Weekly Update: BOV at DUML, Duke Forest's Annual Gathering, Rett Elected Mayor and more ...

November 9, 2017
board of visitors DUML 2017.jpg
Members of the Nicholas School Board of Visitors met in Beaufort last week for discussions and special presentations by faculty members
such as Zackary Johnson, pictured above right.

Hi Everyone,

Most of you do not have much interaction with the Nicholas School’s Board of Visitors, which is a strong pillar of the school. The Board consists of a mix of Nicholas alums, other Duke alums, and friends of the school, from a variety of professional sectors. It includes many of our most generous donors, but it is also a valuable source of advice on our programs and initiatives.

We held our fall Board meeting last week in Beaufort, on our Marine Lab campus. The Board added five new members this fall: Dr. Beth Stevens, Disney’s former Senior Vice President for Corporate Citizenship, Environment & Conservation; Jud Wolfe, an experienced environmental, health, safety, and compliance leader in the energy industry; Jeff Bass, an attorney who specializes in environmental planning and land use; Michael Mars, founder of an early-stage venture capital practice focused on catalyzing a sustainable economy and industrial clean technologies; and Dr. Mamie Parker, a former high-ranking official in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service whom you may recall from an inspiring Rising Tide talk last year. If you need any more proof that our Board is an influential and well-connected bunch, check out the second story below.

The Board members provided useful input on our undergraduate and PhD programs, our new MEM Business & Environment concentration, our nascent Natural Resources Finance Initiative, and Marine Lab priorities. Many thanks to them for traveling from across the country to lend us their time and wisdom.


  1. Jim Clark is among the authors of the U.S. Global Change Program’s new Climate Science Special Report, an in-depth – and sobering – assessment of the far-reaching impacts of climate change in the United States. Jim co-authored the chapter on forests. You can read a Washington Post article about the report here.  
  2. Longtime Nic School friend U.S. Representative Scott Peters was a featured speaker at a workshop on climate change held at The Vatican last week. Scott – who is a Duke alum, the husband of former Nic School Board of Visitors chair Lynn Gorguze, and father of two recent Duke graduates – did our school proud in his remarks that called on the world’s leaders to take immediate actions to protect our planet and its most vulnerable populations from the impacts of global warming. You can read Scott’s full remarks here
  3. Are South America’s tropical wetlands methane sources or sinks? New research led by PhD alum Scott Winton offers clues. By conducting an on-the-ground assessment of methane flux in a remote Peruvian peatland, Scott and his colleagues, Curt Richardson and Neal Flanagan of the Duke Wetland Center, discovered that the emissions there vary dramatically between vegetation zones. Knowing this can help scientists develop better ways to estimate tropical wetlands’ emissions and incorporate them into Earth system models. In related news, Scott was recently appointed a visiting postdoctoral fellow at ETH Zurich, a science and technology university in Switzerland. Kudos, Scott! 
  4. Hot off the presses: PhD student Everette “Rett” Newton has been elected mayor of Beaufort! Anyone who knows Rett – who also serves as program manager of our Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab – knows about his lifelong commitment to advancing the welfare of people in his hometown and protecting its environment. He’ll be a remarkable mayor. The only question is, do we have to start addressing him as “Your Honor” now? 
  5. Justin Ridge, a postdoc at the Duke Marine Lab, has a new paper out this week. It shows that oyster-reef growth has an exceptional capacity to match even extreme rates of sea-level rise. That’s good news, considering that more and more living shorelines now incorporate these reefs as natural armor to protect our coasts and estuaries. 
  6. Erika Weinthal has helped develop a free online course, “Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace,” for the United Nations Environment Programme. She’s also serving as a core faculty member for the 8-week course, which provides students with an overview of the multiple roles that natural resources and the environment can play in the onset, escalation and resolution of violent conflicts. Enrollment is now open; the class starts March 1, 2018. Learn more here
  7. Brian Silliman is co-editor of a new book, “Effective Conservation Science: Data Not Dogma,” that uses case studies to illustrate the problems that arise when scientists downplay findings that challenge long-held tenets of conservation for fear these “inconvenient data” may be misconstrued by the media or misused by policymakers. Instead of hitting the mute button, Brian and his co-editors argue that we must follow the data, wherever it leads, and tackle these uncomfortable issues head-on. The book, from Oxford University Press, comes out on Nov. 12. 
  8. Postdoc Meijing Zhang just published a new paper exploring the potential positive role of hurricanes and tropical storms in generating water supply in the southeastern U.S. The study, co-authored by faculty members Mukesh Kumar and Marco Marani as well as MEM alum Michael Goralczyk, shows that these storms are crucial for sustaining water supply during dry periods. 
  9. Duke Forest will hold its Annual Gathering at 6 p.m. tonight at the New Hope Improvement Association Center in Chapel Hill. More than 100 people are expected to participate. This year’s theme is “Wildlife: Home on the Forest.” Ron Sutherland, conservation scientist with the Wildlands Network, will be the guest speaker. Learn more here

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