DURHAM, N.C. – Ecohydrologist Ryan E. Emanuel, known for his for innovative scholarship on water, environmental justice and Indigenous rights, is joining the faculty at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.  

He will assume his new post as associate professor of hydrology in January 2022, pending approval by Duke’s Appointment, Promotion and Tenure Committee and its Board of Trustees.

Emanuel currently leads the Ecohydrology and Watershed Science Lab at North Carolina State University, where he is a University Faculty Scholar and professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources and a faculty fellow at the Center for Geospatial Analytics. 

A prolific researcher with nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications to his credit, he is widely cited for his studies on water and biogeochemical cycles in mountain landscapes; the effects of saltwater intrusion on coastal freshwater ecosystems; and the impacts of climate change and land-use change on Indigenous lands and communities. 

An enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, he frequently combines tools and ideas from both the academic tradition and Indigenous knowledge systems in his studies and teaching.

“Ryan Emanuel is among the very best scholars working at the intersection of water and Indigenous rights. His work is grounded in science and informed by interdisciplinary scholarship, collaboration and community engagement – all of which make him an excellent fit at the Nicholas School,” said Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School.

“His expertise and experience will be invaluable as we expand our focus on environmental and climate justice, including a new course on environmental justice that he will develop and teach,” Steelman said. “We are grateful to the Provost’s Office and the Office for Faculty Advancement for providing the funding to bring him to the Nicholas School.”

Emanuel has been a faculty member at NC State since 2010. In addition to his teaching and research there, he partners with tribal communities and Indigenous organizations in North Carolina and elsewhere to address issues related to the environment, education, and Indigenous rights. 

He serves on the Academic Advisory Council for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) and is co-principal investigator of an AISES-led project, funded by the National Science Foundation, to broaden participation of Native Americans in STEM-related academic careers. He also currently serves on the National Science Foundation’s Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, and the American Geophysical Union’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

From 2007 to 2010, he was on the geology faculty at Appalachian State University, where he co-founded the Appalachian Atmospheric Interdisciplinary Research (AppalAIR) program and co-developed a field course in mountain ecohydrology that involved travel and hands-on learning in the southern Appalachian and northern Rocky Mountains for undergraduate and graduate students from several universities.

He has twice previously worked with Nicholas School faculty members on research initiatives; once with Brian McGlynn, now an adjunct faculty member, to study links between carbon and water cycles in forested mountain watersheds in Montana and North Carolina; and once with Emily Bernhardt and Justin Wright to explore how saltwater intrusion is killing trees and creating “ghost forests” in North Carolina’s coastal plain.

Emanuel earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from Duke in 1999, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 2003 and 2007 respectively.

He currently is a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in Durham and is in the 2020-2022 class of William C. Friday Fellows. He is the recipient of an Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professorship and the University Sustainability Award from NC State; the Steve Wing International Justice Award from the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network; a Distinguished Service to Indian Education award from the United Tribes of North Carolina; and a Community Service Award from AISES, among other professional honors.

“A number of pressing societal issues meet at the intersection of water science, environmental justice, and Indigenous rights. The Nicholas School’s focus on impactful, interdisciplinary work makes it a fitting home for research and teaching in these areas,” Emanuel said. “I’m excited about returning to Duke, and I look forward to advancing scholarly knowledge and training the next generation of environmental leaders.”

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