anka Roberto (School of Nursing) and Josalin Hunter-Jones (School of Social Work), launched the pilot program in July 2018 after experiencing firsthand the power of resiliency. While Roberto found resilience-informed approaches to be extremely impactful during her work in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting, Hunter-Jones was drawn to the method by reflecting on her personal journey.

face of even the most difficult adversity,” said Hunter-Jones. “That kind of support is what helped me through difficult times, and I want that for others.” One of the program’s primary objectives is to create a culture of leaders around the region, training individuals to spread the “Playmaker” strategy to others via orientations and workshops. Nationally, the LIGP program has reached more than 10,000 youth and trained 2,270 Playmakers in 2018 alone. “We piloted the program in a small therapeutic school with great success, training 45 playmakers and getting positive responses from key stakeholders of its benefit to staff and the children they serve,” said Roberto. “Our aim is to work with service providers in mental health across the region, reaching educators and staff across New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties. Our pilot project has already identified six regional Playmakers that are willing and able to help others be successful in implementing this model in their environments helping children.”  – Christina Schechtman

“I have certainly experienced my fair share of trauma starting during my childhood years, and I want very much to help others, provide hope, and remind people how resilient they are in the

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UNCW Professors Receive

$446,000 NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH Grant for Opioid Research

Psychology professors Raymond Pitts and Christine Hughes

reward mechanisms involved in these effects. Knowing how

received a $446,000 grant from the National Institute on

drugs change the impact of the different reward mechanisms

Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health to research

will help researchers design better medications and design

how acute and chronic exposure to the prescription opioid

behavioral treatments to treat impulsive behavior problems.

oxycodone affect specific reward processes involved in impulsive and risky behavior.

The project incorporates many of the goals outlined in UNCW’s Strategic Plan, including commitments to

Quite simply, psychoactive drugs change how individuals

providing a rigorous, relevant educational experience,

behave. Pitts explained that sometimes drug effects are

and employing the university’s research capabilities to

favorable, as when certain drugs are given to help with

address current and future societal needs.

anxiety or with attention/impulsive disorders. Sometimes drug effects are unfavorable, such as when they influence the ability to make effective decisions.

“Both undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in all phases of the work, which includes helping us design and refine the specific experiments,

“Many of our decisions involve weighing the values of the

conducting the experiments, analyzing the data, and

outcomes,” Pitts said. “Impulsive decisions occur when we

disseminating our findings at conferences and in

choose a smaller reward that we receive right away over a

scientific publications,” said Hughes. 

larger reward that we will receive later,” he said. "Sometimes we take the smaller, sooner reward over the larger, later one, even when it may cost us in the long run. With impulsive decisions, the immediacy of the reward has a bigger impact on our choice than the size of the reward.” The grant will fund research to examine how psychoactive

Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R15DA045960. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. – Venita Jenkins

drugs can change individuals’ choices by changing the impact of the immediacy and/or size of the reward. “Individuals tend to be more impulsive under the influence of opioid drugs,” Pitts said. Given the increased use and abuse of prescription opioids such as oxycodone, he and Hughes will examine acute and chronic effects of oxycodone on impulsive and risky choice, and attempt to identify the

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Echosounding survey with environmental sciences graduate student Anna Miller offshore of Wrightsville Beach, NC.

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As Hurricane Florence barreled toward the coast of North Carolina in September 2018, UNCW scientists saw an opportunity in motion.

While most in the area were focused on the storm’s path, a

Long’s research team comprises

change,” she said. It’s difficult to restore

Andrea Hawkes and Lynn Leonard,

seagrass habitats once they are lost.

few industrious Seahawks recognized

faculty in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the UNCW

Jarvis’ study leveraged a 40-year data

the need to secure funding for stormrelated research.

Center for Marine Science; Devon Eulie,

Scientists deployed experiments and researched topics from seagrass resilience to coastal vulnerability with the aid of Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants from the National Science Foundation. The grants, totaling

assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Center for Marine Science; and Eman Ghoneim, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences. ______________________________________

$200,210, were instrumental in collecting

Assistant professor Jessie Jarvis and

time-sensitive, perishable data during

adjunct professor Judson W. Kenworthy,

and after Hurricane Florence.

both in the Department of Biology and

“Without this grant we would not have been able to make these measurements or answer our main research questions,” said Joe Long, assistant professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Marine Biology, are working with researchers from UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Texas Austin to examine the impact of hurricanes on seagrass resilience.

set with the collection of post-hurricane impacts. UNCW researchers are also working with scientists at the University of Texas Austin Marine Science Institute to compare the post-Hurricane Florence dataset to the post-Hurricane Harvey dataset. “By contrasting Harvey and Florence responses, we will produce more generalizable models of how species traits and landscape context predict coastal ecological resilience to storms,” said Jarvis. ______________________________________ Environmental sciences assistant professor Joni “Osku” Backstrom used funds to lead research focusing on how offshore geology and coastal characteristics influence storm response on beaches. The research will help significantly with coastal management decision-making, especially since storm

