Weekly Update: Recovery from Matthew, Promotions, Paul Ehrlich and more...

October 12, 2016

hi everyone

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of joining more than 140 of our alums in Washington, D.C., for an evening-long celebration of the Nic School’s 25th anniversary. It was an outstanding event.

Meg Mullin and Dave Johnston presented inspiring talks about their research and teaching at the school; MEM’17 Laura Marie Davis discussed the many benefits she received from her Stanback Internship, and MEM/MPP ’04 Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the Chesapeake Conservancy, delivered a great talk about the value a Nic School education has played in his career.

Hearing them made me proud to be part of this community.

It was equally wonderful to see the mix of young and old alums, including some from the 1970s, sharing their stories, connecting with old friends, and making new connections. By evening’s end, there was an undeniable sense of camaraderie, excitement and enthusiasm throughout the room. There is clearly a palpable hunger for more events like this.

Kudos to Kevin McCarthy and his team in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations for pulling off such a perfect evening.

My only question is, when can we do it again?


Now, on to this week’s news:



  1. As the waters from Hurricane Matthew recede and life returns to normal on Pivers Island, I’d like to give a shout out to Andy Read and his terrific Marine Lab Emergency Response Team for all they did to prepare DUML for the storm and keep everyone there safe. Thanks to their efforts, we came through the storm with no injuries and minimal damage – just some downed branches, a few missing tags on buildings, and a lot of missing shingles on Dorm 5. Join me in thanking Donald Lane and his crew for getting all the buildings and grounds prepared; John Wilson for dealing with the boats; Jeffery Priddy for making sure our IT system was secure; Dominick Brugnolotti  for making sure our students were safe; Katie Wood for rebooking flights for students on their Fall Break field trip so they could make it to Panama; and Rebecca Smith for overseeing the entire operation, making sure nothing was overlooked, and keeping us informed of Matthew’s latest developments despite this storm’s unpredictable nature. Thank you, all!
  2. I’m pleased to share some very big news about Dalia Patiño-EcheverriLast Friday, we got word she’s been promoted to associate professor with tenure, pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, which is expected soon.  This is a richly deserved honor. Dalia is widely respected for her influential research on the impact of uncertainty on public and private decision making in the energy sector. She also advises an usually large number of MEM students, connects to undergrads and PhD students through Bass Connections projects, and teaches courses that are among our school’s most demanding – and, yet, still among our most popular. She truly exemplifies our school’s mission of “creating knowledge and global leaders for a sustainable future.”
  3. PhD student Casey Lindberg has received a research fellowship from N.C. Sea Grant and the Water Resources Research Institute to study the cumulative impacts environmental stressors, including hypoxia and chemical pollutants, are having on native fish populations in East Coast estuaries. She’s one of only five graduate students statewide selected to receive the highly competitive fellowship this year. Rich Di Giulio is her faculty advisor.  Kudos, Casey! 
  4. Drew Shindell is working with environmental ministers from the 35-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to develop emission-reduction policies and pledges that will be presented at the upcoming COP22 climate conference in Morocco. As part of his ongoing involvement with OECD, Drew presented the keynote science address, “Climate Change: Key Challenges Moving Forward,” at the organization’s annual meeting in Paris last month.
  5. A quick reminder that renowned biologist Paul Ehrlich – whose 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb helped launch the environmental movement in the U.S. – will present the 2016 Ferguson Family Lecture at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in Love Auditorium. His topic is “Surviving the Sixth Mass Extinction.” If you’ve never heard Paul talk before, you’re in for a treat. A light reception will precede his talk at 5:15.
  6. Greg Andeck, MEM ’05, will present a free talk, “A Birds-Eye View: How Audubon is Changing the Conversation on Climate Change,” at 4 p.m. today in Field Auditorium. Greg is senior manager of conservation solutions at Audubon-North Carolina. It’s great to have him back on campus, sharing his expertise with our current students. 
  7. The Duke SAF Chapter’s daylong fall symposium, “An All-Lands-Vision: Engaging Large Private Landowners in Landscape Conservation,” will take place Friday, Oct. 21, in Field Auditorium. The line-up of speakers includes leaders from the Pacific Forest Trust, The Conservation Fund, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Columbia Land Trust, and the University of Vermont – as well as Dean Urban and me. It’s open to everyone, but you need to RSVP by this Friday. I encourage anyone with an interest in forests, conservation, landscape ecology, ecosystems services or private-public partnerships to attend. 
  8. Student organizers Kelsey Dick, Sara Cleaver, Caitlin Starks and Tess Petesch would like to extend a big thank you to all the volunteers who helped staff DukeFish’s booth at the N.C. Seafood Festival in Morehead City two weekends ago. Proceeds from their sales of local, channel-net-caught shrimp tacos help fund the lectures the group hosts throughout the year at the Marine Lab and in Durham, as well as its Earth Day and Ocean Awareness Week events.
  9. Last but certainly not least, I’m delighted to report that the Nicholas School community added its newest member at 4:53 a.m. last Thursday when Jim Heffernan and his wife Amber Sniff welcomed their first child, Rowan Patrick Heffernan, into the world. Rowan was 21” and 8 pounds, 13 ounces. He and Mom are back home now, and – other than being a little sleep-deprived – everyone is happy and healthy. Jim has no insights to share on fatherhood yet, other than to say he is “very content and proud.”  Please join me in wishing them all the very best!

Looking forward to having everyone back from fall break. Let us know you news by submitting your items here.