Eight Faculty Teams Awarded University-Wide Collaboration Grants on Climate Change

The first round of University-Wide Collaboration Grants on Climate Change will fund eight Duke University faculty teams to lay the groundwork for new research on climate change and its impacts. The teams will investigate topics including planetary engineering, climate justice, low-carbon heating and cooling methods, lithium mining, agricultural histories, coastal resilience, and the impacts of extreme weather on forest ecosystems.

The eight teams include Duke scholars representing seven schools, thirteen departments, and eight university-wide interdisciplinary initiatives, institutes, and centers. The new grant program provides funding of up to $ 5,000 for faculty and staff who are interested in collaborating with colleagues — both within and across disciplines — around a shared intellectual interest that targets a climate-related challenge. The fund is administered by the recently merged Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and Duke University Energy Initiative.

The program is part of Duke University’s broader efforts to accelerate sustainable and equitable solutions to the climate crisis while developing the next generation of thought leaders and change agents. The climate initiative will build on Duke experts’ track record of substantial contributions to understanding and addressing climate change and its impacts.

“Tackling climate-related challenges calls for solutions that integrate insights and expertise from diverse fields,” noted Brian Murray, Ph.D., interim director of the Nicholas Institute and Energy Initiative. “Interdisciplinarity has long been one of Duke’s core strengths as an institution — it’s why many of our faculty have chosen to come here, and it’s the critical ingredient of much of our climate work to date. University leaders aim to build on that, activating our scholarly community to shape an ambitious climate grant. This grant program is an early step toward that. “

As many as four more rounds of collaboration grants will be offered to Duke faculty and research staff over the next three years, and additional seed funding opportunities are expected to become available in 2023.

These projects have been funded by the first round of University-Wide Collaboration Grants on Climate Change:

Climate Histories of Global Agriculture

While industry and transportation often predominate in discussions of climate change, agriculture accounts for as much as a third of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions. Adam Mestyan and Gabriel Rosenberg will organize a one-year faculty reading group on the millennia-long development of agriculture around the world. Along with reading the latest books in the field, a dozen Duke University scholars will tour local farms, discuss members’ works-in-progress, and host presentations from invited guest speakers. The group will also explore the possibility of establishing an agricultural history initiative on campus.

Adam Mestyan, Ph.D. (History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences) (Co-PI)
Gabriel N. Rosenberg, Ph.D. (Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences) (Co-PI)
Nicole Elizabeth Barnes, Ph.D. (History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Saskia C. Cornes, Ph.D. (Duke Campus Farm)
Prasenjit Duara, Ph.D. (History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Christine Folch, Ph.D. (Cultural Anthropology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Thavolia Glymph, Ph.D. (History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Evan Hepler-Smith, Ph.D. (History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Cecilia Marquez, Ph.D. (History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Daniel D. Richter, Ph.D. (Earth & Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Priscilla Wald, Ph.D. (English, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Norman Wirzba, Ph.D. (Duke Divinity School)

Coastal Resilience in the Face of Climate Change

The threat of rising sea levels grows more urgent every day, creating a pressing need for professionals in every field to understand the related impacts. To address this need, Dan Vermeer will lead a team of Duke scholars in developing a case study on sea level rise and managed retreat for graduate courses in engineering, public policy, environment, law, and business. Focused on Nantucket, Massachusetts, the case study will be piloted at Duke and refined through partnerships with peer institutions and external organizations.

Daniel Vermeer, Ph.D. (Operations Management, Fuqua School of Business) (PI)
Mark E. Borsuk, Ph.D. (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering)
Patrick N. Halpin, Ph.D. (Marine Science & Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Michelle Nowlin, JD (Duke Law School)
John Virdin, Ph.D. (Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions / Duke University Energy Initiative)

Dynamic Utilization of Solar Heating and Radiative Cooling for Building Energy Efficiency and Smart Grid Integration

Mitigating the climate crisis requires low-carbon ways of heating and cooling our homes and offices. To that end, Po-Chun Hsu and two other Duke University faculty members will refine a pathbreaking temperature control technology. Bringing together materials science and policy studies, this working group will not only carry out laboratory experiments and computer simulations, but also formulate recommendations for key stakeholders in government and industry. Taken together, these efforts will help to advance a new paradigm for engineering sustainable buildings.

Po-Chun Hsu, Ph.D. (Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering) (PI)
Volker Blum, Ph.D. (Thomas Lord Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, Pratt School of Engineering)
Dalia Patiño-Echeverri, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)

The Environmental Effects of Energy Transformation

Reducing humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels presents myriad environmental challenges. Extracting the minerals needed to make high-capacity electric batteries, for example, will change the way many people use the invaluable land, water, and air resources around them. To help us understand such changes, Avner Vengosh will lead a team of five other Duke University scholars to investigate various aspects of lithium mining in North Carolina and Bolivia. Working across disciplinary boundaries, they will begin establishing new methods of assessing renewable energy transitions at local as well as global scales.

