From Improv to Book Design, Five Faculty to Broaden Skills through New Grant Program

FTREG.

Five Duke University faculty members have been awarded Faculty Teaching/Research Enhancement Grants (FTREG) to acquire skills, knowledge, or experiences outside or beyond their main disciplines.

A key goal of Together Duke is to invest in faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities. FTREG is a new grant program intended to enhance faculty members’ capacity to carry out original research and provide transformative learning experiences for students.

iO Summer Five-Week Intensive in Improvisation

Jody McAuliffe, Theater Studies and Slavic & Eurasian Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

To deepen her knowledge of improvisation, McAuliffe will take part in the Summer Five-Week Intensive offered by the iO Theater in Chicago. Each week, a different iO teacher will instruct the class in a particular aspect of the curriculum. The program culminates in a performance in the iO Theater. This intensive experience will enhance McAuliffe’s ability to teach improvisation to undergraduate and graduate students at Duke, including Master of Engineering students enrolled in the Design Thinking course. She will also offer a new course in improvisation to undergraduates in Theater Studies.

Alexander Technique Training Workshops

Eric Pritchard, Music, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Pritchard will attend workshops on the Alexander Technique at Holy Names College in Spokane and the Barstow Institute at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. He has been offering an Alexander Technique course for performing musicians, MUS 116, every semester since Fall 2017, and would like to open the class to undergraduates who are studying dance and theater. The workshop in Washington will give him access to a team of distinguished instructors grounded in multiple artistic disciplines. The Nebraska workshop will provide access to a different group of teachers than the ones he has worked with before.

Book Design and Typography

Christopher Sims, Center for Documentary Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

A monograph of Sims’ photography project, Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan, will be published in Spring 2021. To leverage this opportunity and gain insights into the field of book design and print publication, Sims will attend two workshops. The San Francisco Center for the Book “Introduction to Book Arts” course is a two-day intensive workshop designed for experimentation across disciplines. Lensculture’s “Book Design Masterclass” in Amsterdam is a six-day collaborative workshop covering the practical aspects of book-making as well as how to solve the challenge of the printed book medium—shifting from singular images to the book as an object.

Linking Community Forest Carbon Management and Wildlife Movement with Geospatial Technologies

Jennifer Swenson, Environmental Sciences and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment

Swenson plans to explore how her research can be applied in a unique indigenous land management context. In Mexico, she will meet with a nongovernmental organization, Integrator of Indigenous and Campesino Communities of Oaxaca (ICICO), and community leaders. Together they will consider how to complement their current field efforts for wildlife (e.g., camera traps) with geospatial models of connectivity. Using data gathered through previous monitoring, she will help the communities select species for conservation efforts. Then, using geospatial analysis combined with participatory land use planning techniques, they can determine the siting of biological corridors or conservation areas for these species. If their efforts are successful, this will be Mexico’s first wildlife corridor that is based on community lands. Swenson, Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, and John Poulsen have assembled a group of three master’s students to contribute to this work.

Enhancing Teaching of Marine Science and Ethics through Faculty Collaboration

Rebecca Vidra, Environmental Sciences and Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment

The grant will support a two-week summer residency at the Duke Marine Lab, where Vidra will meet with colleagues, visit their classrooms, and participate in some of their research projects. Drawing on the strengths of Marine Lab faculty, Vidra will develop a three-week module on marine issues for ENVIRON 102: Introduction to Environmental Science and Policy, and will prepare a course proposal for an undergraduate/graduate seminar on the ethics of marine conservation and policy. Vidra will also forge new collaborations that build on her research on community-based fisheries management in Kauai, in order to bring this work into her teaching.


See all current initiatives in the Together Duke academic strategic plan.

Image, left to right: Jody McAuliffe, Eric Pritchard, Christopher Sims, Jennifer Swenson, Rebecca Vidra

Taking It Outside, Doctoral Students Build Girls’ Science and Leadership Skills

Jacqueline Gerson and Emily Levy

Duke University doctoral students Jacqueline Gerson (Ecology) and Emily Levy (Biology) wanted to increase hands-on science opportunities for young women and other groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math.

