D&I-Related Research & Outreach

Many Nicholas School faculty members, students and alumni conduct research or outreach initiatives related to diversity and inclusion. Here are a few examples.

Research conducted by Bill Pan, assistant professor of global environmental health, includes several projects related to diversity and inclusion. In the U.S., he collaborates on a study that examines whether and how being classified a minority influences depression and anxiety in adolescents and young adults. This research uses data collected from Puerto Ricans living in the Bronx and in San Juan. In the Amazon, he leads an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students who are studying vulnerability and resilience to environmental contaminants and vector-borne illnesses among economically disadvantaged families, including minority (indigenous) communities.  

Erika Weinthal, Lee Hill Snowden Professor of Environmental Policy, conducts research that often focuses on the politics of inclusion and exclusion when it comes to the management of natural resources. Through a focus on access to water and sanitation, she looks at questions of vulnerability, equity, poverty and justice. Her research also examines issues of gender within the context of natural resource management and violence. 

PhD student Danielle Purifoy is co-lead investigator on a research and outreach project, “In Conditions of Fresh Water,” that uses art and oral history to chronicle the struggles and victories of historic black communities in the South over the last 180 years as they have fought – and continue to fight – for social and environmental justice.  

Brian Holt, a 2012 graduate of the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) program, is working to ensure that one of the deadliest home-front disasters of World War II and the racial injustices it exposed will never be forgotten. He’s developing a land-use plan and financing strategy for the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial in California, where an ammunition explosion in 1944 killed 320 sailors, two-thirds of whom were African-American. Fifty surviving African-American sailors were court-martialed when they refused to return to work without receiving better safety training. Their trial exposed the injustices associated with segregation in the armed forces and led to President Harry Truman signing the historic Executive Order that officially desegregated the nation’s military.

Research led by Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality, has shed light on the widespread soil and water contamination caused by oil and gas operations on tribal lands in North Dakota. Vengosh and his PhD students have initiated ongoing outreach to share their findings with local First Nations communities and help them monitor the contamination and better assess the potential risks it poses to environmental and human health.

Xavier Basurto, assistant professor of sustainability science, and his students study the role community-based management can play in helping indigenous communities of fishermen along Mexico’s Gulf of California maintain sustainable harvests in the face of increased regional competition that increases the risks of overfishing and fishery depletion.