Weekly Update: First Annual PhD Symposium, MEMs Score Big in Energy, Duke-Sanford Team Top Finalists and more....

February 8, 2018

A weekly roundup of Nicholas School news, awards and grants from Dean Jeff Vincent

seaver wang phd student EOS story.jpg

Seaver Wang, one of our PhD students in Earth and Ocean Sciences, will be among those presenting at our first annual PhD Symposium tomorrow.
Nicolas Cassar is his faculty advisor. Click on this photo for a video of Wang discussing a NASA research cruise.

Hi Everyone,
The Nicholas School and Duke are never boring. There’s always something going on. This Friday, there’s a lot happening.
In the Weekly Update two weeks ago, I drew attention to the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic’s first annual Environmental Justice Symposium, which will be held at Duke Law School on Friday. Also on Friday, the Duke University Marine Lab on our Beaufort campus will be holding its annual Service Award ceremony; congrats to those being honored. And, as you probably know already from the enthusiastic advertising by student organizers, on Friday we will host our first annual PhD Symposium, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m in Field Auditorium, with a reception to follow.
The Nicholas PhD Advocacy Council first proposed the idea for an annual symposium a couple of years ago, and it became a recommendation in our strategic plan, Working Together. I’m pleased to see the symposium happening so soon, with the ink barely dry on our plan. 
All credit goes to the students, who are essential contributors to our research mission and who will go on to distinguished careers in academia and other sectors. Come to the symposium to show them your support and learn about the incredible range of discoveries they already are making about how our planet works and how humans interact with the environment. Please register here.
If you are unable to join in person, the symposium will be live streamed at this link.


  1. Paul Baker and colleagues have received a $870,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to launch a far-reaching study of ecological integrity, climate resilience and ecosystem services in the Mira-Mataje watershed of Colombia and Ecuador. The Mira-Mataje region is one of South America’s most important biodiversity hotspots. The work done by Paul and his team will help local resource managers and the international conservation community identify ways to reduce the impacts of deforestation, development, water pollution and climate change there in coming years.   
  2. America has more than 250,000 rivers. A new book by Martin Doyle documents the central roles these waterways have played in fueling America’s development and sparking some of the core ideological debates that have shaped our nation’s identity, including arguments about taxation, regulation, federal versus state rights, and conservation and development. Martin’s book, The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers, was published Feb. 6. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a vigorous look at American history through the nation’s waterways,” and says, “Doyle speaks well to issues that are as pressing today as in the first years of the republic.”
  3. A team of researchers led by Lydia Olander has received a $1.3 million grant to assess the impacts that federally funded restoration projects have had on Gulf of Mexico ecosystems affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The grant, awarded through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program, will fund work by Lydia and her colleagues to develop new and more accurate methods to measure the economic and environmental impacts these projects have had. You can learn more here.
  4. A Duke-Stanford research team co-led by Sonia Silvestri and Curt Richardson was one of five finalists in the inaugural Indonesian Peat Prize competition, in which 44 teams from 10 countries vied to see which could develop the most accurate, affordable and timely way of mapping the extent and thickness of Indonesian peatlands. Although Sonia and Curt’s team didn’t win, their proposal of using remote sensing and airborne electromagnetic data to cost effectively map peatlands has broad applicability for use in Indonesia and worldwide. 
  5. Bo Shaw, one of our most illustrious Master of Forestry alums, is the subject of a new in-depth profile published by Forest History Society. The more-than-150-page profile chronicles how Bo grew his business, American Forest Management, into one of the nation’s largest and most influential forestry consulting firms. It also includes a wealth of details about his time as a student at Duke and his ongoing connections to the Nicholas School, which include his years of service on our Board of Visitors. 
  6. Brad Murray is co-editor of a new book, Barrier Dynamics and Response to Changing Climate that synthesizes scientists’ latest understanding of the processes that shape barrier islands and influence their adaptive responses to rising seas, increased storminess, changes in vegetation cover and sand supply, and other impacts associated with climate change. Kudos, Brad! 
  7. PhD student Rebecca Lauzon recently completed the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification program. The program provides hands-on training in leadership skills and teaching methods for environmental professionals who plan to pursue careers in stewardship education. Rebecca, who’s advised by Brad Murray, received her certificate from N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael S. Regan this morning in a special ceremony at Duke Gardens. 
  8. Duke student teams scored impressive finishes in two national energy case competitions last week.  A team comprised of Dexter Liu (MEM/MBA), Leah Louis-Prescott (MEM), Soli Shin (MEM), Zach Siegal (MBA) and Alex Szerszen (MBA) took second place at the UCLA Challenges in Energy Case Competition. A team made up of Elihu Dietz (MEM), Paige Swofford (MEM/MBA), Edgar Virguez (PhD), Colin Walker (MEM) and Jenna Weiner (MEM/MBA) placed third at the Columbia University Energy Symposium case competition. Both teams were sponsored by the Duke Energy Initiative.

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