With fellow Duke students Emily Ury and Alice Carter, they created a free summer program called GALS (Girls on outdoor Adventure for Leadership & Science). High school students who identify as female or gender nonconforming, students of color, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are welcome to participate.

For the inaugural program in 2017, the founders created a science curriculum and taught eight young women about the scientific method, environmental science, and backpacking. While it was a success, they identified two areas that would strengthen the program: a standardized curriculum, and a humanities component to complement the environmental science focus.

To further this work, Gerson and Levy established a network to enrich the GALS program and received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for use in 2017-2018. Their faculty sponsors are Erika Weinthal, Nicolette Cagle, Naomi Kraut, and Megan Mullin.

; learning about evolution via natural selection during GALS 2017

“I can’t stress enough how beneficial the D-SIGN network has been to this program,” said Levy. “I am especially thankful for the time and effort of colleagues outside of the fields of biology and ecology who added a new level of thoughtfulness, intentionality, and depth to our curriculum. The connections we made through our D-SIGN network will continue to strengthen our program and help us accomplish the GALS mission.”

Here are excerpts from their year-end report.

The D-SIGN network helped us fill the two gaps of a standardized curriculum and a humanities component. We worked with a Duke Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Environmental Management student, Katrina Herrera, to overhaul our curriculum. Our lessons are now matched to state and national educational standards, and they include more hands-on and place-based learning activities.

We held four D-SIGN network meetings with Duke graduate students and postdocs from the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Medical Physics Graduate Program, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Economics Department, the University Program in Ecology, the Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Biology Department. Our intellectual breadth allowed us to tackle topics that the original GALS team (comprised of ecologists and biologists) didn’t have the expertise to do. Through these meetings, we created four new lessons and documents that will critically enhance the GALS curriculum.

a 2017 GALS participant studied snail velocity on different substrates for her independent research project

The D-SIGN-supported network created a lesson about Environmental Values and Economics, in which students will learn about different ways in which humans place value on the environment. In this lesson, students first reflect on their own valuation of different aspects of nature. Then, they will each represent stakeholders in a town hall debate about whether to build the Fontana Dam (which was built in the 1940s).

We also created a lesson plan about environmental policy. In this lesson, students will learn how to assess environmental issues, identify those who have power over those issues, and act to effect change in those systems. Students will create a ‘power map’ of a CAFO [concentrated animal feeding operation, or large farm in which animals are raised in confinement] in North Carolina to identify the people and institutions who can sway the status quo. Students will then write letters to these entities, which will be mailed upon returning to Durham.

The third lesson we produced focuses on the causes of, consequences of, and solutions to environmental justice issues. Students will consider the relevance of environmental justice to their own lives, take on the persona of stakeholders in a North Carolina CAFO to discuss a current instance of environmental justice, and finally take time to reflect on how to fight for environmental justice in their own communities.

GALS instructors during the 2018 instructor training trip

During our last D-SIGN network meeting, we produced a “GALS Instructor Guide for Sensitive Science Topics.” This 8-page document provides instructors with tips for facilitating discussions about topics that may be uncomfortable for some students (e.g., evolution). It also describes the scientific background behind 10 different “sensitive” topics that students asked about last year (e.g., Weather vs. Climate, Extinction & Biodiversity, GMOs).

Funds have also been used to attend diversity trainings, purchase educational materials, and organize a backpacking training weekend for GALS instructors.

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.

Photos: Jacqueline Gerson and Emily Levy; learning about evolution via natural selection during GALS 2017; a 2017 GALS participant studied snail velocity on different substrates for her independent research project; GALS instructors during the 2018 instructor training trip

Collaborative Research Project Tackles Environmental and Social Inequities in Alabama

Catherine Flowers and Duke team members in Lowndes County

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE). Since 2015, she has partnered with the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Nicholas School of the Environment to find solutions for the lack of wastewater infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama.

