Environmental research making a difference in North Carolina

Rose Houck ’25 uses her knowledge from her Carolina courses to research water quality and flood resiliency issues in our state with the North Carolina Collaboratory.

Rose Houck sits in a chair with a computer on her lap in front of a Collaboratory sign.
Rose Houck, an environmental policy intern at the North Carolina Collaboratory, poses for a portrait in Kenan Labs at UNC-Chapel Hill. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

This summer, Rose Houck ’25 is tackling two projects as an intern for the North Carolina Collaboratory to help improve the health and safety of North Carolina residents.

One of her projects focuses on water quality at a local reservoir and the other tackles flood resiliency.

“Our research is catered specifically to improving the water quality in Falls Lake and the surrounding watershed. We are working entirely with North Carolina university researchers so everybody is familiar with the local context,” says Houck, who is a double major in biology and applied data science. “All the discussions and collaboration are with North Carolinians, so it’s really awesome to see a community and state-driven project. The work is tied to where I grew up and benefitting my home state.”

The N.C. General Assembly established the North Carolina Collaboratory in 2016 to facilitate the dissemination of policy and research expertise of the 17 UNC System institutions to solve some of the state’s most pressing challenges through collaboration. The Collaboratory’s funding has grown to nearly $150 million and includes research partnerships with experts from across the state.

This summer, Houck joined the team working to improve the water quality at Falls Lake in Durham and Wake counties so more North Carolina residents can safely utilize the reservoir. Houck is looking at scientific research from local communities in North Carolina related to nutrient levels and ecosystem health to offer recommendations to improve water quality.

For the flood resiliency project, Houck is supporting research related to mitigating storm events. The goal is to help the state reduce flooding and damage from flooding.

“These are persistent issues. Understanding how to mitigate them and funding initiatives that will mitigate them is extremely important to the health and safety of all our community members here in the state,” says Houck.

Houck previously volunteered in two labs at Carolina in the biology department. Now she is enjoying digging into policy work that has a tangible impact on North Carolina communities.

“I think that because I have had experience through my coursework at Carolina and through my experience in labs at Carolina, I am able to read and understand and analyze this research a lot better and so it’s been great to actually put it into application through state policy work,” Houck says.

Houck, who is from McLeansville, North Carolina, says she feels very excited to be doing this work because she was born and raised in our state.

“It’s been really great doing the research because the North Carolina Collaboratory works specifically on North Carolina state issues,” Houck says. “To get to work firsthand on issues that are affecting our state has been really fulfilling.”