Weekly Update: Christensen to Receive Stoddard Award, Profs & PhDs Speak at Justice Summit, Energy Week Events and more...

November 2, 2017
Norm Christensen on site outside of Fort Collins, Colorado

Norm Christensen on site outside of Fort Collins, Colo., one year after the 2012 High Park fire, which burned more than 87,000 acres.
Photos by Scottee Cantrell.

Hi Everyone,
I just received some good news about our founding dean, Norm Christensen, who has been selected to receive the 2017 Herbert Stoddard Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Fire Ecology.
In selecting Norm for the honor, the award committee cited his pioneering research on fire ecology and management in western states, as well as his dedication to teaching and outreach, and his stature within the environmental community as “someone who has inspired and mentored a generation of fire ecologists.” Hundreds of our alums would heartily second that!
Norm will receive the award at a special ceremony Nov. 30 at the International Fire Ecology and Management Congress in Orlando.
Please join me in congratulating him, and read on for more good news.

  1. The Nic School had a strong presence at the 19th annual North Carolina Environmental Justice Summit last month. PhD student Danielle Purifoy served as one of the conference’s organizers and as a panel discussion leader. PhD student Katy Hansen, faculty member Christopher Timmons and Nicholas Institute staffer Kay Jowers presented recent research, and the Duke University Superfund Research Center’s Community Engagement Core – represented by Liz Shapiro-Garza, Catherine Kastleman, Bryan Luukinen and MEM student Kelsey Rowland – presented an overview of their community-based project to reduce gardeners’ exposure to soil contaminants. To read more about the summit, check out this Superfund Center blog post
  2. Drew Shindell is co-lead author of a chapter in the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2017 Emissions Gap Report. The report, released Oct. 31, finds that the emissions reductions agreed to under the Paris Climate Agreement will account for only a third of what’s needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But it also finds that we can effectively bridge the gap by adopting emissions-reduction technologies in key sectors and taking action now to curb emissions of short-lived climate pollutants. Drew co-wrote the chapter on short-lived climate pollutants. You can download the report here
  3. Energy Week at Duke kicks off Sunday and runs through Nov. 10. It’s a great opportunity for our students to network with like-minded students from across campus and learn what’s next in energy technology, policy and business from some of the top experts in the field – including Nic School alums Chip Russell MEM’16 of Eos Energy Storage and Fred Robinson MEM/MBA’13 of Cypress Creek Renewables. Our Energy Club has been active in organizing the week, including a live recording of the popular podcast "The Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder" featuring Dalia Patiño-Echeverri on Nov. 9 at Field Auditorium. 
  4. Spinner dolphins in bays along Hawaii’s Kona Coast are being subjected to underwater sound levels more than 16 times louder than natural due to noise pollution from ecotourism, sonar exercises and other human activities in the bays, a study led by PhD alum Heather Heenehan finds. A tsunami struck the islands’ coastal waters during the study and temporarily halted most human activities there, providing Heather and her colleagues with a rare comparative glimpse into what the bays sound like without these disruptions. Dave Johnston coauthored the study. You can learn more here
  5. When excessively high levels of the trace element molybdenum began showing up in drinking water wells in southeastern Wisconsin, suspicion fell on nearby coal ash ponds as the source of the contamination. But a new study led by 2017 PhD graduate Jennifer Harkness shows it stems from natural causes, instead. Jennie and her colleagues, including Avner Vengosh, used isotopic fingerprinting and age-dating techniques to rule out leaching coal ash as a suspect and trace the contamination to geologic processes occurring deep underground. You can learn more here
  6. Kudos to Jessica Hartman, a postdoctoral associate in Joel Meyer’s lab, for winning first place in the poster presentation at the recent North Carolina Society of Toxicology meeting. Jessica’s poster, “Humanized, Transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans to Study CYP2E1-Induced Toxicity,” summarized her work to use a transgenic nematode to study the toxicity of a class of enzymes responsible for the breakdown of foreign compounds in mammals. 
  7. Eleven MEM students traveled to Seattle and Portland during fall break to visit the sustainability departments at some of the Northwest’s leading companies, including REI, Nike and Amazon. They met with Nic School alums Xander Kent MEM/MBA’15, Alexis Fuge MEM/MF’05, Lisa Appel DEL-MEM’15, Kara Jones MEM/MBA’15, Adam Brundage MEM’07 and Patrick Reaves MEM/MBA’12, and current DEL-MEM student Greg Gausewitz, to gain an inside perspective on what it’s like to work in sustainability at these corporate giants. It’s great to see so many of our young alums giving back to our school in such a meaningful way.

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