DEL-MEM Place-based Session Highlights: Spring 2017 

Harvesting taro with Kirstie, and employee of the Waipa Foundation, Kauai, Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Dan Hutter.

Restoration Principles and Practice is a graduate course taught in the Duke Environmental Leadership Program. We spent a week on the North Shore of the island of Kaua’i, learning from local leaders and getting our hands dirty.

We are drawn to this particular place because it is a showcase for thinking about restoration in innovative ways. While the threat of extinction of rare birds and plants looms large, small organization have used a suite of tools to restore both habitat and culture. We explored the restoration of tropical forests and taro fields, coral reefs and fish ponds. We experienced how the native Hawaiian principle of malama ‘aina (care and respect for the land) informs these restoration projects and explore the ongoing challenges of managing land for both people and nature in the face of climate change.


written by Rebecca Vidra, PhD, Director of the DEL Program.  Rebecca led this field course (and will return with a new Duke Engage program this summer) with 10 graduate and undergraduate students. Their trip blog showcases field work, lessons learned on leadership, and expanding perspectives on restoration across this incredibly diverse and beautiful island of Kauai.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza

Community-based Management in Oaxaca, Mexico:  Mexico’s system of common lands ownership and management (ejidos) provides a strong, legally recognized and politically viable framework for communal management of the environment. The March 2017 field course students focused on the general history of rural common property governance and resource politics and management in Mexico and to the specific history and current context of community environmental management in Oaxaca.

From professor Dr. Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza: “Just getting back from such a sweet field course in community-based environmental management in Oaxaca, Mexico with these fine folks. As usual, I am leaving part of my heart with the people and places there. Un mil gracias to the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) Program for supporting this and so many other experiential field courses.”

Written by Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, PhD, Assistant Professor Of The Practice Of Environmental Policy and Management.  Liz teaches about community-based environmental management in the DEL-MEM, Exec Ed, and on-campus Masters programs at the Nicholas School.