The situation exemplifies the social and environmental inequities facing rural communities of color in the American South, which include endemic poverty, lack of economic opportunity, hazardous health conditions, and inadequate infrastructure.

A recent article by Flowers and Duke’s Erika Weinthal, Elizabeth Albright, and Emily Stewart, “Solution-centered Collaborative Research in Rural Alabama” describes the ongoing environmental justice project in Lowndes County.

This year, an interdisciplinary network led by Duke graduate students has taken the lead in diagnosing the interlaced physical, financial, legal, and political barriers to sanitation access in Lowndes County and evaluating potential solutions.

Next year, Flowers will be involved in a Bass Connections project team with colleagues from the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Duke Human Rights Center.

Graduate Student Sees Clear Benefits of Observational Oceanography Training in Bermuda

Ryan Peabody

For Ryan Peabody, a master’s student in Earth and Ocean Sciences, a hands-on course at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences provided a vital supplement to his graduate training at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

He sought to learn more about modern observational oceanography, in order to support his research on the linkage between large-scale ocean circulation and ocean productivity.

Peabody was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. His faculty mentor is Susan Lozier. Recently he shared an update:

I used my GSTEG to travel to Bermuda and take a two-and-a-half-week course on observational oceanography at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). At BIOS, I had the opportunity to learn about the capabilities of modern ocean observing platforms and to gain practical experience working with them in the field. It was a great chance to meet other oceanographers and oceanography students, and learn more about the field methods being developed in the field.

My work at Duke is primarily grounded in analysis of existing data, and I greatly enjoyed sampling in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, a region that I had never been to but plays a key role in my work.

Ryan Peabody and fellow students conduct sampling aboard the RV Atlantic Explorer off the coast of Bermuda

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

  • Read other GSTEG updates.
  • See who received grants for 2018-19.

Photo: Ryan Peabody and fellow BIOS trainees conduct sampling aboard the RV Atlantic Explorer off the coast of Bermuda

Interdisciplinary Groups Led by Duke Graduate Students Receive 2018-19 D-SIGN Grants

D-SIGN grantees 2018-19

The Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies has awarded Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grants to six graduate student groups for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Duke-ACRE Partnership

  • Core students: Katherine Pringle, M.A. in Economics; Ryan Juskus, Ph.D. in Religion; Emma Lietz Bilecky, Master of Environmental Management

Up to 90% of households in Lowndes County, Alabama, have either no or inadequate access to sanitation, which poses serious health risks for residents. The Duke-ACRE Partnership aims to support doctoral and professional students from the Graduate School, Law School and Nicholas School of the Environment to address wastewater treatment in the county through an interdisciplinary, community-based research project. In conjunction with a 2018-19 Bass Connections project, the group will evaluate different strategies to address the wastewater management problem, combining engineering, policy, economic, and scientific solutions, as well as creatively representing the human face of the issue.

Fostering Community Participation in the Arts

  • Core students: James Budinich, Ph.D. in Music Composition; Brooks Frederickson, Ph.D. in Music Composition; Rebecca Uliasz, Ph.D. in Computational Media, Arts, and Cultures

Through the techniques of interactive media, improvisation, and community art-making, this group hopes to promote an equal role between creator and community member in fostering a more connected, democratic artistic community. With the help of guest experts, the group plans to present performative works to the Duke and Durham communities that blur the boundary between performer and audience. They will present four events over the 2018-19 academic year under the umbrella of the Duke Music Department. This approach views the community not as the recipient of artistic works, but rather as an equal partner in the artistic process.

