GSTEG grantees.

Top row: Axel Berky, Brianna Elliott, Rachel Coyte, Brooks Frederickson, Jaime Gonzalez; bottom row: Keqi He, Hannah Ontiveros, Julianna Renzi, Dana Wright

Nine Duke University doctoral students have received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for Summer 2020 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

The goal of this grant competition is to expand the opportunities for graduate students to augment their core research and training by acquiring skills, knowledge, or experiences that are not available at Duke and that will enhance their capacity to carry out original research. In light of constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer 2020 request for proposals was revised to focus on doctoral students with only partial or no summer funding; applicants could propose remote internships with a community organization, government agency, NGO, or cultural institution.

Axel Berky, Ph.D. in Environment

Host: Environmental Protection Agency
Faculty Advisor: William Pan

Berky will remotely intern with the EPA’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment. In the first of two main projects, he will join a multidisciplinary team that is developing a platform for the public to interact with information related to the risk of wildfires and smoke exposure. This will consist of helping create interactive maps of human health risk from wildfire smoke that can be easily interpreted and updated to reflect real-time monitoring. In the second project, Berky will contribute to a manuscript on the effect of ambient temperature on end-stage chronic kidney disease patients from the U.S. Renal Data System.

Brianna Elliott, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Host: U.S. Department of State, Office of Marine Conservation
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Read

Considered the largest global threat to marine mammals, bycatch is the incidental capture of non-target species in fisheries. For the past year, Elliott has been leading an initiative in partnership with the International Whaling Commission to research the policy response of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to reduce marine mammal bycatch in their fisheries. After presenting her research to the IWC’s Scientific Committee this month, Elliott will continue developing this research and a report with recommendations to the IWC to work with RFMOs to address marine mammal bycatch, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. Since the U.S. is an IWC member, Elliott will collaborate with the Department of State through a remote internship focused on the bycatch report and other fisheries-focused policy tasks.

Rachel Coyte, Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences

Host: Earthjustice
Faculty Advisor: Avner Vengosh

Coal combustion residues (CCRs), including fly ash, are some of the largest industrial solid wastes in the United States. Coyte will work to connect the science behind CCR environmental contamination with the impact that such contamination could have on real communities. She will write a report with findings and produce two literature reviews for Earthjustice. The first literature review will look at the chemistry of ash pond pore water; the second will focus on research that works toward answering the question, how long will coal ash continue to leach contaminants into the water?

Brooks Frederickson, Ph.D. in Music Composition

Host: So Percussion
Faculty Advisor: John Supko

The So Percussion Summer Institute (SoSI) is an international gathering of college-aged percussionists and composers. Normally held over two weeks at Princeton University, SoSI exposes young musicians to the thinking and practices of some of the contemporary-classical music scene’s most lauded composers, percussionists, actors, choreographers, and artists. An alumnus of SoSI, Frederickson will develop an online curriculum. He will create materials for synchronous and asynchronous learning that cover a wide variety of topics connected to the creation and performance of new music. He will also create an online environment that encourages collaboration among participating SoSI students.

Jaime Acosta Gonzalez, Ph.D in Literature

Host: nonsite.org
Faculty Advisor: Michael Hardt

nonsite.org is an academic journal that features writing on aesthetics, politics, and art. Contributors often explore such issues as the relationship of the work of art to the spectator, matters of intention and interpretation, and the social ontology of the work of art. Acosta Gonzalez will serve as an editorial assistant during his remote internship. For the book review section, he will identify new and noteworthy books in the fields of art history, philosophy, literary criticism, and critical theory, then assign reviewers and collate the responses into a readable form for a scholarly audience.

Keqi He, Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences

Host: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Faculty Advisor: Wenhong Li

Wetlands protect our shores, reduce the impact of floods, absorb pollutants, improve water quality, and provide habitat for animals and plants. However, wetlands are threatened by climate change. In order to understand the processes and driving factors of wetland degradation in the southeast United States, He will remotely intern at the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, part of the Forest Service under the USDA. He will examine locations and time of the degradation at a regional scale, using Forest Inventory and Analysis data, vegetation indices from satellite data, and vegetation characteristics from LiDAR data.

Hannah Ontiveros, Ph.D. in History

Host: CWS Durham
Faculty Advisor: Nancy MacLean

Humanitarian organization Church World Service (CWS) is one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. The Durham office focuses on supporting immigrant and refugee new arrivals in the Triangle area. As a remote intern, Ontiveros will undertake two interconnected research projects. First, she will compile data on CWS Durham activities, funding streams, and spending, as well as on the state of immigrant and refugee populations in the region. Second, she will carry out qualitative research aimed at aligning CWS Durham’s requests for funds with the desires of individual and institutional donors.

Julianna Renzi, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Host: National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Faculty Advisor: Brian Silliman

To increase understanding of reef ecosystems, the Smithsonian launched the Global ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures) program. ARMS are stacks of PVC plates that have been deployed around the world to describe invertebrate diversity. This summer, Renzi will use data from ARMS in Mo’orea to determine the impacts of large-scale coral loss on invertebrate communities in French Polynesia. She will synthesize DNA metabarcoding data (sequences of a small section of organisms’ genomes that is taxonomically distinct), invertebrate survey data, and environmental data that may be influencing invertebrate recruitment.

Dana Wright, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Host: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Read

The eastern population of North Pacific right whale (NPRW) is the most endangered population of large baleen whale. The few remaining whales are thought to feed predominantly on zooplankton on the southeastern Bering Sea (SEBS) shelf. The Bering Arctic Subarctic Integrated Survey (BASIS) contains a rich time-series (1992-2016) of zooplankton and forage fish count data on the Bering shelf during the seasonal period of presumed NPRW foraging. Wright will use the BASIS dataset to investigate which environmental-species interactions (ESI) govern zooplankton community structure on the SEBS shelf, with the ultimate goal to assess whether the ESI conclusions support the current Oscillating Control Hypothesis that describes lower trophic level dynamics in the region.