Weekly Update: Distinguished Professors, Coastal Marshes, HB2 and more...

May 18, 2016

A weekly roundup of what's new and noteworthy around the Nicholas School

Hi Folks

A huge thanks to everyone who helped make both of our Nic School graduation ceremonies a success. We could not do this without a lot of our staff members going above and beyond, including taking big chunks of their weekend time, and we could not have such a rich and enjoyable ceremony without so many faculty and staff being willing to attend. I heard from numerous parents and other attendees after the ceremonies about how much they enjoyed it all. Thanks to all of you, and may you now be reading this on a beach somewhere! Finally, a big thanks once again to Tim Lucas and Scottee Cantrell, who help make this update happen every week. This will be the last weekly one of the academic year, but we will still send out something monthly over the summer, before diving in again next fall. Best wishes to all for a great summer.


  1. Four Nic School faculty members – Rich Di Giulio, Andy Read, Drew Shindell and Marty Smith – have been awarded Distinguished Professorships based on the recommendation of Provost Sally Kornbluth. Duke confers Distinguished Professorships annually to faculty members who have achieved distinction as leading scholars in their fields. Rich was named Sally Kleberg Professor of Environmental Toxicology; Andy was named Stephen A. Toth Professor Marine Biology (a chair he already holds but which was not, until now, formally recognized as a Distinguished Professorship); Drew was named Nicholas Professor of Earth Sciences; and Marty was named George Woodwell Professor of Environmental Economics. Please join me in congratulating them on this richly deserved honor. 
  2. Kudos to doctoral students Katherine Ratliff and Anna Braswell, whose study on coastal marsh response to sea-level rise has received this year’s Dean’s Award for Outstanding PhD Student Paper. Katherine and Anna’s paper, which they conducted with Marco Marani, was published in PNAS last December. It finds that marshes may be more resilient to climate-driven sea-level rise than previously thought, thanks in large part to the effects of increased CO2 fertilization of marsh plants, which spurs increased photosynthesis and biomass production and allows marshes to build themselves up and keep pace with rising seas. You can learn more here.  (photo above of Dean's Award winner Anna Braswell with Dean Alan Townsend and Dr. Brad Murray, accepting for Katherine Ratliff, photo by Megan Mendenhall, Duke Photography) 
  3. More than 290 members of the Nic School community have signed statements voicing their opposition to North Carolina House Bill 2.The statements, which were sent to Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Legislature, call for the repeal of the controversial law that excludes members of the LGBTQ community from legal protections against discrimination.  Kudos to Emily Klein, Erika Weinthal, Susan Lozier and Betsy Albright and MEM student Diego Calderon-Arrieta for coordinating these efforts.
  4. MEM student Megan Nasgovitz has received a grant to extend her Bass Connections research on the economic, environmental and political implications of Shell’s decision to suspend off-shore drilling in Alaska. She’ll use the grant extension to travel to Alaska this summer to conduct interviews and a survey in small indigenous towns affected by the decision. She’ll present her findings at the Polar Law Symposium in Iceland in October. Megan’s conducting the research under the guidance of Doug Nowacek and Lori Bennear.
  5. The DEL Executive Education team completed its final Marine Planning Advancement Training course of the year last week in Miami. Staff members Laura Lipps and Barbara Garrity-Blake and alums Leslie-Ann McGee and Mike Barrett facilitated the two-day course and workshop for 24 coastal professionals. The Miami program was the last in a year-long series of MPAT courses funded by a $130,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

One more thing before heading out for the summer: We just posted the videos of speakers at Saturday's Recognition Ceremony, so check them out. And don't forget to keep us updated about what you are doing by submitting your items here.