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Liah McPherson accidentally became involved in research at Carolina when she tried to enroll in a graduate class as a first-year student. The experience introduced her to new colleagues and fostered her love of dolphins.

Understanding the lives of dolphins and their success in the wild is vital to protecting their environment. They are a keystone marine species, meaning their health reflects that of their surroundings.

Since 2014, Carolina senior Liah McPherson has worked with the Wild Dolphin Project, a nonprofit scientific research organization that studies and reports on a specific population of free-ranging Atlantic spotted dolphins. She began as an intern while in high school and transitioned to the role of field assistant in college. This past summer marked the first season McPherson conducted her own research project, which used drone technology to study the dolphins’ behavior as they travelled. McPherson is a biology and interdisciplinary studies major who is pursing a minor in marine sciences.

Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill recognize and encourage McPherson’s passion for dolphin research. Within the marine sciences department, she has studied everything from phytoplankton to coral reef optics — knowledge she’s applied to her work with the Wild Dolphin Project.

“Even though I haven’t studied dolphins with a professor at UNC,” she says, “the environment has really fostered my experience with the Wild Dolphin Project.” Thanks to the university’s support and through the connections she’s made, she hopes to continue her work with the Wild Dolphin Project into graduate school.

Video by Endeavors

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