Riding the Belt and Road

  • Core students: Yating Li, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy; Travis Dauwalter, Ph.D. in Public Policy; Seth Morgan, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy; Zainab Qazi, Master of Environmental Management; Santiago Sinclair Lecaros, Master of Environmental Management

Many countries’ pursuit of economic development depend on enormous investments in infrastructure, none more so than China’s new Belt Road Initiative. This mammoth undertaking seeks to establish a “new Silk Road” linking China with over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The group aims to ignite a discussion among students and faculty members on multiple facets of the Belt Road Initiative, with a focus on environmental impacts. By identifying green development projects, sharing knowledge in a monthly seminar series, and connecting with researchers and stakeholders outside of Duke, the team hopes to promote graduate students’ involvement in this cutting-edge global issue. (See the group’s website and sign up for the listserv.)

Social Science Methods Network

  • Core students: Valerie-Jean Soon, Ph.D. in Philosophy; Kobi Finestone, Ph.D. in Philosophy; Peng Peng, Ph.D. in Political Science

This project aims to create an environment in which graduate and professional students working on social scientific projects can engage in interdisciplinary methodological debates and concrete collaboration as they work on turning research findings into publishable outputs. The format will involve monthly working groups in which scholars from different disciplines will share their original research. The working groups will be organized around a shared conceptual and or methodological problem faced by researchers across the social sciences.

Theology, Religion, and Qualitative Methods Network

  • Core students: Michael Grigoni, Ph.D. in Religion; Dustin Benac, Doctor of Theology; Emily Dubie, Ph.D. in Religion; Sarah Jobe, Doctor of Theology; Ryan Juskus, Ph.D. in Religion

Recently, we have seen a shift within the fields of religion and theology toward the study of physical bodies and everyday practices of religious experience. This group aims to formalize the relationships between religion and the social sciences by employing methodological tools from the social sciences to better understand how cultural groups talk about holy figures and navigate ritual engagement with the sacred. Members plan to provide opportunities to engage in regular dialogue about findings from fieldwork, explore how to incorporate insights from interdisciplinary conversation partners, discuss methodological challenges associated with this work, and consider the implications of qualitative research experience for students’ emerging vocations as scholars.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Interdisciplinary Network of Graduate Students (WaSHINGS)

  • Core students: Lucas Rocha Melogno, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Stewart Farling, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Siddharth Kawadiya, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering; James Thostenson, Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Billy Gerhard, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Current UN estimates indicate that 1.8 billion people use a drinking water source that is fecally contaminated, while 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation services. World-wide, more people have cell phones than access to suitable sanitation. The global challenge of access to water, sanitation, and hygiene has brought together people from a wide range of backgrounds. This project hopes to extend this network to Duke graduate students focusing on strategies to improve water sanitation. WaSHINGS will establish an interdisciplinary platform where engineers, policy makers, educators, and entrepreneurs can share their perspectives and collaborate on this highly complex challenge.

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

A January 2018 RFP invited all current Duke graduate students (including master’s, professional, and Ph.D. students) to propose interdisciplinary groups and activities. Proposals were reviewed by a panel of faculty and graduate students from across the university.

See previous recipients (2017-2018 and 2016-2017) and review the 2016-2017 summary report.

Photo, first row: Katherine Pringle, Ryan Juskus, James Budinich, Brooks Frederickson, Rebecca Uliasz, Yating Li; second row: Travis Dauwalter, Seth Morgan, Zainab Qazi, Santiago Sinclair Lecaros, Valerie-Jean Soon, Peng Peng; third row: Michael Grigoni, Dustin Benac, Emily Dubie, Sarah Jobe, Lucas Rocha Melogno, Stewart Farling; fourth row: Siddharth Kawadiya, James Thostenson, Billy Gerhard. Not pictured: Emma Lietz Bilecky, Kobi Finestone

Fourteen Duke Graduate Students Receive Training Enhancement Grants

GSTEG recipients

Fourteen Duke University students received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for 2018-2019 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. Stretching beyond their core disciplinary training, these doctoral students will spend up to one semester acquiring skills, knowledge, or experiences that will enhance the approach to their original research.

