DURHAM, N.C. – Brian McAdoo, an expert on disaster risks who is highly regarded for his innovative and integrated approach to research and teaching, will join the faculty at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in 2021.
A marine geologist by training, McAdoo’s research focuses on how geophysical hazards, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides or extreme climate events, interact with the human environment to pose risks to marginalized populations.
He was a member of the United Nations post-disaster reconnaissance team that documented the effects of the historic 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed nearly 280,000 people and caused $13 billion in damages. He has also conducted assessments of tsunami risks in Japan; hurricane impacts in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico; landslide risks in Nepal; avalanche risks in the United States; and post-earthquake recovery in Haiti.
His work in these and other disaster zones has inspired McAdoo to create an undergraduate course, “Geohazards and Risks,” that integrates tools and perspectives from the natural and social sciences to examine the links between geophysical events, economic development and social realities in areas affected by earthquakes, tropical cyclones and climate change.
His field work has also inspired him to help develop an interactive virtual reality platform that allows experts – and students – to virtually explore disaster-prone areas and watch videos of local residents sharing their experiences with natural disasters, allowing viewers to gain useful insights into – and, ideally, deeper respect for – how communities build resilience and reduce losses in the face of these hazards.
McAdoo will join the Nicholas School faculty as associate professor of Earth Sciences on July 1, 2021, subject to approval by Duke’s Appointment, Promotion and Tenure committee and the university’s Board of Trustees.
“In my discussions with Brian, I have been particularly impressed with the wealth of experience, creativity and success he has had in engaging undergraduate students inside and outside the classroom,” said Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School.
“One of our goals at the Nicholas School is to ensure every student at Duke leaves with some degree of environmental and earth science literacy. Brian will be integral in advancing this mission for us. His approach is one that will appeal to a broad cross-section of students,” Steelman said.
McAdoo comes to Duke from Yale-National University of Singapore, Asia’s first four-year liberal arts college, where he has served as professor of environmental science since 2012 and as the college’s inaugural Rector since 2013. Prior to that, he was a faculty member at Vassar College, a visiting professor at Stanford and ETH Zurich, and an exploration geologist at Amoco Nigeria Corp.
He earned his doctoral degree in Earth Sciences, with a focus on submarine geomorphology, in 1999 from the University of California Santa Cruz. He earned a Diploma in Science in geology in 1992 as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Otago in Dunedin, N.Z. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in geology in 1991 from Duke, where his faculty advisor was Paul Baker, professor of earth and ocean sciences.
Since earning his PhD in 1999, he has authored or co-authored more than 45 peer-reviewed studies, presented more than 45 invited seminars, and developed and taught more than a dozen different undergraduate courses – nearly all interdisciplinary in scope and interactive in nature – on topics that include oceanography, global geophysics and plate tectonics, planetary health, and Foundations of Science, a common curriculum course for non-science majors.