Weekly Update: Undergrad entrepreneurs, fracking wastewater and more...

October 20, 2016

hi everyone

The older I get, the more I feel like Scrooge when holiday gift-giving commercials start airing before Halloween.

But here’s one “giving” message I totally support.

From now through Nov. 18, 10 percent of nearly all donations to Duke’s “Doing Good in the Neighborhood” employee-giving campaign will be directed toward the Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund to support long-term recovery efforts in eastern North Carolina.

Helping our less fortunate neighbors who were so severely affected by Matthew is a worthy cause, and I hope you will consider donating if you are so inclined. (Discussions are also under way to identify other ways the Nic School community can help.)

Please join me in thanking Eve Marion for serving as the Nic School’s “Doing Good” campaign lead this year. You’re going a terrific job, Eve.


Now – on to this week’s news:



  1. Check out the great story about undergrad environmental science major Courtney Bell that ran in Monday’s Chronicle. Courtney and fellow senior Anya Ranganathan have launched a startup company, Ungraded Produce, that promotes sustainable agriculture by buying misshapen produce from local farms – produce that might be unsellable otherwise – and marketing it through their own CSA to local consumers who value flavor over appearance in the food they eat. Courtney and Anya’s company was awarded a $5,000 Environmental Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant from the Nic School last April – proof that we do put our money where our mouth is. Kudos, Courtney! Keep up the great work. 
  2. I highly encourage all students, faculty and staff to attend the forumwe’re co-sponsoring next Tuesday, Oct. 25, about the proposed on-campus Combined Heat and Power plant. The forum, which will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Gross Hall Atrium, is intended to provide all of us with the chance to learn more about plant, voice any concerns we may have, and have our questions answered. Advance questions or comments should be submitted by Oct. 24 here
  3. A new study by Avner Vengosh, Betsy Albright and PhD studentAndrew Kondash find that chemical-laden fracking fluids make up only four to eight percent of the wastewater coming from hydraulically fractured unconventional oil and gas wells, so the probability of harmful environmental impacts from them is low unless a spill occurs before fracking. More than 92 percent of the wastewater is made up of natural brines extracted with the gas and oil. These carry their own risks, the study shows, but, in some cases, they could be treated and re-used for irrigation and other beneficial purposes. You can learn more here
  4. Brian Silliman was one of two experts tapped to present this year’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute Holiday Lectures in Science. Brian teamed with Mary Power of UC-Berkeley to present four lectures on “Ecology of Rivers & Coasts: Foodwebs & Human Impacts.” The lectures are accessible via You Tube. Holiday Lectures are designed to bring cutting-edge research into high-school classrooms nationwide, helping bridge the gap between textbook curriculum and exciting new research developments. Each year, tens of thousands of high school students nationwide watch them as part of their science curriculum. It’s great outreach for our school. 
  5. National Parks historian Rolf Diamant will present this year’s Lynn W. Day Distinguished Lectureship in Forest and Conservation Historytoday at 5 p.m. in Field Auditorium. Rolf (who also is slated to take part in our SAF Symposium on landscape conservation this Friday) will discuss “Public Lands and the Fault Lines of a Democracy: Reflections on a Second Century for National Parks.” Hope to see you there. 
  6. I don’t need to remind you that as we head into the second half of fall semester, we head into flu season. Duke offers free vaccines to all employees and students. We’ll be hosting a clinic from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7, in Environment Hall where you can get yours. If you can’t make it on Nov. 7, or want to get your shot sooner than that, go here to learn where else on campus they’re being offered. FYI: This year, Duke is offering a quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four strains of flu viruses. An egg-free option is available for individuals with allergies.

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