July Update: DUML's New Research Ship, Superfund Grant Renewal, New Findings on Ozone Pollution and more...

July 25, 2017
DUML boat research ship story example

The Duke Marine Lab’s new research ship will be similarto the R/V Fulmar,a 65-foot catamaran research vessel builtfor NOAA by All American Marine Inc.of Bellingham, Washington.See story below. (Credit: All American Marine Inc.)

Hi everyone,

 I’m just back from a trip to Thailand, where I learned more about that country’s impressive effort to restore its mangroves. It was nice to witness an emerging environmental success story. My recovery from the trip has been aided by the heat and humidity here—am I still in the tropics? As the long list of stories below indicates, many good things happened while I was away. Pour yourself a cool drink and read on.


  1. In case you already haven’t heard the news, we’ve received an $11 million gift to fund a new research vessel at the Marine Lab! The gift, which comes from the Grainger Family Descendants Fund, will provide $5 million to build the 68-foot ocean-going boat and $6 million to support operating costs. Please join me in thanking our far-sighted donor and also Andy Read, Kevin McCarthy, Rebecca Smith, Robert Pitts, Barbra Howard, Charlotte Nunez-Wolff and everyone else here at the school who worked so hard to facilitate this wonderful gift. 
  2. And while we’re talking about big numbers, the Duke Superfund Research Center’s five-year grant renewal for nearly $10.2 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has been officially confirmed. The funding will support five Superfund Center research projects on later-life consequences of early-life exposures to hazardous chemicals, as well as six outreach and training programs. Kudos to Rich Di Giulio, Heather Stapleton and the entire Superfund Center team! 
  3. Let’s also congratulate Paul Baker on a $1.5 million grant from the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program to support his research documenting how the evolution of the physical environment (e.g. tectonics, climate, geomorphology) in the Amazon has shaped the generation, distribution and preservation of biodiversity there. He and colleagues at Yachay Tech in Ecuador also have received an $825,000 MacArthur Foundation grant. 
  4. A new study led by Jim Zhang and recent PhD grad Drew Day finds that exposure to ozone pollution, long associated with impaired lung function, is also connected to health changes that can cause cardiovascular disease such as heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke. You can download a PDF of the paper here. 
  5. Mountaintop-removal coal mining is causing many streams and rivers in Appalachia to run consistently saltier for up to 80 percent of the year, a study led by former PhD student and post-doc Fabian Nippgen reveals. Current PhD student Matt Ross and faculty members Brian McGlynn and Emily Bernhardt also authored the paper. Learn more here.
  6. PhD student Enrico Zorzetto has won a NASA Earth Science Fellowship, worth $45,000 annually for up to three years, to support his research project, “Optimal Satellite-Based Estimation of Extreme Rainfall at the Global Scale.” Enrico’s faculty advisor is Marco Marani.
  7. Brian Silliman and former Bookhout Research Scholar Aaron Ramus have a paper in PNAS that shows invasive plant species can be a source of vital ecosystem functions where native coastal habitats such as salt marshes have declined. Brian and Aaron (who is Joe Ramus’ son and currently a PhD student at UNC-W) conducted the study at 48 sites along the N.C. coast. Their findings show that nonnative invaders can offset the loss of natives by performing some of the same beneficial functions, such as erosion control and flood protection.  
  8. PhD student Brian Prest has been awarded a Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from Resources for the Future. He’ll use the $18,000 stipend to fund the completion of his dissertation on U.S. household responses to time-of-use electricity pricing. Brian’s faculty advisors are Billy Pizer and Richard Newell.
  9. Lincoln Pratson has launched his second MOOC course on energy industry fundamentals. The course introduces students to the technologies and operating procedures the industry uses to supply electricity to customers and respond to changes in market demand. Lincoln developed the course in response to overwhelming demand for his first MOOC course, which focused on the oil and gas industry. 
  10. A study by PhD student Amanda Schwantes documents how climate-exacerbated droughts are causing increasingly significant forest losses. She used remote sensing and satellite images to map changes in tree cover following a record drought in Texas in 2011 and found nearly 10 percent of forest canopy, on average, was lost statewide. This loss was much larger than damage caused by past droughts. Jennifer Swenson, Mariano Gonzalez-Roglich, Daniel Johnson and Jean-Christophe Domec co-authored the study. 
  11. Xavier Basurto is lead author of a recent report that identifies new approaches for strengthening the governance of small-scale fisheries worldwide. The report, which was supported by the Oak Foundation, was co-authored by John Virdin of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions,  Nic School PhD student Hillary Smith and Kenan Institute for Ethics doctoral student Ryan Justus
  12. PhD student Elizabeth Clark and recent MEM graduates Brianna Elliott and Devon McGhee have been named John C. Knauss Marine Policy Fellows by the National Sea Grant College Program. They’ll head to D.C. this fall to begin yearlong stints working on marine policy issues at federal agencies. It’s great to have the Nic School so well represented in this prestigious program. 
  13. MEM alum Kristin Murphy has been selected to represent the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in the Summit Seeker Ambassador program. She’ll will work with the National Park Service and other organizations to develop new management approaches that promote more inclusive outdoor experiences in national parks and foster greater engagement with underrepresented communities. 
  14. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pleased to report that two of my papers were among the five finalists for the most outstanding article published in Environmental and Resource Economics in 2016. The first is “Impact Evaluation of Forest Conservation Programs: Benefit-Cost Analysis Without the Economics,” on which I was sole author. The second is “Valuing Water Purification by Forests: An Analysis of Malaysian Panel Data,” which I wrote with Tripp Burwell, Subhrendu Pattanayak, Jie-Sheng Tan-Soo and Kyle Thomas, all of Duke, and Ismariah Ahmad and Norilyana Adnana of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia.  

Keep the good news rolling in. I’ll be resuming my regular Weekly Updates after the school year begins in August. Submit your items here.