Environment Magazine Articles




June 30, 2021

Writer:

Scott Huler

Slow-growing microbes in peat bogs in the lazy South break down organic matter much more slowly than their northern relatives, making them much better carbon sinks and more effective in preventing the release of greenhouse gases than their counterparts further north.

June 28, 2021

Writer:

Scott Huler

Want to feel like you’re at the best kids’ birthday party in the world, with a kiddie pool, the latest in mood-ring technology, and remote-control dragonflies that sometimes go crazy and start spinning around? Or would you rather do cutting-edge scientific research, combining hydrogels, balloon actuators, and independent robotic environmental response to temperature, pH, and pollution?

Duke Forest trees

December 8, 2020

Writer:

Scott Huler

The forest works on a different time scale.

Duke Forest, 7,000 acres in six divisions sprawled across Durham, Orange, and Alamance counties, where hardwoods tower and even Highway15-501 becomes a distant rush that actually might be a river, or the wind in the pines. When life speeds up, the forest slows it down.

A Sengi peeks out from among the Djiboutian landscape

December 8, 2020

Writer:

Corbie Hill

MAYBE THIRTY FEET from the campsite something rattled in a trap.

September 29, 2020

Writer:

Scott Huler

A few of our stories of realization came to us as spoken words, not as writing or images. We’re sharing them here as part of our podcast "The Devils' Share."

September 26, 2020

Writer:

Andy Read

It was the end of sophomore year in college, and I was looking for an interesting way to spend the summer and earn a little money. I stumbled across an ad for a summer job at the Ontario Science Center in Toronto that sounded fascinating—reconstructing the skeleton of a sixty-foot fin whale that had stranded the previous summer in Nova Scotia. I knew nothing about whales, but the concept of marine biology sounded pretty good to a kid who grew up in the middle of Canada.

A damaged and abandoned sailboat near Beaufort

July 22, 2020

Writer:

Corbie Hill

Memorial Day 2020 and Carteret County was as mobbed by tourists as Liz DeMattia has ever seen it.

Pratt's Design Pod

February 26, 2020

Writer:

Corbie Hill

A cold rain falls on Durham. Per the laws of physics, when the water hits the ground it runs downhill. It follows the path of least resistance, carrying with it the detritus of American consumer culture—Pepsi bottles, potato chip bags, six-pack rings, Miller Lite cans. It flows along roadsides and into storm drains. It emerges from culverts, where Lilliputian cascades feed ditches and gullies. It washes a cornucopia of garbage into Ellerbe Creek.

August 12, 2019

Writer:

Dan Vermeer

I recently attended a panel discussion with three scholars debating life in the “Anthropocene era,” the idea that humans are now the dominant force in shaping the ecological and even geological fate of our planet. With talk about the destructive consequences of our carbon emissions, the devastation of industrial food systems, and the depletion of our natural resources, the discussion was pretty bleak.

August 12, 2019

Writer:

Stuart Pimm

I stand on a small tributary of the Irrawaddy River. Across it is Myanmar—formerly Burma: I’m about as far west in the Chinese province of Yunnan as I can be. Borders between countries fascinate, for they illuminate different experiments in how we manage our natural world. Across the river, the land is going up in smoke. There’s a dense blue haze. At night, I see dozens of small fires, while overhead a satellite maps them from their thermal infrared radiation.

August 12, 2019

It has been a great spring and summer in beautiful and historic Beaufort, North Carolina, my hometown. Hundreds of visitors daily have come to explore the glorious coastal ecosystem, just as they have every summer. Yet the normality is just surface. Beaufort is still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which struck the area just under a year ago. 

August 8, 2019

Writer:

Laura Knott

Eleven years after I graduated from Duke, I completed a degree at MIT, where focusing on the future is so normal that few people at the institute question it. I was steeped in techno-futurism, in the belief that it’s often best to leave the past behind. But I’m a gardener. I dig. And I think about how living soil is made, and how plants have evolved to sustain themselves—and how, for millennia, growing food has been a political act.

August 8, 2019

Writer:

Scott Huler

For a guy who spends his time studying climate change, facing down the future of an Earth warming at an astonishing rate, under the management of a population that commonly resists even admitting its problems, Drew Shindell seems surprisingly optimistic.

August 8, 2019

I am the little girl at the end of a dirt road seldom traveled on. The curious mind who watched her grandmother weave rugs for eight hours straight, never tiring. The young soul who never understood the land she walked on was crying for help.

Kora Kwok's Ocean Room project

May 17, 2019

Writer:

Kora Kwok

I grew up by the sea. Hong Kong is right on the coast, and you can catch a view of the ocean pretty much wherever you go. Even if you’re deep in the city or up in the mountains, the ocean is always close by. It was a constant in my life: I grew up with the sense that this massive, beautiful piece of blue was always nearby and that it would always be there, wherever I was in the city.

