Weekly Update: Crisis Response, New Magazine and more...

November 16, 2016

Hi Everyone,

Watching the Nic School come together as a community last Wednesday to support each other in the wake of the unexpected election results – and to reaffirm our commitment to diversity and inclusion – was, without doubt, my proudest moment so far as your dean.

In a matter of hours, faculty, staff and students mobilized to organize community forums (you can use your NetID to watch one) on what the election meant and how we can best respond to it.

 We identified counseling resources, both formal and informal, for those who were distraught at the election outcome and fearful of what it might mean for their futures.

And we channeled our anger, disbelief and fear into something positive through our Team Matthew 10-Day Giving Challenge to aid North Carolinians still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The campaign ends this Friday and I hope you will consider giving whatever you can. Our help is desperately needed. (A holiday gift-giving campaign to benefit the children of affected families, and a blood drive co-sponsored by the American Red Cross, will be launched in coming weeks.)

Times like these remind me that our profession was, itself, born at a time of great crisis, when individuals from many different disciplines and backgrounds came together to protect our planet, advance our scientific understanding of the forces shaping it, and try to make the world a better place for all people.        

This is our heritage.

And over the last week, we have shown that we are living up to it. Let’s keep up the great work!


Forging a Sustainable Future: Megan Mullin on Climate Change

Megan Mullin helps us understand the reality of getting our messages across to policymakers and the public. Video produced by Nic alum Liza Hoos.


  1. PhD student Matthew Ross won has won a grand prize in the 2016 AGU Data Visualization Storytelling Competition for his presentation using Google Earth Engine and Landsat imagery to map the impacts of 40 years of mountaintop-removal coal mining on landscape topography in central Appalachia. He teamed up with Duke’s Data+ program to develop a new web-based app that visualizes how Appalachian landscapes have been flattened – by as much as 40 percent – by the mining companies’ large-scale transfer of rock from mountain peaks to mountain valleys. You can go here to see a demonstration of the app and learn more about key findings from the project that Matthew and co-authors Emily Bernhardt and Brian McGlynn published earlier this year in Environmental Science & Technology.


  1. The Student Association for Geospatial Analysis (SAGA) is hosting a free, daylong series of talks and presentations this Friday to celebrate GIS Day. Presenters include Jennifer Swenson, Pat Halpin, PhD student Aaron Berdanier and others from the Nic School community, as well as guest presenters from numerous conservation organizations, government agencies and research groups. The full agenda is here. Most of the talks will be held in Field Auditorium, with live telepresence to the Bookhout Telepresence Conference Room in Beaufort.


  1. The Fall Duke Environment magazine is now online. This issue features stories about the cool work being done with mapping and research drones by Dave Johnston and his crew at our Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beaufort; the new approach to public-private investments in water conservation and water infrastructure being led by Martin Doyle; profiles of undergraduate student Donovan Loh and PhD alum Rob Schick, and lots of other good stuff. Print copies are now on the stands in Environment Hall and LSRC, and will soon be distributed to the Marine Lab and, via mail, to our off-campus community members. Check it out.


  1. Fifteen grad students from the Nic School, Pratt and Fuqua traveled to Denver last week to meet with representatives from nine energy companies as part of the Nicholas School Energy Club’s annual Career Trek. They learned about new trends and developments – and employment opportunities – in a wide range of energy sectors, including clean energy research and technology., electric utilities, energy consulting, and the oil and gas industries. Kudos to MEM students Eleanor Johnstone and Leah Louis-Prescott for organizing this year’s trip.


  1. Undergrad environmental sciences major Jade Lu has been working with the Environment Defense Fund to facilitate more effective negotiations on agriculture at the COP22 climate conference in Morocco this month. She’s also blogging about the negotiations. Keep up the great work, Jade!


  1. PhD alums Evan Goldstein, Patrick Limber and Eli Lazarus – who all did their doctorates under Brad Murray – are authors of a new peer-reviewed paper that shows beach nourishment encourages increased development in coastal areas already at high risk from erosion and storm surge. Their work demonstrates that nourishment played a clear role in spurring the construction of more – and larger – single-family homes along highly vulnerable coastlines in Florida. It’s timely research that hopefully will inform decisions about future nourishment and development along our coasts.

Keep sharing your good news with me so I can help spread the word!  Submit your items here.