Weekly Update: #DukeDoingGood, Zhang Receives $2.49M Grant, PhD/Newlyweds Author Ecotourism Study and more...

October 19, 2017
weekly update 10-19

Nancy Kelly (4th from left) represented the Nicholas School earlier this year when the Duke Office of Durham and Regional Affairs presented Governor Roy Cooper a $51,000 #DukeDoingGood donation from Duke employees for Hurricane Matthew relief.

Hi everyone,

I’ve been to several recent events related to Duke’s annual Doing Good in the Neighborhood campaign, and I’ve been proud to see the spotlight on the Nicholas School’s role in last year’s campaign. Faculty and staff from both our Durham and Beaufort campuses worked together to aid communities devastated by Hurricane Matthew. As you can see in the photo above, this earned us a spot on the delegation that visited Governor Cooper earlier this year.
I know you already give back to your communities in multiple ways, but I encourage you to consider supporting the current Doing Good campaign. As an added incentive, if you give this month, then you will be entered into multiple prize drawings.
Donations to the main Doing Good campaign will support organizations in Durham, Orange, Wake, and Johnston counties. This year, the University is running a pilot program focused on Carteret County, home to our Marine Lab. Please contact the Doing Good Champion in Beaufort, Rebecca Smith (rebecca.s.smith@duke.edu), for information on how to donate to this pilot program. Our School’s other Doing Good Champion, Sarah Phillips (sarah.anne.phillips@duke.edu), can answer questions about the campaign for those of you who are based in Durham.
Please join me in thanking Sarah and Rebecca for their service to this good cause, and thank you for supporting it. Now, on with the week’s news.

  1. An international team led by Jim Zhang has received a $2.49 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study air pollution’s impacts on fetal development and birth weight. By monitoring 660 expectant mothers in Beijing from early pregnancy through delivery, Jim and his colleagues hope to pinpoint how exposure to air pollution triggers biological mechanisms that lead to lower birth weights and higher risks of hypertension, coronary heart disease and other chronic conditions later in life. Duke’s Susan Murphy is part of the research team. Learn more here
  2. Gaby Katul will receive the 2018 Dalton Medal in Hydrological Sciences in recognition of his widely cited body of work in near-surface hydrology, particularly his studies of the soil-plant-atmosphere system that have advanced scientists’ ability to understand and predict eco-hydrologic phenomena. He’ll receive the medal at the European Geosciences Union’s General Assembly next April in Vienna. Please join me in congratulating Gaby on this high honor! 
  3. Andy Read headed to Mexico last week to take part in VaquitaCPR, a last-ditch conservation effort to save the vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. Scientists estimate only about 30 vaquitas remain in the wild. Their numbers have been decimated in recent years by fisheries bycatch. Andy and his colleagues are trying to capture some of the remaining vaquitas and relocate them to a temporary sanctuary until measures are put into place to stop the illegal fishing that threatens them. Learn more here.
  4. Our student group DICE will host a panel discussion on diversity in environmental professions at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, in Field Auditorium. Guest panelists – including Nic School alumni Dale Threatt-Taylor (DEL-MEM’11) and Jianye Wiu (MEM’15) – will share their experiences as environmental professionals from diverse backgrounds and lead a discussion about opportunities for creating a more diverse and inclusive environmental workforce. 
  5. Drew Shindell is co-author of a sobering new study that finds the rapid expansion of global agriculture is pushing Earth to its limits on seven environmental fronts: land-system change, freshwater use, climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, atmospheric aerosol loading, and the introduction of novel entities. Safe limits already have been passed on two other fronts – biosphere integrity and biogeochemical flows. You can read more here
  6. PhD alums (and recent newlyweds) Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela and Scott Winton are authors of a new study that suggests ecotourism – specifically birdwatching – could contribute to long-term economic recovery in parts of Colombia affected by the nation’s decades-old civil conflict. By identifying areas that are home to rare species of birds, Natalia and Scott believe they have created a “treasure map” to guide the development of future eco-tourism infrastructure in some of Colombia’s poorest and most war-ravaged regions. A new National Audubon Society survey lends credence to their argument: It estimates that if tourism infrastructure is built in these regions, more than 150,000 birdwatchers could visit Colombia in the coming decade, generating $47 million in revenues and supporting nearly 7,500 jobs.  
  7. PhD students Yating Li and Qingran Li were part of an interdisciplinary Nic School research team that took part in a workshop on energy data analytics at Duke Kunshan University last week. They were joined by faculty member Dalia Patiño Echeverri, who presented her new research on “Ensuring Reliability, Environmental Sustainability and Economic Efficiency in the Electric Power Sector: Data and Modelling Requirements.” The workshop, which was funded by Provost Sally Kornbluth’s office, is part of a Duke- and DKU-led initiative to identify new collaborative U.S.-Chinese research ventures in energy and data sciences.

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