Weekly Update: Oil Leaks, Sea-Level Rise, Blue Devil of the Week and more...

September 8, 2016

Hi Everyone

By now we are starting to get into the fall routine, taking one step after another as we make our way through classes, projects, conferences and the like. In that regard, Dan Richter offers us positive inspiration for the semester, finishing a journey he started when he was 24.

Last week, he completed the final 150-mile section of the Appalachian Trail and reached its northern terminus – atop 5,267-foot Mt. Katahdin (or Ktaadn, as Thoreau called it) on Sept. 1. Dan hiked the southern half of the trail (on young knees and legs) when he was 24, and has been completing bits of the northern half over the past eight years. The last 150-mile stretch, which leads through some of the wildest landscapes in Maine, was a grueling hike and climb, Dan says, “but worth every step.”

Let’s congratulate him on checking another major life goal off of his list. Then read on to find out about other news and accomplishments this week.

Jeff

 

 

  1.  Jesko von Windheim has received a $996,000 NSF grant to fund his work to develop a smart, flexible large-scale sensing technology to detect underground oil leaks. The new smart system will use mini-mass spectrometers and cloud computing technologies to detect where leaks occur and track them.  Its flexible design will also allow it to be used for detecting and monitoring other soil-based, airborne or waterborne pollution. Doctoral and masters students in our Nicholas Environmental Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program will work with Jesko and his partners to develop and commercialize the new technology. 
  2. Nic School alum Lindsey Smart MEM ’09 has been awarded a graduate research fellowship by N.C. Sea Grant and N.C. Space Grant to study how sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion are driving vegetation loss along North Carolina’s coast. Lindsey, who is now a doctoral student in forestry and environmental resources at NC State, will use NOAA and NASA remote sensing technologies and data sources to conduct her yearlong research. She plans to share her findings with landowners and policymakers to help guide the development of sustainable solutions to protect natural resources and property at the coast. You can learn more about her work here.  
  3. Doug Nowacek is co-lead author of a new International Union for Conservation of Nature guide that identifies ways governments and energy companies can reduce the harmful impacts their underwater seismic surveys might have on marine life. The new guide, released last week, identifies six broad-based best practices and policies that are field-tested and shown to work. The guide builds upon the findings of numerous peer-reviewed studies Doug has published on the topic, and the scientific testimony on seismic surveys’ impacts on marine life he presented to Congress last year. This is science-based outreach at its best. 
  4. Speaking of superb science-based outreach, check out this recent news story (written for the American Geophysical Union’s popular “Thriving Earth Exchange” website by MEM alum Ben Landis Young) about how Avner Vengosh, PhD students Jennie Harkness and Nancy Lauer, and MEM student Spencer Cote, are working with local Native American communities in North Dakota to monitor the effects of oil and gas wastewater leaks on tribal lands. Kudos, all around! 
  5. Last, but not least, Allison Besch has been honored as Blue Devil of the Week for her leadership at the Nic School’s Executive Education Program, which provides non-degree environmental professional development courses and workshops to dozens of industry, government and NGO partners each year. I particularly like it when she says in her online Blue Devil of the Week interview: “Duke supports me in developing new sessions, taking on new project partners, and gives me permission to be innovative, and I really appreciate that.” We really appreciate you, too, Allison. Keep up the great work!

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