Weekly Update: DEEP Talks on Diversity, Doyle to Receive Gilbert Award, New Student Council and more....

February 23, 2018

A weekly roundup of Nicholas School news, awards and grants from Dean Jeff Vincent

weekly update deep workshop nicki cagle
Nicki Cagle organized a Nic School DEEP (Diversity and Equity in Environmental Programs) workshop at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham this week.
Photos by Sergio Tovar.

Hi Everyone,

The stories below and other events this week have pushed environmental leadership to the front of my mind. We need leaders in the world of research, as we continue to discover how incomplete our understanding of the planet is (see the stories about research by Susan Lozier, Martin Doyle and others below). We also need leaders in the world of practice, who can use the knowledge generated at the Nic School to solve environmental challenges (see the story about our unparalleled Stanback Internship program).

Students gain leadership experience at the Nic School in many ways, including through their service on student organizations (see the story about our new Nicholas School Student Council members).

On Tuesday night, one of our PhD students, Danielle Purifoy (see the Jan. 11 Weekly Update), received university-wide recognition at the annual Samuel DuBois Cook Awards Dinner for her leadership on environmental justice issues across the South.

And Wednesday, we were honored to host Duke Trustee Janet Hill, who gave a Rising TIDE public lecture on becoming an influential leader by building an inclusive culture. My deepest thanks to Glenda Lee, Shawn Stevenson and all others who made Trustee Hill’s visit possible.

Environmental challenges are multifaceted and require leadership from all sectors. Here at the Nicholas School we can listen and learn from faculty, staff, students, alums and collaborators who take up the leadership mantle every day to find solutions.

Read on for more.


  1. Findings from a seven-nation, $35 million international research project led by Susan Lozier were highlighted in two of the world’s most influential science journals, Nature and Science. The Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (O-SNAP) aims to shed light on changes occurring in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), which plays a major role in shaping Earth’s climate. Susan and her O-SNAP colleagues presented initial data from the project to scientists gathered at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Ore. Check out more details on the findings here.                                                                              
  2. The American Association of Geographers (AAG) awarded Martin Doyle the 2018 G.K. Gilbert Award, which recognizes significant contributions in the field of geomorphology, for a 2015 paper that found that restored streams are typically wider and geomorphically more homogenous than nonrestored streams. The paper also analyzed the social and political-economic drivers of the stream restoration and mitigation industry. Martin will receive the award during a luncheon in April at the AAG’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
  3. Congratulations to the new Nicholas School Student Council, which was elected last month. The council is comprised of students Reed Perry (director of student groups), Sandy Lynn (director of finance), Piyush Gambhir (secretary), Sarah Vondracek (events coordinator), Yuncheng Liu (orientation coordinator), Raquel Bensadoun (Beaufort representative), Temis Coral (international student representative) and Layne Marshall (communications). See their photo below. 
  4. Career and Professional Development Center staff members Nikki Smith and Beth Hwang are leading the team hosting the 22nd annual Stanback Internship Interview Day at the Searle Center today. About two dozen volunteers will assist more than 200 Duke students as they interview for a 2018 summer internship with one of our more than 50 partner organizations. Thanks to everyone assisting with this event!
  5. Undergraduate alumna Katherine Mills, who earned her BS in Environmental Science and Policy in 1996, was one of eight mid-career scientists and conservationists who received Pew’s 2018 marine fellowship. Katherine, who’s an associate research scientist with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, is studying distribution shifts in 50 fish and invertebrate species in the northeastern United States to explore how they respond to warming waters as part of her three-year, $150,000 fellowship. 
  6. Glenda Lee and Ann Thurston gave a presentation on our Go, Grow, Give alumni initiative at the CASE District III Annual Conference in Atlanta. Go, Grow, Give is a unique program, aiming to engage our alumni as volunteers, event attendees and philanthropic donors, so it’s great to see others noticing our Office of Development & Alumni Relations' innovation and success.
  7. PhD student Justin Kirkpatrick was awarded a prestigious Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in Energy Economics from the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is one of only three doctoral students nationwide awarded the fellowships for 2018-19. Kirkpatrick’s fellowship will support his dissertation research on estimating the impact of energy storage on electricity markets in California.
  8. PhD student KC Bierlich is lead author on a new paper that suggests that the skin microbiome of humpback whales in Antarctica could provide insight into animal nutritional and environmental-related factors, which are becoming increasingly important to recognize due to unprecedented rates of climate change. The paper, which was supported via crowd-sourced funding, is co-authored by Dave Johnston and alum Ari Friedlaender (PhD’06). KC and Dave are currently in Antarctica on a NFS-sponsored project to study Minke whales.
  9. Allan Sandes, who spent a year at Duke as a visiting research associate in 2013, was awarded Brazil’s science funding agency’s prize for the best PhD thesis in geosciences for 2016. This honor is particularly meaningful because Allan was born and raised in one of Rio de Janeiro’s poorest favelas – or neighborhoods. Allan was advised by Paul Baker and Cleverson Silva (PhD’91), a professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense. Senior Research Scientist Gary Dwyer also served as a committee member for Allan and worked closely with him during his time at Duke.
  10. Jesko von Windheim and his team at our Environmental Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program worked with Pratt School of Engineering researchers and others at Duke to launch a new startup company that secured $4.5 million in funding to commercialize a new sensor technology that can determine the real-time tread wear of tires on the road. It’s great to see the commitment to entrepreneurship by Duke, the Nicholas School and our donors pay off in such an exciting way! You can read more about the company and the tire sensor here.
Nicholas School Student Council
Nic School Student Council (from left) Sandy Lynn, Layne Marshall, Reed Perry, Yuncheng Liu, Sarah Vondracek, Temis Coral and Raquel Bensadoun.
Photo by Sean Rowe. See story #3 above.

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