He and his team used funding to install

“This storm event provided an

equipment and collect data from

opportunity to see how hurricanes

Masonboro Island. The research was

affected the resilience of meadows

driven by a need to document and

that were already feeling negative

understand the immediate impact of

effects of higher temperatures

Hurricane Florence to local barrier islands

associated with climate change,” said

and observe the way the islands naturally

Jarvis. “Seagrasses are extremely

recover after an extreme storm.

important, as they provide habitat and

due to climate change, Backstrom said.

nursery areas for coastal and recreational

Researchers began collecting pre- and

fisheries, help improve local water quality

post-storm beach profile data and beach

conditions and bury carbon, which

samples across southeast North Carolina

can have a positive impact on climate

following Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The research experience was also a great opportunity for students to meaningfully apply their classroom knowledge, Long added.

activity and sea level are both increasing

uncw re:search 18

“I realized that the coastal and offshore

“One of the challenges for managing

past and current shore protection

region must have a significant influence

and protecting coastal communities is

approaches and patterns in

on the different impacts we saw across

that threats to community resilience

observed shoreline change and

multiple beaches,” she said. Scientists

span multiple temporal and spatial

infrastructure damage resulting

collected water depths, acoustic data

scales,” said Eulie. “For example,

from Hurricane Florence.

and sediment grab samples across three

erosion can occur locally and quickly

locations off Wrightsville Beach.

during a single storm event or slowly

Researchers are still gathering responses

“This research is important because if

across an entire coastal region. The

we can find a good correlation between our offshore observations and numerical modeling results, we can apply these

cumulative impact of shore protection decision-making over many years can play a role in the resilience of a

techniques to other coastal regions world-

coastal community.”

wide and predict what might happen

Researchers used geographic

under a wide range of scenarios.” ______________________________________

information systems science,

Environmental sciences assistant professors Devon Eulie and Huili Hao examined how the resilience of coastal waterfront properties and infrastructure to Hurricane Florence varies as a function of past and current shore protection decisions.

and aerial mapping technologies

emerging low-cost remote sensing and waterfront homeowner surveys to assess the immediate impact of Hurricane Florence on shoreline condition and infrastructure. They

from coastal residents and property owners survey and are in the process of analyzing the large amount of field data collected post-Hurricane Florence. “The results of this study could be used to directly inform future management decisions, educate coastal residents and property owners on shore-zone conservation and management, and enable development of more cost-effective monitoring procedures,” Eulie said.  – Venita Jenkins

also evaluated relationships between

Andrea Hawkes and Joe Long stand with a sediment trap and a pressure sensor on Masonboro Island.

19 uncw re:search

National Science Foundation – RAPID Awards (Grants for Rapid Response Research)

The Response and Recovery of Adjacent Natural and Built Coastlines Impacted by Hurricane Florence Joseph Long, Devon Eulie, Eman Ghoneim, Andrea Hawkes and Lynn Leonard



$48,543 Mechanisms of Seagrass Community Injury and Resilience Post Hurricane Florence: Implications for Increasingly Stormy Coasts


A germinated eelgrass seedling.

Jessie Jarvis and W. Kenworthy

$90,046 Assessment of Coastal and Offshore Change Due to Hurricane Florence. Wrightsville Beach, NC Joni “Osku” Backstrom

Evaluation of the Reliance of Shoreline Protection Methods to Hurricane Florence Devon Eulie and Huili Hao



Environmental sciences assistant professor Joni “Osku” Backstrom deploys a sidescan sonar towfish. Sidescan sonar produces an acoustic image of the seabed. UNCW COASTAL PLANT ECOLOGY LAB


These grants were instrumental in collecting time-sensitive and perishable data during and after Hurricane Florence. UNCW Environmental Sciences graduate student Kelsey Beachman (left) and UNCW Marine Science graduate student Mackenzie Taggart (right) use a real-time kinematic (RTK)-GPS unit to collect data.

North Carolina seagrass meadow with eelgrass and shoal grass. North Carolina is the southern limit for eelgrass in the Western Atlantic Ocean. UNCW COASTAL PLANT ECOLOGY LAB

uncw re:search 20

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage

PAID Wilmington, NC Permit No. 444

601 South College Road Wilmington, NC 28403-5904



Source of Sponsored Programs Funding

 Federal  Education and Research Institutions  State Government (NC)  Foundation  Nonprofit Organization  Business and Industry  Local Government  Federal (non-US)  State Government (NC)  Association  Other Sponsors Total


$ 5,631,744.28


$ 2,315,201.49


$ 1,724,371.00


$ 1,210,969.47























$ 12,024,748.49

FY15 FY16 FY17 FY18 FY19 Proposals (Dollars) $70,851,151 $47,788,292 $57,344,087 $39,853,612 $65,691,177 Awards (Dollars) $12,862,694 $9,463,116 $11,414,279 $9,328,856 $12,024,748 $80,000,000 $70,000,000 Proposals

$60,000,000 $50,000,000


$40,000,000 $30,000,000 $20,000,000 $10,000,000

Source: UNCW Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Compliance

Profile for University of North Carolina Wilmington

UNCW research magazine  

UNCW research spans from the Arctic to the Antarctic and across the globe, from space to the ocean depths, with a special emphasis on southe...

UNCW research magazine  

UNCW research spans from the Arctic to the Antarctic and across the globe, from space to the ocean depths, with a special emphasis on southe...