Weekly Update: Field Day, Sustainable Fisheries, New Fracking Research and more...

August 31, 2016

hi everyone

Field Day is one of my favorite events of the year. This year it also serves as our community celebration for the Nic School’s 25th anniversary as a school of the environment, which means we’ll have double the fun.

Everything starts at noon on Sat., Sept. 10, out under the trees at Couch Farm in Duke Forest. You need to get there before 2 p.m. if you want to sample some of that great bbq the SAF students cook overnight with guidance from veteran chef Judd Edeburn. The pigs come from alum Eliza Maclean’s farm. (Vegans and vegetarians, don’t worry, there is tasty fare for you, too).

For entertainment, alum Kati Moore’s band, Honey Magpie (what a great name!) will be playing as well as the band of two of our masters students, Elena Clemencon-Charles and David Chen. When it comes to games, sign up for the Cross-Cut Saw competition – it’s always a favorite.

Don’t forget to RSVP before next Tuesday, so we’ll have plenty of food for you. I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to be in Sweden. It was all planned before Field Day was scheduled. So, please, doubly celebrate for me too.

More news follows, so keep on reading.





  1. Xavier Basurto is one of three co-PIs of a recently awarded  $1.8 million research grant from NSF’s Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems program. The one-year grant – of which about $347,000 comes directly to Duke – will allow Xavier and his team to conduct in-depth studies to better understand the social, economic and ecological factors that shape institutional diversity and adaptation to environmental variability in small-scale fisheries in Baja California. Findings will be shared with policymakers, fishermen and scientists worldwide through an open-source, web-based data portal. Researchers from University of Maine, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Stockholm Resilience Centre are working with Xavier on the project. 
  2. Chris Kassotis, a postdoctoral research associate in Heather Stapleton’s lab, has two new studies out this week that link exposure to 23 chemicals commonly used in fracking and other oil and gas operations to an elevated risk of miscarriages, birth defects and preterm births in female mice, and prostate cancer and reduced fertility in males. Chris is lead author of the first study, published in the journal Endocrinology, which examines the chemicals’ effects on female mice. He is co-author of the second study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, which provides a broad overview of health effects on both males and females. 
  3. PhD student Stacy Zhang has been awarded a yearlong graduate fellowship in estuarine research to investigate new approaches to seagrass restoration in coastal N.C. waters. The fellowship, from North Carolina Sea Grant and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, will fund Stacy’s field study of several promising new methods, including one that will combine seagrass and oyster reef restoration in waters off Harkers Island. Brian Silliman is Stacy’s faculty advisor. Congrats, Stacy!  
  4. Our Executive Education program just wrapped up a 10-week summer course on international business development and environmental project management for 22 employees from Huadong Engineering Corp. of China, one of Asia’s largest firms specializing in the sustainable design, construction and operation of energy and transportation infrastructure. A big thanks goes out to Jesko von Windheim, Chris Wedding and Dan Vermeer for leading the classes and field trips, and to staff member Laura Lipps and MEM student Amanda Hoster for providing a vital assist to make everything run like clockwork. 
  5. The GoDuke website has a nice write-up this week about junior Imani Dorsey – a star forward on the Blue Devils women’s soccer team  who is majoring in environmental science and policy with a concentration in marine science and conservation. Great to see one of our outstanding undergrads in the spotlight! 
  6. Here’s a shining example of the return on investment we get when we mentor promising young scholars in our labs and classrooms. Wu Dong, a visiting scholar in David Hinton’s lab, has been working for some time now with Joshua Zhou, a local high school student with an interest in environmental technology. Under Wu’s guidance, Josh has developed a hetero-nanostructure semiconductor that can degrade most water and air pollutants. Josh’s semiconductor costs just 5 cents to produce, and once it is placed in the environment has no operational costs due to its passive use of visible light. Josh hopes his technology will serve as an affordable option for pollution remediation in developing countries. He recently was honored for his creation at the 2016 Presidential Environmental Education Ceremony in Washington, D.C.  Kudos all around on this exemplary achievement! 
  7. If you enjoy writing and photography and want to share your experiences and insights as a Nic School student with the blogosphere, there’s still time to apply to be a member of the 2016-17 Duke Environment Student Blogging Team. Applications are being accepted through Sept. 6. Doctoral, masters and undergrad students alike are encouraged to apply.

Please let me know what you are doing, so I can share your good news. Submit your items here.