Weekly Update: Mamie Parker, Biodiversity Days, Dead Zones and more...

February 1, 2017

Hi everyone,

Diversity and inclusion are very much on my mind this week, for some reasons that make me feel good (check out the video above of Mamie Parker, the first African-American chief of staff in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who spoke at the school yesterday) and others that have the opposite effect (the travel ban on citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries). Standing up against discrimination on the basis of nationality, faith, or any other feature of our complex identities as human beings is a necessary defense of values our community holds dear.

Mamie Parker Speaks on Diversity

A commitment to D&I also is essential to our school’s mission, “to create knowledge and global leaders of consequence for a sustainable future.” The committee that drafted the D&I report for our strategic planning process reminds us, “We do a better job of identifying and building knowledge about environmental problems, developing novel research tactics to confront them, and teaching about them when we bring more diverse perspectives into the school.” Parker’s recounting of her life and her career as a scientist and conservation leader illustrated this vividly. It was an affirming message of diversity as a source of strength for the environmental profession, and for the United States, too.


  1. A new study led by Marty Smith shows that hypoxic “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico drive up the price of large shrimp relative to smaller sizes, causing economic ripples that affect consumers, fishermen and seafood markets alike. The study, which Marty and his team published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides the first evidence linking Gulf hypoxia to economic impacts. It represents an important step in quantifying the real-world economic value of reducing the nutrient pollution flowing into our oceans. Lori Bennear, PhD student Justin Kirkpatrick and PhD alum Kevin Craig co-authored the paper. You can learn more here.
  2. The list of speakers for this year’s Biodiversity Days, to be held March 2-3, has been announced – and it’s impressive. E.O. Wilson himself returns this year to lead the keynote presentation, “Half-Earth: How to Save the Natural World,” on March 2 with panelists Thomas Lovejoy, John Seager, and Louie Psihoyos. Singer Paul Simon will join them for a solo performance and special announcement. Other speakers and presenters this year include Jeff Sachs, Ignacio Jimenez Perez, and Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. Starting today, you can order tickets for the March 2 keynote presentation at www.carolinatheatre.org. All daytime events are free and open to the public. Kudos to our partners at the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation for organizing such a great event!
  3. Please join me in thanking alum Terah Donavan (MEM ’07) for presenting such an outstanding program last week as our first Alumnus-in-Residence of 2017. Terah, who is program manager at the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency, shared career-building advice and insights on implementing successful conservation programs with dozens of our students during her two-day visit to campus. We’re lucky to have alums as engaged as her. Thanks again for all your hard work and great advice, Terah! Hurry back soon.
  4. A faculty team led by Jay Golden has a paper in Nature’s newest journal, Nature Ecology & Evolution, that proposes an integrated approach for measuring, monitoring and managing the industrialization of Earth’s oceans sustainably. Jay wrote the paper with Doug Nowacek, Lori Bennear, Pat Halpin and John Virdin. It stems from a two-year interdisciplinary Bass Connections course on ocean energy that Jay, Doug, Lori and John teach.
  5. Nicolette Cagle has a “Point of View” article in the latest issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching that examines how teachers can use science classrooms to help students develop the critical skills and perspectives that psychologist Tobin Hart calls "the core capacities that people require for a life of meaning, value and success." It’s a fascinating read for all of us who teach.
  6. Tomorrow (Feb. 2) is World Wetlands Day. You can watch a video here with Curt Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center, to learn more about the event’s significance and how scientists at the Nic School and worldwide are working to protect and restore these vital ecosystems. Keep me up to date on what you are doing so I can share your news. Submit your items here.

Keep me up to date on what you are doing so I can share your news. Submit your items here.