Weekly Update: Pipeline Programs, 'Fresh Water' Exhibit, Innovations Award and more ...

March 1, 2017

Hi everyone,

EOS talk durham middle school girls visit

EOS's Rachel CoyteEmily KleinJennie Harkness
 and Nancy Lauer (seated)talk "minerals" with Durham middle
school girls who were visiting the LSRCfor a day-long
science camp last Saturday. Find out more below.

This week, I’d like to give a well-deserved shout out to the growing efforts by Nic School faculty, students and staff to develop and implement “pipeline programs” that help attract more young women and underrepresented minorities into STEM fields, including environmental science.  
These programs are vital to the future of our school and our field. Increasingly, they target students at all educational levels, starting in elementary school.
Some that I know of – there might be more – include:

  • FEMMES (see Item #1 below and our feature photo);
  • Our Environmental Science Summer Program, run by Nicolette Cagle;
  • GALS (Girls on Outdoor Adventure for Leadership and Science);
  • GEST (Girls Exploring Science & Technology);
  • The Ocean Filmmaking Camp @ Duke Marine Lab, launched by PhD student Maria de Oca;
  • The Park Institute of America, which we helped launch last year, and which chose to locate in the culturally and ethnically diverse Research Triangle because of the opportunities the region offers for educational outreach to students who traditionally are underrepresented in the conservation field.

The Nic School’s strategic planning committee on diversity and inclusion has emphasized the importance of programs like these for encouraging promising young minds from all backgrounds to pursue environmental careers. Our efforts so far have been impressive, and we will continue to work with partners at Duke and in our local communities to promote and expand these programs – and keep the pipeline open.

  1. Emily Klein and EOS PhD students Nancy Lauer, Jennie Harkness and Rachel Coyte took part in a daylong FEMMES (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science) science camp last Saturday for nearly 200 middle-school students from Durham. The camp, which Emily takes part in each year, is designed to empower girls to pursue studies and careers in fields traditionally dominated by men.  Emily, Nancy, Jennie and Rachel led this year’s campers in a learning activity called “Marvelous Minerals,” in which the girls learned about minerals, what they are used for, and how to identify them using scientific methods and equipment to measure their hardness, magnetic properties, density and other key characteristics. It’s great to see two generations of outstanding EOS researchers inspiring another generation to follow in their footsteps.  
  2. “In Conditions of Fresh Water,” a multimedia exhibit based on research by PhD student Danielle Purifoy and artist Torkwase Dyson, opens tomorrow at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies. The exhibit, which runs through June 3, chronicles the long-running struggles of African-American communities in North Carolina and Alabama to secure access to clean water and modern wastewater infrastructure, among other basic environmental and human rights, in the face of institutionalized racism. Danielle and Torkwase tell the communities’ stories through art, photographs, drawing and oral histories. You can learn more about the project here
  3. A faculty and student team led by Doug Nowacek has made it to the semifinals of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition. They will compete against 20 international teams for $7 million in prize money in a two-round competition later this year. Each team must design and build a robotic vehicle that uses autonomous underwater scouting technology to investigate and map the seafloor environment at depths of up to 13,000 feet. Doug’s team will use drones to drop remote-controlled sonar-capable pods into the test area. Once they sink to the seafloor, the pods will create 3-D maps and then rise back to the surface to be retrieved by the drones. I’ll keep you posted on how they do.  
  4. Check out the story and video we recently posted about two of our EOS undergrads, Lucila Houttuijn Bloemendaal and Jack McDermott. They both chose to become EOS majors to gain a solid foundation in the core sciences they’ll need to pursue careers in environmental fields. They currently serve as co-presidents of the Duke Environmental Alliance, through which they help raise awareness of environmental issues and sustainability across Duke’s campus and Durham. 
  5. Stuart Pimm has been named a recipient of a 2017 Innovations in Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America for a paper, “Navigating the Complexity of Ecological Stability,”  he co-authored last July. The paper argues that our grasp of ecological stability, and how we measure it, is one-dimensional. This has led to a remarkably poor understanding of the impacts on stability of the characteristics that define many, perhaps all, of the most important elements of global change. Stuart and his co-authors will receive their award at the ESA annual meeting this August. 
  6. Erika Weinthal will give an invited lecture tomorrow (March 2) at UNC-CH on the role water resource management has played in recent post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding in 28 nations in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. Her talk will be at 4 p.m. in 3204 Murray Hall. Yesterday, she was one of three invited speakers taking part in a “Roundtable on Global Security in the Age of Donald Trump” at Duke’s John Hope Franklin Center. 
  7. More than 100 teachers and researchers took part in the 5th annual SciREN-Coast Exchange networking event, organized and co-sponsored by PhD students at the Marine Lab this month.  Science teachers from across North Carolina attended the event to meet with Duke, UNC and NC State researchers and explore new classroom-ready materials designed to enhance how students learn about the natural world. Kudos to PhD students KC Bierlich, Anastasia Quintana, Hillary Smith, Courtney Swink and Stacy Zhang for spearheading the event.

Keep up the good work, and let me know what you are doing. Submit your items here.