Mullin Wins Fellowship to Study Climate Justice
Megan Mullin, associate professor of environmental politics, has been awarded a prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to support her ongoing research on climate justice.
She will use the fellowship’s $200,000 award to conduct a new two-year study, “Reshaping Communities: Local Political Responses to Climate Risks.”
“The nation’s local governments are on the front line in responding to the climate crisis. With rising threats from drought, wildfire, coastal flooding and other hazards, the test for many local governments is how to reconfigure their communities in order to protect the lives and property of their residents,” she explained.
Efforts thus far have largely focused on developing strategies that can help reduce harm from climate change impacts, she noted. Less attention has been paid to understanding the political, social and economic factors driving local decisions to adopt certain strategies over others and the outcomes these actions may have, both good and bad.
One particularly undesirable outcome, Mullin said, is that as communities attempt to become more resilient, the actions they take may reinforce racial and economic inequalities caused by past policies that have protected the interests of wealthy, white property owners.
“Local policies intended to manage environmental risk – septic regulations, wetlands protection, water supply review requirements, large-scale property buyouts – often get used as instruments for racial exclusion,” she said.
Is there another path forward?
“Yes,” Mullin said. “My Carnegie Fellow research will culminate in a book that considers how a new and different approach to physical protection in local governance could help reshape communities to be not just more resilient, but also more equitable.”
Three Faculty Named Distinguished Professors
Duke University has recognized three Nicholas School faculty members with Distinguished Professorships, one of the highest academic honors the university confers.
Lisa Campbell was named Rachel Carson Distinguished Professor of Marine Affairs and Policy.
Brian Silliman was named Rachel Carson Distinguished Professor of Marine Conservation Biology.
Heather Stapleton was named Ronie-Richele Garcia-Johnson Distinguished Professor.
Duke awarded distinguished professorships to only 28 faculty members university-wide this year. “Having three of those honorees come from our school speaks volumes about the quality of our research and teaching,” said Dean Toddi Steelman.
Campbell is an expert on policies and projects designed to reconcile conservation with socioeconomic development, primarily in rural areas and developing countries. Her recent work also focuses on the role community networks play in disaster preparedness and response along the North Carolina coast.
Silliman is a marine ecologist whose meticulously executed field studies have reshaped decades-old scientific theories about how salt marshes and other coastal ecosystems work. He has helped identify new approaches for managing, protecting and restoring at-risk coastal habitats on all six inhabited continents.
Stapleton is an environmental chemist who works to identify hazardous chemicals in consumer products and evaluate their health risks, particularly in children. She co-directs the Duke Environmental Analysis Laboratory, which was launched in 2019 with a $5 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
New Award Recognizes Excellence in Teaching
Betsy Albright, assistant professor of the practice of environmental science and policy methods, and Tim Johnson, associate professor of the practice of energy and the environment, have received the Nicholas School’s inaugural Lynn Maguire Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring Professional Students.
Albright and Johnson were nominated by students for the award, which recognizes faculty members who excel as teachers in and out of the classroom and go above and beyond in their commitment to mentoring and advising.
The award is named in honor of Lynn Maguire, a founding faculty member of the Nicholas School who retired in 2017 and whose dedication to teaching and mentoring professional graduate students was legendary.
Albright teaches courses on Environmental Decision Making; Applied Data Analysis for Environmental Sciences; U.S. Environmental Policy; Environmental Politics; and Making Environmental Decisions, a course she developed specifically for students pursuing an online Master of Environmental Management degree in environmental leadership. She served as advisor on three Masters Projects this year.
Johnson teaches courses on Transportation and Energy; Energy Technology and Impact on the Environment; Understanding Energy Models and Modeling; and Building Energy on Campus: Evaluating Efficiency and Conservation Measures at Duke. He served as advisor on seven Masters Projects this year.
Two ‘Rising Stars’ of Science Join School
Environmental toxicologist Nishad Jayasundara and ocean and climate scientist Shineng Hu will join the Nicholas School faculty in 2021.
Jayasundara’s research focuses on the ecological and human health impacts of chemical pollution and climate change, using fish species as sentinels to measure the biochemical and physiological consequences of exposure to chemical and physical stressors.
He comes to the Nicholas School from the University of Maine, where he has been an assistant professor of marine sciences since 2017. Prior to that, he worked for four years as a postdoctoral researcher here at the Nicholas School, where he co-authored numerous peer-reviewed studies with Richard Di Giulio and other school faculty.
Jayasundara will join the Nicholas School faculty as assistant professor of environmental toxicology and health.
Hu’s research focuses on ocean-atmosphere interactions across a broad range of timescales, with an emphasis on processes and interactions that occur in the tropics.
He comes to the Nicholas School from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, where he is a postdoctoral fellow. Prior to that, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego.
He will join the school faculty as assistant professor of physical oceanography.
“Nishad and Shineng are rising stars whose areas of expertise clearly dovetail with our school’s strategic vision for expanding our global leadership role on climate change and other areas of critical environmental importance,” said Dean Toddi Steelman.
“We are deeply grateful to the Grainger Family Descendants Fund, whose far-sighted and timely support has made it possible to bring these two remarkable young scientists to the Nicholas School,” she said.
Jayasundara earned a doctoral degree in biological science from Stanford University in 2012. In recognition of his early-career work on the consequences of exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), he received the prestigious Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in 2015. He will join the Nicholas School faculty in January.
Hu earned a doctoral degree in geology and geophysics from Yale University in 2018. While at Yale, he was awarded a NASA Earth and Space Studies Fellowship as well as a National Science Foundation Fellowship in Paleoclimatology. He will join the Nicholas School faculty in May.
More Faculty News
Birnbaum Named Scholar-in-Residence
Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Toxicology Program, has been named the Nicholas School’s new Scholar-in-Residence. In her adjunct post, she’ll serve on doctoral committees, mentor students, present guest lectures and host academic seminars, among other activities. Birnbaum led NIEHS from 2009 to 2019. A toxicologist and microbiologist by training, she is credited for strengthening NIEHS’ focus on the health impacts of climate change and expanding its focus on the cumulative health impacts of exposures to multiple environmental contaminants.
Katul Wins National Recognition
Gaby Katul will receive the American Meteorological Society’s 2021 Award for Outstanding Achievement in Biometeorology. It’s the latest in a long string of honors for Katul, whose widely cited research in micrometeorology and near-surface hydrology has, in the last year alone, helped advance our understanding of urban heat islands, drought impacts on forest mortality, and reforestation’s role in cooling local surface temperatures. Katul is the Theodore S. Coile Professor of Hydrology and Micrometeorology.
Pimm Receives Rare Honor
A newly discovered species of wasp, native to the cloud forests of Colombia’s tropical Andes, has been named in honor of Stuart Pimm. The scientists who discovered the previously unknown species named it Dolichomitus pimmi in recognition of Pimm’s work to protect and restore disappearing wildlife habitats in the remote region. Colombia’s tropical Andes are home to tens of thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which are increasingly threatened by development and climate change. Pimm, who is the Doris Duke Professor of Conservation Ecology, has led numerous studies documenting threats to these species.
Read more stories featured in the Duke Environment Magazine Fall 2020 issue.