Hands-on Training

Patrick Gray

Patrick GrayPh.D. in Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment
Faculty mentor: David W. Johnston

Attend Rutgers University Marine Technology Glider Camp to gain experience using oceanographic gliders and intern with a team experienced in applying artificial intelligence data analysis techniques to ecology, to better design and answer novel questions about the ecology of marine mammals

Gray Kidd

Gray KiddPh.D. in History, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: John D. French

Engage in six weeks of professional training in the production of documentary films in Recife, Brazil, in order to produce a companion piece to dissertation, reach underrepresented publics in field research, and build skills as a public humanist

Christine Ryan

Christine RyanS.J.D. in Law, School of Law
Faculty mentor: Katharine T. Bartlett

Conduct fieldwork to examine the role of international human rights law in access to abortion in Kenya; collaborate with advocacy organizations, policymakers, healthcare workers, and grassroots organizations; assess relevance of international human rights law in tackling obstacles to implementing court judgments and national abortion laws

Weiyi Tang

Weiyi TangPh.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment
Faculty mentor: Nicolas Cassar

Collaborate with Dr. Julie Robidart’s laboratory at National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, to acquire training on how to identify types of diazotrophs in North Atlantic Ocean and explore how the microbial community influences N2 fixation rates, to support research on marine N2 fixation

Internships

Siddharth Kawadiya

Siddharth KawadiyaPh.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering
Faculty mentor: Marc A. Deshusses

Intern at Firmenich in Geneva to learn analytical methods of headspace analysis of reinvented toilets (which are off the grid; without any connections to water, sewer, or electricity), and incorporate the methods into the lab-scale testing of odor elimination capacity of odor-removing pouches

Hillary Smith

Hillary SmithPh.D. in Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment
Faculty mentor: Xavier Basurto

Spend two months as a fellow of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome to learn more about the organization’s role in small-scale fisheries policy, to support dissertation on implementation of FAO’s first global policy instrument for the small-scale fishing sector

Phillip Turner

Phillip TurnerPh.D. in Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment
Faculty mentor: Cindy Lee Van Dover

Develop informational materials in collaboration with the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and take part in the 24th Session of the ISA Council in Kingston, Jamaica, in July 2018, to introduce the seabed beneath the Middle Passage as a potential cultural heritage site

Courses

Torang Asadi

Torang AsadiPh.D. in Religion, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: David Morgan

Enroll in human computer interaction and user experience research courses at UC-Berkeley, Coursera, and Stanford in Summer 2018 to learn methods for studying ways in which humans and machines are intertwined in constituting humanity, to support research on healthcare among Iranians in northern California

Christina Bejjani

Christina BejjaniPh.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: Tobias Egner

Attend one of two Computational Summer Schools to acquire computational analytic skills, learn how to incorporate novel and innovative themes within human neuroscience research, and network with leading researchers and fellow attendees

Morine Cebert

Morine CebertPh.D. in Nursing, School of Nursing
Faculty mentors: Rosa M. Gonzalez-Guarda and Eleanor Stevenson

Attend three courses at Odum Institute’s Qualitative Research Summer Intensive at UNC-Chapel Hill in July 2018 and complete online Nurse Certificate Course for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, to support research on reproductive endocrinology care among African-American women

Yanyou Chen

Yanyou ChenPh.D. in Economics, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: Christopher Timmins

Take part in week-long Railway Operations module of Railway Executive Development Program at Michigan State University, to learn about such topics as how a rail network is formed and operated, how locomotive and car leasing works, and how carpooling and fleet management is conducted

Zachary Levine

Zach LevinePh.D. in Cultural Anthropology, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: Diane M. Nelson

Enroll in plant medicine course at the Jardim Botânico of Rio de Janeiro in Spring 2018 to develop a more rigorous understanding of science-based fundamentals of plant healing, in support of research on Brazil’s state-sanctioned use of ayahuasca

Adrian Linden-High

Adrian Linden-HighPh.D. in Classical Studies, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: Mary T. Boatwright

Attend International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) workshop at University of Victoria, Canada, in June 2018, to build skills in using ultra-high-resolution photographic reproductions of cultural heritage objects

Julia Notar

Julia NotarPh.D. in Biology, Arts & Sciences
Faculty mentor: Sönke Johnsen

Take part in two-week Sensory Ecology Course at Lund University, Sweden, in October 2018, to learn about multiple topics in the field of sensory ecology and support dissertation research on visual ecology

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

A January 2018 RFP invited all current Duke graduate students (including master’s, professional, and Ph.D. students) to propose graduate training enhancement activities lasting up to one semester. Proposals were reviewed by a panel of faculty and graduate students from across the university.

