Dean's Update: Nic in the News, Hurricane Florence Relief, PhD Takes Top Honor, and more ....

September 19, 2018
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Greetings from the other side of Florence. I hope this finds everyone safe, sound and secure.

Durham campus did not suffer major impacts, but I can’t say the same for our beloved Marine Lab. We are still trying to assess the damage on the Beaufort campus and will be able to report out more on that next week.

In the meantime, the professionalism exhibited by everyone in Nicholas to prepare for and respond to this hurricane has been heartening. Many, many people have put in long hours over the weekend and after hours to help during the response. Thank you.
We will continue to feel the effects of Florence for some time after she moved on, so it will be important to pace ourselves as we prepare to deal with the recovery phase. In particular, our North Carolina communities down East will be suffering mightily from the flooding that in some cases has yet to reach its peak.

If you are interested in helping, please refer to the sites listed on this page to contribute. Our own Nancy Kelly is co-leading Duke relief efforts on campus. We also are establishing a fund to provide emergency assistance to students who have been displaced during Florence. We will send out information soon about how to apply.

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Nicholas School faculty members have been busy sharing their expertise about the environmental and human impacts of Hurricane Florence – appearing in more than 700 news stories. Avner Vengosh detailed for The New York Times the potential risks posed by coal ash ponds in the storm’s path. Orrin Pilkey, who appeared at a campus news conference last week, was quoted by The Associated Press and VICE on the ongoing menace from sea-level rise.

Orrin and Betsy Albright, whose research focuses on community response to natural disasters, were guests on WUNC’s “The State of Things” on Thursday and were interviewed by NPR yesterday. Michelle Nowlin commented for Indy Week on Florence's potential environmental impact, and Martin Doyle talked to the Los Angeles Times about post-storm river flooding.

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Curt Richardson was part of a new international study that found that tropical peatlands – which store up to 10 percent of the planet’s sil carbon – have a natural biochemical defense mechanism that helps them resist or retard decay, even in warming temperatures and more severe droughts. This could prevent the release of vast pools of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Duke University Wetland Center researchers Hongjun Wang, Neal Flanagan and Mengchi Ho were also among the co-authors. Read more >


A recent publication by PhD student Assaad Mrad, visiting professor Jean-Christophe Domec and professor  was highlighted in a peer-reviewed commentary in the journal Plant, Cell & Environment. The paper sheds new light on plant xylem’s response to drought and the role that wood anatomy plays in a plant’s ability to take in enough water to survive.

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PhD candidate Allison Phillips traveled to Krakow, Poland, to present her research at the 38th International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants. Allison, who’s mentored by Heather Stapleton, received the Otto Hutzinger Student Award for best student presentation.

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Nancy Kelly has been asked to help lead Duke’s coordinated response to Hurricane Florence as the university figures out how to best help communities and individuals affected by the storm across the Carolinas. Nancy was also part of a team that helped raise $51,000 for the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund after Hurricane Matthew as part of the 2016 Doing Good in the Neighborhood employee giving campaign.

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@AndyAread -- Proud of our @DukeMarineLab Ph.D. students who continue the long tradition of playing croquet in the quad before each major hurricane. @DukeU @DukeEnvironment #HurricaneFlorence

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@Dukeenvironment -- Some of the damage to @dukemarinelab from Hurricane #Florence. Duke Marine Lab is currently closed and will remain closed through Friday, Sept. 21. A communication will be sent to Marine Lab students, faculty and staff at noon on Sept. 21 providing an update and detailing next steps. Non-essential personnel should stay off Pivers Island.

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