Community Partners

The Environmental Science Summer Program (ESSP) provides gifted Durham Public Schools high school students – from a variety of cultural, socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and experiential backgrounds – with an opportunity to increase their environmental knowledge, enhance their scientific field and laboratory skills, and jumpstart their career development in environmental fields during a one-week intensive program of study. Through both experiential and traditional classroom learning, students will participate in ecological field work, laboratory analyses, and reflect on environmental conservation, ethics, and social justice. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with professionals in a variety of environmental fields.

To provide rich experience in environmental science, the Nicholas School of the Environment collaborates with a number of community partners, including Durham Public Schools, the New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee, and the City of Durham Public Works Department .

Durham Public Schools Vision Statement: “The Durham community cherishes its children, and the Durham Public Schools are the daily expression of that care. In Durham Public Schools, we believe that every child can succeed, but we also know that the schools alone cannot educate our children. We need and welcome the support of our entire community. Our children need loving parents who nourish them, who send them to school ready to learn, who read to them and help them with their homework. Our vision for Durham Public Schools starts with the need for the entire community to come together around the needs of every family and every child (continued here).”

GALS:  GALS provides additional mentoring – with Duke graduate students –  for interested girls that have participated in ESSP. GALS is a summer science program in the Smoky Mountains for 9 high school girls.  Over the course of 13 days, girls will learn ecology, earth science, and chemistry through exploring their surroundings with scientists from Duke University.  This program is offered free of charge to motivated girls in North Carolina.  GALS provides girls with the unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in science and experiential education while immersed in a supportive community of peers. Applications for GALS open in December. Learn more here.

New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee: “The New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee was established to advise local government on implementing the 1991 New Hope Corridor Open Space Master Plan. Its further mission is to enhance awareness of the natural, historical, and cultural value of the New Hope Creek Corridor and to encourage community stewardship of these heritage resources (continued here).”

City of Durham Department of Public Works: “Public Works provides a wide range of services, including street maintenance, engineering design, development review and stormwater quality and infrastructure maintenance. The department plans and executes the City’s winter weather and natural disaster plans.

The department ensures that the street infrastructure is safe and well maintained, which supports the quality of life and serves as a foundation of a healthy economy.  As guided by the City’s Strategic Plan, Public Works serves as a steward of the City’s physical assets and ensures that residents live in a safe, secure and thriving community (continued here).”

What is ESSP?

Our vision is to cultivate environmental leaders in our own community. Durham’s ecotoxicologists, oceanographers, environmental journalists, and civil engineers of tomorrow need high-quality, real-world experience today.

The Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke answers this call. Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment has partnered with Durham Public Schools to select talented high school students in Durham and the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, to participate in a 2-week intensive environmental science program at Duke University. Students selected for our program have the opportunity to:

  • Work with outstanding interdisciplinary faculty
  • Explore local environmental issues
  • Collect data in the field
  • Interact with experts in a range of environmental fields
  • Receive training with the Nicholas School’s own first-rate Career Services professionals
  • Learn to give a presentation, ace an interview, and create a resume
  • Receive one-on-one college counseling

Students participating in the Environmental Science Summer Program (ESSP) at Duke are situated in the heart of main campus. During the program, students experience the Nicholas School of the Environment’s state-of-the-art facilities and Duke’s renowned outdoor laboratory: the Duke Forest. Since 1931, Duke University has managed the  7,000 acre reserve  as a hands-on outdoor teaching and research  facility.

ESSP students also investigate local water quality in New Hope Creek, which dissects Duke Forest and supplies a portion of the Triangle’s drinking water. The creek provides a perfect setting to explore aquatic biology, water chemistry, land use, and environmental justice. With the help of experts from Duke University, the City of Durham, and local conservation organizations, the students analyze water conservation issues, begin their own data collection, and communicate their findings to the public.

With a strong emphasis on career development, the Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke positions students for success in college and careers in the environment.

This program is supported by generous funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and a private donor.