See previous recipients (2017-2018 and 2016-2017) and review the 2016-2017 summary report.

Photo, first row: Torang Asadi, Christina Bejjani, Morine Cebert, Yanyou Chen; second row: Patrick Gray, Siddharth Kawadiya, Gray Kidd, Zachary Levine; third row: Adrian Linden-High, Julia Notar, Christine Ryan, Hillary Smith; fourth row: Weiyi Tang, Phillip Turner

What’s in the Soil? Student Heads to IsoCamp to Learn New Skills for Analyzing Forests

Anna Wade

Anna Wade, a Ph.D. student at the Nicholas School of the Environment, was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Daniel Richter. She shared an update:

With support from GSTEG, I’ll attend a two-week intensive training workshop on stable isotopes this June at the University of Utah. The program, called IsoCamp, trains Ph.D. students and postdocs how to use stable isotopes to model environmental and ecological processes. Jim Ehleringer at the University of Utah is a leading researcher in applications of stable isotopes, and has run the program for over 20 years.

I’ll be trained on how to use a ThermoElectron isotope ratio mass spectrometer (pictured below), how to collect and prepare environmental samples, and how to use isotope-mixing models to interpret the results. This workshop draws in various experts in the field, and will give me a network of professionals to support me in my work on stable isotopes.

ThermoElectron isotope ratio mass spectrometer

The workshop will further my dissertation research on lead (Pb) in southeastern forest soils. Because of this training experience, I’ll have a much better grasp of how to use stable isotopes of Pb to delineate between natural and contaminant sources of lead. The tools and connections I make at IsoCamp will provide solid groundwork for my isotopic research at Duke.

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

  • Proposals for 2018-19 were due on February 16; those grantees will be announced shortly.

From Hawaii to the Antarctic, Ph.D. Student Works to Protect Endangered Species

Seth Sykora-Bodie

How can marine protected areas be used to reduce habitat degradation and biodiversity loss? Seth Sykora-Bodie, a third-year Ph.D. student in Marine Science and Conservation, took part in the Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey to inform his dissertation on Antarctic resource management and conservation.

Advised by Lisa Campbell and Andrew Read, Sykora-Bodie was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. He shared an update:

Seth Sykora-BodieOver the last several decades, researchers have accumulated a wealth of knowledge indicating that species are disappearing at unprecedented rates. One of the tools we have at our disposal for reversing this trend is setting aside large land- and seascapes for conservation. This is what my research is broadly focused on—understanding how marine protected areas can be used to reduce habitat degradation and biodiversity loss.

Traditionally, these efforts have primarily relied on ecological data such as species richness and abundance for prioritizing conservation sites. As a result, I applied for GSTEG to participate in a large-scale marine mammal survey being conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fishery Service to gain experience in collecting the data that underlies federal conservation and management decisions. The main focus of the survey was the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, where Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, one of the ten largest marine protected areas on the planet and encompasses hundreds of thousands of square miles of territory, is located.

The goal of the research expedition was to collect data on the distribution and abundance of threatened and endangered marine mammals throughout the Hawaiian archipelago to inform regulatory and management decisions. In support of their ongoing management efforts, surveys such as this are important for understanding the current status and trends of highly endangered species such as Hawaiian monk seals and false killer whales.

During my time with the research team, I learned more about survey design and methods, marine mammals acoustics, and even seabird identification. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and significantly improved my understanding of the data, and how it is collected, that underpins much of the work of my dissertation.

About GSTEG

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.