Duke Marine Lab Pursues New Programs & Initiatives

Andy Read


Andy Read, Stephen A. Toth Professor of Marine Biology, took over as director of the Duke University Marine Lab this past summer. Dukenvironment recently caught up with Read and asked him to tell us what new programs and projects we can expect the Nicholas School’s coastal campus to tackle.

DUKENVIRONMENT: For two decades in a special summer session, the Marine Lab’s Global Fellows Marine Conservation Program has trained international scholars and professionals to develop conservation efforts in their own countries and regions. What’s next for this important program?

READ: Right now we’re working on the next evolution of the Global Fellows Program so that we can make an even greater impact on marine conservation worldwide. We are looking at more focused targets, such as geographic regions or specific marine conservation issues. For example, the Pacific Islands share common problems like sea level rise and fisheries sustainability, so we would like to bring young professionals and scholars from different Pacific Island nations here to Duke to talk about those issues, exchange ideas and learn together. We’ll also bring Duke students into the mix so they can learn from the Global Fellows and consider how they can help to solve some of those problems.

DUKENVIRONMENT: Anything new with the campus itself?

READ: Yes! We are working with Duke Libraries to plan a much-needed renovation of Pearse Memorial Library, which was designed in The 1970s. Today you find your journal article with the click of a mouse and libraries serve as collisional spaces, where students and faculty can come together to brainstorm, learn together and collaborate. We are very excited to create a new focal area for our students, to provide a new collisional space in addition to traditional library services.

DUKENVIRONMENT: Any other new campus facilities?

READ: As you may know, we recently launched the Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Laboratory
(commonly called the Drone Center). Our faculty and staff are using this very cool technology to map and measure coastal erosion, analyze marine debris, count seals, penguins and sea turtles, map coastal vegetation, and more. Thanks to several generous donations, we are renovating the Boathouse to serve as the center’s home. The Drone Center is off to a great start, but we’re still looking for additional funding for many of our research and training activities.

DUKENVIRONMENT: How is your fleet of boats?

READ: Actually, for several years now, we have been without a large research vessel. Our previous deep-water vessel, the R/V Cape Hatteras, and our coastal vessel, the R/V Susan Hudson, are now both out of service, so we need a larger vessel capable of supporting research teams working at sea for several days. We have begun discussions with colleagues at the UNC System to acquire a shared research vessel to facilitate oceanographic and marine biological research, if we can raise the funds.

DUKENVIRONMENT: Any other updates?

READ: We have an enormous amount of expertise here in Beaufort that is useful in research and teaching directed at broad global issues, so we’re looking at new ways to integrate what we do with the larger mission of Duke. We are working on new partnerships with the Pratt School of Engineering and the Sanford School of Public Policy to get more Duke students to come to our coastal campus to work on ocean-related projects, from developing innovative conservation solutions to harvesting protein from the sea to reduce food insecurity. The first students from the Center for Documentary Studies recently took classes here. And Provost Sally Kornbluth has provided funding to enable faculty from other parts of Duke to spend a semester teaching at the Marine Lab. The first one, a professor from Pratt, will teach a course in marine pollution here this fall.

Philanthropic opportunities exist in each of these areas. Student and fellow support is especially critical. To learn more about these programs and discuss how you can help, contact Kevin McCarthy, associate dean for development and alumni relations, at kevin.p.mccarthy@duke.edu or (919) 613-8003.

LAURA ERTEL is a Durham freelance writer and regular contributor to Dukenvironment magazine.