DURHAM, N.C. -- Twenty Nicholas School of the Environment undergraduate students have earned Graduation with Distinction honors for 2023.

Student presenting Graduation with Distinction research

The Graduation with Distinction program recognizes undergraduates who have demonstrated academic excellence through the successful completion of a senior thesis based on a substantive independent research project evaluated by a committee of three faculty members. The projects typically include a 25- to 50-page written manuscript and a poster summarizing its findings.

To earn the honor, students also must have earned a 3.0 grade point average overall and a 3.2 grade point average in their major.

The Nicholas School offers BS and AB degrees in Earth and Climate Sciences; BS and AB degrees in Marine Science and Conservation; an AB in Environmental Sciences & Policy, and a BS in Environmental Sciences.

This year’s recipients of Graduation with Distinction honors (along with their project titles and the names of their faculty advisors) are:

  • Elizabeth Bock, “Effects of Sociability on the Reproductive Success of Wild Bottlenose Dolphins Following a Marine Heatwave.” Advisor: Andrew Read
  • Caragh Heverly, “Measuring Resistance to Chestnut Blight (Cryphonectria parasitica) and American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) Morphology of Backcrossed Hybrids in Lesesne State Forest.” Advisor: Ram Oren
  • Grace Jennings, “Life of Storms: Analyzing the Social Impacts of Hurricanes in the U.S. Virgin Islands through the Scientific Literature.” Advisor: David Gill
  • Sarah Kelso, “Population Survey of Necturus punctatus in a Perennial Stream within the Duke Forest.” Advisor: Nicolette Cagle
  • Sophia McGee, “Thermal Impacts of Microplastics on Beach Sand.” Advisor: Daniel Rittschof
  • Lauren Miller, “Group Membership and Location Influence Estimates of Behavioral Aerobic Dive Limits in Short-Finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus).” Advisor: Andrew Read
  • Madena Mustafa, “The Effects of Climate Change on Coral-Dependent Communities: A review of the Scientific Literature and Interview Responses from the Caribbean.” Advisor: David Gill
  • Emma Quigg, “Empowering Rural Communities with Microgrids: A Path to Sustainable Energy Access and Resilient Grids.” Advisor: Luana Lima
  • Samantha Schulteis, “Gleaning for Sustainability: Understanding Farmers’ Social, Environmental and Economic Motivation for Charitable Food Donation.” Advisor: Charlotte Clark
  • Lydia Sellers, “A Case Study for Using Co-Creation and Authentic Community Engagement to Improve a Documentary on an Environmental Issue.” Advisor: Liz DeMattia
  • Emma Shuppert, “Quantifying Microplastic Concentration in Sargassum Patches: Call for New Methodology to Understand Plastic Exposure to Juvenile Sea Turtles.” Advisor: Andrew Read
  • Jessee Steele, “Bryospheres in Oligotrophic Headwater Streams Provide Nutrient Dense Habitats.” Advisor: Emily Bernhardt
  • Alex Stickler, “Neurobehavioral Toxicity of Developmental Cadmium and PAH Mixtures in Zebrafish.” Advisor: Ed Levin
  • Maya Suzuki, “Quantifying Immobilized PAH-Degrading Bacteria for PAH Bioremediation.” Advisor: Claudia Gunsch
  • Isabel Wood, “Examining the Effects of Droughts, Soil Legacies and Species Interactions on Two Wild Grasses in North Carolina.” Advisor: Justin Wright

Samantha Schulteis’ project, “Gleaning for Sustainability: Understanding Farmers’ Social, Environmental and Economic Motivation for Charitable Food Donation,” earned a Sustainability Engagement Certificate as well as Graduation with Distinction honors.

The five Graduation with Distinction recipients who graduated in December 2022 (along with the titles of their projects and names of their advisors) are:

  • Arianna Agostini, “Mutualist vs Competitor: Exploring the Context Dependency of Seagrass-Bivalves Interactions Across a Stress Gradient.” Advisor: Brian Silliman
  • Rachita Gowdu, “Does Host Intestinal Mucin Offer Protective Benefits from Chemical Toxicity in C. elegans?” Advisor: Joel Meyer
  • Anna He, “Small-Scale Fragmentation Increases Surface Temperature of Oyster Habitats.” Advisor: Brian Silliman
  • Alison Rosenbaum, “Investigating the Impact of Movement on Chemical Uptake in Wearable Samplers: The Silicone Wristband.” Advisor: Heather Stapleton
  • Giselle Wang, “Population Genetics of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in the Western North Atlantic Ocean.” Advisor: Tom Schultz


Students present Graduation with Distinction posters