September 30, 2014

Writer:

Louise Flynn

Billy Pizer, professor of public policy, economics, and environment, and his colleague Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, wanted to find a hands-on way to engage students with the issue of emissions regulation. The Bass Connections energy-theme courses, in which graduate students and undergrads work together in small interdisciplinary groups, seemed the ideal setting in which to launch a new research project on the topic.

September 29, 2014

When David Shiffman ’07 applied to Duke in 2002, he wrote his application essay about the first time he swam with sharks. The then-landlocked Shiffman, who grew up in Pittsburgh, included an anecdote about consoling his father before his dive into the deep with an eleven-foot tiger shark—“Don’t worry, Dad; they don’t usually eat people.”

September 29, 2014

Nearly 4,200 members of the more than forty species of prosimians—lemurs, lorises, bush babies, and tarsiers—have lived at the Duke Lemur Center since 1966, and the center has been recording data on them.

September 26, 2014

December 26 marks the tenth anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters of all time—the Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated Indonesia’s Aceh province, killing some 160,000 people. Since 2005, Elizabeth Frankenberg, a professor of public policy, has led an Indonesia-based fieldwork project that has followed a group of 32,000 people (first interviewed, pre-tsunami, in 2004).

September 25, 2014

Writer:

Bridget Booher

During the hot, humid summers spent on her grandmother’s farm in Randolph County, North Carolina, Terrie Moffitt witnessed the endless universal loop of creation and destruction. She and her fourteen cousins delighted in bottle-feeding calves and finding nests of baby rabbits, learned to spot snakes camouflaged in garden rows, suffered the painful curse of poison ivy. Nature, in all its majesty and violence, gave rise to discoveries both wondrous and frightening.

July 22, 2014

It’s a mid-April morning in Highland Park, a neighborhood just north of Richmond, Virginia, where historic Queen Anne-style homes the color of popsicles give way to boarded-up buildings along a slight Main Street.

July 18, 2014

Each April, as the azaleas come into bloom, thousands of Duke alumni return to campus for Reunions Weekend, and I greet them with the words, “Welcome home.” But why do we think of college as a home? In many countries this is not the case: There, people feel a lifelong allegiance to their secondary schools and strike a more pragmatic, businesslike relationship with their universities.

Don Byrne enters the garden through one of four gates.

July 18, 2014

ON A MORNING in early 2006, Don Byrne walked through an overgrown field of grass. Alongside trudged his father, who, despite the early hour, carried a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey. At the highest point on the land, the two men paused. It was here that they wanted to drill the well. In a makeshift christening, they sprinkled the land with liquor.

July 18, 2014

Here’s a slice of my personal life that will be familiar to many readers: a home-renovation project that stretched out for almost a year. Now the chaos of all that carpentry equipment has been cleared away. There are snazzy light fixtures, new floors and countertops, energy-efficient windows, built-in shelves, shiny appliances.

July 18, 2014

Writer:

Sam June

There are four sacred mountains that outline the traditional Navajo homeland, and inside is where all your blessings are, where all life started. You’re only supposed to perform traditional ceremonies within the boundaries. For example, a baby’s umbilical cord is often buried in the ground. Mine is buried in the horse corral at my maternal grandmother’s house. My mom said it’s done so that I will always return to my people and care for the animals and Earth.

April 29, 2014

Having HIV testing close to one’s home makes in more likely that one will get tested. At the same time, HIV preferences vary greatly across individuals, according to new research conducted by Duke Global Health Institute faculty members. The findings could help inform how HIV-testing services are adapted and expanded across sub-Saharan Africa.

Samantha Emmert helps Victoria Thayer examine a deceased dolphin.

April 28, 2014

“The rolling sand dunes and gentle waves of Emerald Isle are so picturesque that I almost forget why I am here: to conduct a necropsy on a stranded bottlenose dolphin,” wrote Samantha Emmert from the Duke Marine Lab in early 2014. Emmert spent her junior year researching an outbreak of morbillivirus epizootic, a measles-like virus that has ravaged dolphin populations along the Atlantic Coast since last summer.

February 27, 2014

Nearly 5,900 natural-gas leaks have been found under the streets of Washington by a research team from Duke, Boston University, and Gas Safety Inc. Some of the leaks could have posed explosion risks, according to the team.

“Repairing these leaks will improve air quality, increase consumer health and safety, and save money,” says Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences, who led the study.

February 25, 2014

Photos by Karen Webbink (top) and Robert Ayers.

Menu

November 12, 2013

Tourists bring them home as travel keepsakes. But for ecologists tracking fish populations, menus are serving a wider purpose.

Menus taken as souvenirs from seafood restaurants in Hawaii have helped a team of researchers glean important insights into the historical trajectory of the state’s fisheries.

A critical part of that history—a span of forty-five years in the middle of the twentieth century—is obscured by the lack of official records.