UNC Research Draws Attention from Weather, Discovery Channels

MackessyThe work by Earth Sciences Professor Steven Anderson and Biological Sciences Professor Stephen Mackessy (left) has garnered national attention.

Anderson’s ongoing research at one of the most active volcanoes on the planet will be included in a 12-episode TV series about extreme environments currently in production for the Weather Channel (Graduate student Adam LeWinter, whose working with Anderson and received one of three national grants to study the volcano, surveys the active lava flow above.)

Mackessy’s research showing that a protein in prairie rattlesnakes’ venom has allowed them to adapt and survive in non-typical environments was featured in a program about Yellowstone National Park that aired last December on the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel.

Also, Mackessy and colleague Ashis Mukherjee recently published their work that shows a protein in a venomous snake in India has potential to be used to develop drugs to treat clotting disorders and heart patients.

Read more and view the TV segment about Mackessy’s experiment at

At, watch dramatic video of the Halemaumau crater and lava lake captured by Anderson during a January trip to collect LiDAR topographical data while the level of the lake was at an all-time high.


Doctoral Student Studying Pine Beetle Kill’s Effect on Aspens

Biological Sciences doctoral candidate Mario Bretfeld is feeding his longtime fascination with aspen trees by researching how Colorado’s pine beetle epidemic has affected the main source of the state’s colorful fall foliage.

According to a story in the Loveland Reporter-Herald, Bretfeld’s hypothesis that aspens are doing well and possibly increasing in numbers in areas where multitudes of pine trees are victims of beetlekill seems to be valid.

Read the full story here.


Taking the Sting Out of West Nile

Collaboration by UNC, CSU Researchers Leads to Breakthrough to Stymie Group of Viruses. Click here to read the full story.


Angry Birds

wrenHow do birds maintain territories and respond to rivals? Lauryn Benedict and her research team of undergraduate and graduate students have shown that canyon wrens sing low-pitched songs when acting aggressively — similar to a person whose voice becomes gruff during a confrontation. The assistant professor of Biological Sciences studies habitat use and communication patterns among territorial canyon wrens and rock wrens that reside throughout the Western United States, including on the Front Range in rocky dwellings. Among other things, she and her students are investigating how evolutionary forces have shaped the iconic song of the canyon wren, and why rock wrens gather hundreds of flat stones to make elaborate patio-like entrances to their nests.

Read more about Benedict’s research.

Listen to the differences in the wrens’ songs:

Canyon Wren

Rock Wren

National Report: School of Special Education Responds to Shortages

UNC’s School of Special Education was recognized for preparing “high-quality special educators in significant numbers” in a study conducted by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

In the report, “The Changing Teacher Preparation Profession,” AACTE acknowledges UNC for responding to the high-need field through recruitment strategies, which include strong relationships with area school districts, and for providing “ample support” for teacher candidates throughout the program.

“One way the school has strengthened the support it provides candidates is through its use of an ‘early warning system’ to identify early on those teacher candidates struggling in the program and to develop professional improvement plans to support them,” the report stated.


Hearing Loss, Prevention Program Recognized by National Institute

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in partnership with the National Hearing Conservation Association, recognized the university for its collaboration on Dangerous Decibels, a multi-faceted, evidence-based intervention program dedicated to the prevention of noiseinduced hearing loss and tinnitus. The Dangerous Decibels program includes science museum exhibits, virtual exhibits, K-12 classroom programs, educator training workshops, public outreach tools and research. Dangerous Decibels emphasizes the need to protect hearing for a lifetime and bridges the occupational and non-occupational noise risks.


$2.1M in Grants Support Teaching

The U.S. Department of Education awarded two separate grants, expected to total more than $2.1 million combined, to UNC Associate Professor Paula Conroy, who will lead a program to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments, and orientation and mobility; and Professor John Luckner, who will direct a separate project to prepare teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Fast Fact:
  • More than $4.6 million in external funding awards received from July 1-Dec. 31, 2012 supported a variety of research and programs at UNC.

For a list of funded projects, visit



Ask an Expert: Will We Run Out of Water?

Colorado’s population is expected to double to 10 million residents by 2050. The increase, along with competing water needs and periods of drought, will present a challenge. “Even if water providers are completely successful in implementing [planned] projects, state water experts predict that we will meet only about 80 percent of the forecasted needs in the municipal and industrial sectors by 2050,” says UNC Economics professor and water expert Mark Eiswerth, who moderated a conversation on Colorado’s water future during a campus forum.

Eiswerth, whose current research focuses on the Cache la Poudre watershed, elaborates on the topic includng solutions being discussed, click here to read the Q&A with Amy Dressel-Martin.


Did You Know? Stuttering Affects 1 in 100

The acclaimed film The King’s Speech, and most recently, TV appearances by American Idol contestant Lazaro Arbos have brought welcome public attention to the speech disorder that “affects a person’s entire life,” says faculty expert Patty Walton. She specializes in therapy for children and adults and supervises graduate students in UNC’s Speech and Audiology Clinic. Since 1958, the clinic has provided diagnostic and rehabilitative services to people with speech, language, hearing and/or balance difficulties.

Read a profile of Walton and watch the Fox 31 News segment featuring her at