Emanuel is a Lumbee hydrologist and Associate Professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. He studies the movement and status of water in the environment, with special attention to interactions between water and plants. Emanuel is also interested in the ways that climate change and other human-caused environmental changes impact relationships between water and life. As part of this work, Emanuel partners with Native American tribes and Indigenous organizations to study issues related to environmental justice and tribal engagement in environmental decision-making.

Emanuel joined Duke University in 2022 after nearly fifteen years as a faculty member in the University of North Carolina System (Appalachian State University, 2007-2010; North Carolina State University, 2010-2021). Emanuel was a Professor in the College of Natural Resources, where he was also recognized as a University Faculty Scholar (2016-2021) and an Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor (2020). He was a Fellow at the National Humanities Center during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Emanuel worked as a hydrologic aide for the US Geological Survey in North Carolina (1995 – 1998). He holds a BS in Geology from Duke University (1999) and an MS (2003) and PhD (2007) from the University of Virginia, both in Environmental Sciences.