Weekly Update: Welcome MEM/MFs, Bennear Appointed to Fellows, Top Nods to Nic School Fracking Studies and more...

August 24, 2017

Hi everyone,

BIG-mem group photo orientation week 2017.jpg

Welcoming some of the newest members  of the
Nicholas School family: our first-year MEM/MF class.
Photo by Megan Mendenhall, Duke Photography.

Orientation week for our new master’s and doctoral students began with an astronomical assist. The eclipse was an appropriately auspicious beginning to the academic year here at the Nicholas School.
Our incoming class of MEM and MF students is our largest ever, but more important, it’s full of talent and energy. It’s also more diverse than our norm, which is important progress toward our goal of recruiting outstanding students from all backgrounds.
We also have an impressive group of new PhD students spread across our six doctoral programs. In my discussions with them, I’ve been struck by not only their passion to learn but also by how many of them already have substantial research experience. They will get out of the gate fast.
We don’t know yet how many of the new students in Duke’s most selective undergraduate class ever will enroll in our courses or select our majors. I can report one promising sign, however: I met several first-generation Rubenstein Scholars a couple of weeks ago who had chosen environmental topics for their summer preorientation projects.
If anyone can push back the forces of darkness, it’s these future environmental leaders. I’m grateful to the faculty, staff, and current students who have done so much to welcome them to our community this week.


  1. Congrats to Lori Bennear for being appointed to the Faculty Fellows program by the Duke Alumni Association. The program, which was launched in 2012 as part of the Alumni Affairs Forever Learning initiative, fosters stronger alumni engagement by having some of the university’s top faculty speak with alumni groups both on and off campus. Lori, we’re very grateful for all you do for the Nicholas School and Duke! 
  2. The editors of the American Chemical Society’s journals have recognized two Nicholas School studies on the environmental impacts of fracking as being among the most read and highly cited peer-reviewed papers published in ACS journals in the past five years. Avner Vengosh, who led both studies, was honored as one of the journals’ 10 most prolific authors. 
  3. A new study co-authored by Stuart Pimm this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on how wildlife corridors could be used to slow extinction rates in two tropical biodiversity hotspots – the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. You can learn more about the study here, or read a superb article about it that ran earlier this week in The New York Times
  4. As a new semester starts, I want to remind everyone that we have a community food pantry. Located in the first-floor kitchen of Environment Hall and the second-floor kitchen of LSRC, the pantry works on the honor system and it is open to all students or employees who finds themselves temporarily short of the means needed to buy nutritious meals. If you’d like to donate nonperishable food items to help us keep the pantry stocked, you can drop off your contributions in Anne Davis’office (LSRC A140).
  5. Join me in congratulating Allison Besch, our director of executive education, on being part of a group that published an article titled “Diversity and Inclusion in Conservation: A Proposal for a Marine Diversity Network.” The article highlights measurable benefits of workforce diversity and calls for coordinated, mindful actions to remove barriers to diverse participation. What a great example of cross-collaboration and teamwork with other universities across the globe! 
  6. Beverly Burgess, right, with artist Safa Kaleem

    Beverly Burgess, right, with artist Safa Kaleem.

  7. Sea-level rise threatens coastal marshes worldwide. Newly restored marshes may be especially susceptible. A timely paper co-authored by PhD students Stacy Zhang and Joe Morton and post-doc Justin Ridge provides new insights into how we can protect these vital habitats. Their study finds that increasing the patch size of restored salt marshes as inundation increases may offset the tradeoff between physical stress and faunal community recruitment and increase the marsh’s resilience to rising waters. 
  8. PhD alum Ling Huang has been promoted to associate professor of environmental economics at the University of Connecticut. Ling earned her doctoral degree from the Nic School in 2010. Her faculty advisor was Marty Smith. Speaking of Marty, he recently gave an invited presentation, “Quantities that Matter, Don’t Matter, or Might Matter in Fisheries Economics,” at the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual meeting in Chicago on July 31. 
  9. Duke Forest staff member Beverly Burgess was the subject of a lovely tribute recently recognizing her courageous battle with Crohn’s Disease. Beverly’s resilience and optimism inspired School of Medicine student Safa Kaleem to create a painting in her honor. Safa says her painting, Path to the Sea, is meant to convey Beverly’s “poise and grace in dealing with her illness” and her resolve “to see the best of things in life and not let her disease define her.” The acrylic on canvas work was displayed as part of a multimedia art exhibition on chronic diseases at Duke’s Trent Semans Center for Health Education on Aug. 11.

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