New Hope Creek

by Nicolette L. Cagle, Ph.D. (7 June 2012)

New Hope Creek, located in rural Orange County and part of Duke Forest’s Korstian Division, drains southern Durham County and western Orange County. The first records of New Hope Creek come from John Lawson’s 1701 expedition, when he described an Occoneechee Indian village along its banks (Lawson, 1707; Magnuson, 2006). The bottomlands of New Hope Creek provided fertile agricultural land for the Siouan tribe (Lawson, 1707; Magnuson, 2006).  By the 1800’s, New Hope Creek basin supported the grist mills of early Piedmont pioneers (Dunaway, 2012). The Patterson family mill site is preserved and situated in the Duke Forest (Korstian Division) (Dunaway, 2012). After major flooding in the region in September 1945, following three days of rain and a Category 1 hurricane (Hudgins, 2000), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to incorporate New Hope Creek into their regional water management plans. By 1973, New Hope Creek was dammed to form Jordan Lake from which the communities of Cary, Apex, Chatham, Durham, Raleigh, Hillsborough, and Chapel Hill draw drinking water. Today, New Hope Creek is part of a comprehensive conservation plan approved in 1992 by the City of Durham, Durham County, Orange County and Chapel Hill. It is further recognized as one of the most significant wildlife habitats in the Triangle (TLC, 2012).

New Hope Creek is located in the Cape Fear River Basin and feeds into Jordan Lake. It is located adjacent to the red square on this map, which delineates the watershed of Sandy Creek, a tributary of New Hope Creek located in the Duke Forest. Figure from Richardson et al. (2011).

References:

Dunaway, S. 2012. The History of Patterson Mill – New Hope Creek, Orange County. Hillsborough, NC: Lulu Publishing. 192 pp.

Hudgins, J. E. 2000. Tropical cyclones affecting North Carolina since 1586: An historical perspective. Bohemia, NY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS ER-92. 109 pp.

Magnuson, T. 2006. Native Americans in the New Hope Bottoms. Chapel Hill, NC: New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee. Available at http://newhopecreek.org/magnuson.html

Richardson, C. J., N. E. Flanagan, M. Ho, and J. W. Pahl. 2011. Integrated stream and wetland restoration: A watershed approach to improved water quality on the landscape. Ecological Engineering 37(1): 25-39

Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC). 2012. “New Hope Creek”.  http://www.triangleland.org/what-we-do/conservation-initiatives/new-hope-creek [accessed: 23 April 2012].

Student Voices


“I have learned so much. I’ve learned how to apply information to the real world and what it means outside the classroom. I’ve learned how much fun environmental science is and the passion people have for it. The number of opportunities are astounding!” – Trevor Hamlett, Jordan High School

“My favorite part of ESSP was going down to the creek [and] finding crayfish, fish, and a lot of salamanders, caddisflies, stoneflies, mayflies. They were all incredible. I could just scoop them up with the d-net and they were all there.”– Justin Witherspoon, Southern School of Engineering

“Our guest speakers have expanded even beyond what we were talking about urban streams and the Durham water system. It was really nice to get this broader view as well as the focused view [on New Hope Creek].” – Katie Reiter-Lavery, Durham School of the Arts

“I had a great time and really appreciate being able to be a participant in this program. I will remember this forever!” – ESSP Student


Our vision is to cultivate environmental leaders in our own community. Durham’s ecotoxicologists, oceanographers, environmental journalists, and civil engineers of tomorrow need high-quality, real-world experience today.

The Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke answers this call. Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment has partnered with Durham Public Schools to select talented high school students in Durham and the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, to participate in a 2-week intensive environmental science program at Duke University. Students selected for our program have the opportunity to:

  • Work with outstanding interdisciplinary faculty
  • Explore local environmental issues
  • Collect data in the field
  • Interact with experts in a range of environmental fields
  • Receive training with the Nicholas School’s own first-rate Career Services professionals
  • Learn to give a presentation, ace an interview, and create a resume
  • Receive one-on-one college counseling

Students participating in the Environmental Science Summer Program (ESSP) at Duke are situated in the heart of main campus. During the program, students experience the Nicholas School of the Environment’s state-of-the-art facilities and Duke’s renowned outdoor laboratory: the Duke Forest. Since 1931, Duke University has managed the  7,000 acre reserve  as a hands-on outdoor teaching and research  facility.

ESSP students also investigate local water quality in New Hope Creek, which dissects Duke Forest and supplies a portion of the Triangle’s drinking water. The creek provides a perfect setting to explore aquatic biology, water chemistry, land use, and environmental justice. With the help of experts from Duke University, the City of Durham, and local conservation organizations, the students analyze water conservation issues, begin their own data collection, and communicate their findings to the public.

With a strong emphasis on career development, the Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke positions students for success in college and careers in the environment.

This program is supported by generous funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and a private donor.