Avner Vengosh, Ph.D. (Earth & Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment) (PI)
Dalia Patiño-Echeverri, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Brian G. McAdoo, Ph.D. (Earth & Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Joel Meyer, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Lincoln F. Pratson, Ph.D. (Earth & Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Erika S. Weinthal, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)

Envisioning a Duke Climate Justice Network

Researchers have long recognized that socially marginalized communities contribute the least to climate change yet tend to suffer the most from its effects. Seeking solutions for this injustice, Ryke Longest and experts from across Duke University will begin building a broad coalition dedicated to equitable, grassroots participation in climate-related policymaking. They will consult with climate change-affected communities throughout North Carolina, draw in faculty from NC-based Minority-Serving Institutions, as well as learn best practices from members and conveners of global climate networks.

Ryke Longest, JD (Duke Law School) (PI)
Ryan Emanuel, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Marc A. Jeuland, Ph.D. (Sanford School of Public Policy)
Lee Miller, JD (Food Law and Policy Clinic, Duke Law School)
Wylin D. Wilson, Ph.D., MS, M.Div. (Duke Divinity School)
Norman Wirzba, Ph.D. (Duke Divinity School)

Planetary Engineering, Planetary Ethics

Is it ethical for humans to assume the role of directing Earth system processes toward our own benefit? Conversely, given our present trajectory, is it ethical not to? Seeking to explore these and related questions, Mark Borsuk will lead Duke University faculty representing more than a dozen disciplines in a wide-ranging investigation of planetary engineering, or the large-scale modification of Earth’s environment and geography. This investigation, which will unfold during two full-day workshops, is an early step toward establishing Duke as a leader in an emerging field of inquiry.

Mark E. Borsuk, Ph.D. (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering) (PI)
Tyler Felgenhauer, Ph.D., MPA (Center on Risk, Duke Science & Society) (Project Manager)
Mathew D. Adler, JD, M. Litt. (Duke Center for Law, Economics and Public Policy, Duke Law School)
Nicholas W. Carnes, Ph.D. (Sanford School of Public Policy)
Michaeline A. Crichlow, Ph.D. (African & African American Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Nita A. Farahany, Ph.D., JD (Duke Law School)
T. Robert Fetter, Ph.D., MS (Center for International Development, Sanford School of Public Policy)
Owen Flanagan, Jr., Ph.D. (Philosophy, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Henri P. Gavin, Ph.D., M.Sc.Eng. (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering)
Brian G. McAdoo, Ph.D. (Earth & Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Megan Mullin, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)
Mohamed AF Noor, Ph.D. (Biology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Wayne John Norman, Ph.D. (Philosophy, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)
Steven E. Sexton, Ph.D. (Sanford School of Public Policy)
David Toole, Ph.D. (Kenan Institute for Ethics)
Jonathan B. Wiener, JD (Duke Law School)
Norman Wirzba, Ph.D. (Duke Divinity School)
David B. Wong, Ph.D. (Philosophy, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences)

scholarShips Passing in the Night ?: In Search of Linkages between Climate & Social Justice

Although pursuing similar goals, climate justice scholars and social justice scholars often remain separated by generational, methodological, and institutional boundaries. To overcome these divides, Subhrendu Pattanayak will lead a working group that brings together Duke University faculty in environmental policy, economics, political science, and law. Along with developing a new research agenda, the group will seek to formulate a competitive grant application, as well as a masters-level course on key intersections between the two disciplines.

Subhrend K. Pattanayak, Ph.D. (Sanford School of Public Policy) (PI)
Mara R. Revkin, Ph.D., JD (Duke Law School)
Erika S. Weinthal, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)

Understanding the Impact of Climate Change Induced Extreme Weather on Forest, Animal, and Human Health in Madagascar

Anne Daphne Yoder will lead a transdisciplinary team of Duke University biologists, ecologists, and Earth and climate scientists to study the impacts of increasingly powerful cyclones on populations across Madagascar, the world’s second-largest island country. Seeking to establish a foundation for long-term international collaborations, the team will focus on recent shifts in human interactions with forests, animals, and infectious diseases. Lemurs — primates native to Madagascar and the world’s most threatened mammals — will feature prominently in the team’s investigations, building on the Duke Lemur Center’s decades of research and expertise.

Anne Daphne Yoder, Ph.D. (Biology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences) (PI)
James Herrera, Ph.D. (Duke Lemur Center)
Brian G. McAdoo, Ph.D. (Earth & Climate Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment)
John Poulsen, Ph.D. (Environmental Sciences & Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment)

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