Five Nicholas School Faculty Members Awarded Distinguished Professorships

May 5, 2016

Contact: Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084,

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University has recognized five faculty members at the Nicholas School of the Environment with Distinguished Professorships.

Richard Di Giulio, Andrew Read, Curtis J. Richardson, Drew Shindell and Martin Smith were awarded the professorships – one of the highest academic honors the university confers on faculty – at a ceremony May 4 dinner at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham.

Di Giulio was named Sally Kleberg Professor of Environmental Toxicology.  

Read was named Stephen A. Toth Professor Marine Biology, a chair he already holds but which was not, until now, formally recognized by the university as a Distinguished Professorship.  

Richardson was named the John O. Blackburn Distinguished Professor.

Shindell was named Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences.  

Smith was named George Woodwell Professor of Environmental Economics.

All five appointments are effective July 1.

An innovator in environmental toxicology


Di Giulio’s studies focus on the molecular and organismal responses of aquatic animals to contaminants and other environmental stressors. 

Through more than 150 peer-reviewed papers, his work has advanced scientists’ understanding of the mechanisms of contaminant metabolism, adaptation and toxicity in model species, and furthered efforts to devise new tools for assessing risks in the wild.

In his lab at the Nicholas School and through his role as director of the Duke Superfund Research Center and the university’s Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program, he collaborates on numerous long-term interdisciplinary studies to shed light on links between ecosystem and human health.

A renowned wetland science expert

Curt Richardson.jpg

Widely cited for his work on wetland ecology and restoration, Richardson has published more than 120 scientific papers. His research focuses on ecosystem response to large-scale perturbations such as climate change, toxic materials, flooding, or nutrient additions, with interests in phosphorus nutrient dynamics in wetlands and the effects of environmental stress on plant communities and ecosystem functions.

In recognition of his contributions to wetland science, Richardson has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the Soil Science Society of America.

A leader in marine conservation


An expert on marine mammals, sea birds and sea turtles, Read has conducted field research in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Antarctica, and has published more than 150 peer-reviewed studies. Much of his current work focuses on documenting the effects of human activities on marine species, and developing and applying new conservation tools to resolve such conflicts.

Earlier this year, Provost Kornbluth named Read to serve as the Duke University Marine Lab’s new director, effective July 1.

In 2015, he was nominated by President Obama to serve as chairman of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, an independent agency that provides oversight for marine mammal policies and programs being carried out by federal regulatory agencies. He also has served on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Cetacean Specialist Group and on the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee.

A widely influential climate scientist


A prolific researcher with more than 100 peer-reviewed publications to his credit, Shindell is widely cited for his work using climate models to investigate connections between climate change, air quality and chemical changes in the atmosphere, including the depletion of Earth’s ozone layer.

He has testified on climate issues before both houses of Congress, the World Bank and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He chaired the 2011 Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone by the UN Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization, and was a coordinating lead author on the 2013 Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He currently chairs the scientific advisory panel to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition of nations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.

A pioneering environmental economist


Smith is a widely cited expert on fisheries economics and marine policy. In 2010, he was lead author on two papers in Science – one on foreign aid and sustainable fisheries’ vital roles in global food security, the other on flaws in the Food and Drug Administration’s review process to determine the safety of transgenic salmon for human consumption, and ways these flaws can be corrected.  The same year, he also was lead author of a study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that examined how economic and social factors shape fishermen’s support for, or opposition to, the creation of new no-take marine reserves.  

In recognition of his scholarly output, Smith received the prestigious Quality of Research Discovery Award from the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association for 2010. He was selected as a Leopold Leadership Fellow in 2011.

Duke confers Distinguished Professorships annually on faculty members who have achieved distinction as leading scholars in their fields. The appointments are based on the recommendation of Provost Sally Kornbluth and approval by Duke’s Board of Trustees.

Twenty-one faculty members across Duke’s campus were recognized with distinguished professorships this year.