Writing for Environmental Professionals

Writing in environmental fields encompasses many genres, from policy memos to manuals, blog posts to interpretive signs. This course will allow you to refine and reflect on your writing process. For some, the course may serve as a tune-up; for others, a significant remodeling.

March 20 – April 28, 2023

Registration Coming Soon!

Please contact execed@nicholas.duke.edu with questions about registration.

If registration is full, and you are interested in the course, please email execed@nicholas.duke.edu.


Writing in environmental fields encompasses many genres, from policy memos to manuals, blog posts to interpretive signs.  This course will allow you to refine and reflect on your writing process.  For some, the course may serve as a tune-up; for others, a significant remodeling.  Through six modules, on-line discussion, and a series of writing assignments, we will examine the most important aspects of any piece of professional writing: organization, use of evidence, clarity and cohesion, and incorporating feedback during the revision process. The goal is for your writing to become more powerful as a result of this work.


  • Early Bird Registration (On or before March 5, 2023) – $1,000
  • Standard Registration (On or after March , 2023) – $1,075
  • Duke University Alumni Registration Rate (10% discount)


A limited number of discounts are available for eligible registrants. For eligibility and application requirements, please see our Application page HERE. Applications (including letter of reference) must be complete and submitted at least 4 weeks prior to the course start date for priority consideration.


Nicolette Cagle, Ph.D. is Faculty in Environmental Science and Policy, the Director of the Environmental Science Summer Program, and the Director of the Writing Studio in Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Nicolette was a former fellow in Duke University’s Thompson Writing Program and she has conducted research in both ecology and environmental education, using an innovative combination of multivariate statistics, GIS, traditional field observation, and qualitative methods. Nicolette was also awarded grants from both the National Science Foundation and NASA-MSU. She has published scholarly articles in journals such as Biological Conservation, and she has refereed for a number of scholarly publications, including The Journal of Applied Ecology and Wetlands. As a certified environmental educator, Nicolette also teaches and consults for a number of organizations in the Durham area. Nicolette received her Doctorate in Ecology from Duke University in 2008 and a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from the University of Illinois – Urbana in 2002.


Week 1: Technical Check (optional webinar with Duke staff) and Getting Started. Instructor will not be present on this week’s web conference.

Week 2: Writing as a process:  Brainstorming, outlines, drafts, reverse outlines, and organization

Week 3: Who’s my audience?  Discourse communities and audience evaluation

Week 4: Citing sources, Document organization and design. 

Week 5: Crafting paragraphs. Revision and reviewing the work of others.

Week 6: Clarity, coherence and cohesion:  Linking words and ideas, flow, transitions

Week 7: Editing, evaluation, and revision. 


This course will require 40 hours over the 7-week class period.  The course is seven weeks in length and is taught in an entirely online, distance learning format, with both asynchronous and synchronous portions. No campus visits are required. Depending upon enrollment, we anticipate offering 1-2 times each week that you can interact with instructors and classmates via Zoom. Time will include, but is not limited to:

  • Each week for Weeks 2-7, class will meet for a webconference session where students and instructor will address the week’s theme and materials.

Please note: Meeting times will not be finalized until registration is closed. Times depend on registrant availability, which will be elicited via email to registrants.

  • Discussion via online conferencing tools.  Participation will be encouraged through the posing of various questions based on readings, previous discussion, and future directions of the class.  In addition to exploring general course topics, web discussion tools will also allow students to work through issues related to their campaign – exploring opportunities and selecting the correct strategies with help from others in the class and instructor’s guidance.
  • Reading of assigned materials.
  • Situate your writing in the context of academic and popular literature
  • Clearly articulate your positions on environmental topics
  • Target a specific audience when writing
  • Edit your own work for clarity and correctness
  • Give generous and assertive feedback on the written work of peers
  • Use the feedback of peers to improve your writing
  • Revise and rethink your writing through multiple drafts

Please note: While specific components of outlined class structure may change, it will be expected that students commit to 40 hours over the 6-week class period. 


Class Participation
One of the most critical elements of this class will be your personal contribution to the course through consistent postings to class discussion boards, as well as participation during web-conference meetings.  You will receive specific instructions for this requirement before the course commences.

Course Project
Participants will develop and implement a specific writing campaign. Assignment details will be given at the beginning of the class.


We understand that participants have different comfort levels with online learning coming into this course.  We are happy to answer any questions you have about online learning in general and our online learning software.

Internet Access
Course participants need to arrange to have reliable, high-speed internet access through their local internet service provider (ISP).  We encourage participants to arrange for broadband access to the internet via a cable modem, DSL, or a satellite connection.  Dial-up connections will not work as effectively for this course.  We cannot provide support for your network connection, nor can we help you with any home networking equipment such as firewalls, routers, or switches.  For any of those issues, you will want to contact your ISP directly.

Distance Learning Software
The course will be facilitated using password protected website and WebEx.  The Duke Environmental Leadership program will be available during the course to assist you with any course issues.  Contact information will be provided. The distance learning software will be available to you free of charge (except for USB head-set for webinar participation).


Prior to the course start date, you will need a Gmail account for the discussion component of the course. Also, because this course will be held via online virtual classroom, we recommend that you use a USB headset with microphone so that you can participate in real time with voice over internet (note: this is not included in the course tuition). We recommend purchasing the Logitech H330 USB Headset for the webinar participation. Note, there will not be a course text-book.


Payment is due upon receipt of invoice or no less than 15 days before the start of the course. If special arrangements must be made for payment due to agency requirements, you must contact our office no less than 15 days prior to the start of the course at execed@nicholas.duke.edu to complete and submit a payment due notice form.

Failure to make payment arrangements 15 days prior to the start of the course may result in the forfeit of your seat and you will be held responsible for the full tuition of the course. Future registrations will not be accepted from individuals with unpaid invoices.

Course certificates will not be provided until payment is received.

Cancellation & Transfer Policy
All speakers and companies listed have confirmed their participation. If for unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances a speaker cannot attend, instructional time will be filled with comparable instructors. If a course is canceled due to insufficient registrations, tuition will be refunded. Duke cannot be held responsible for travel costs or arrangements made by participants.

Cancellation of registration requires 15 days written notice prior to course start date in order to receive a refund (please submit notification to execed@nicholas.duke.edu). Individuals who do not attend and fail to send written notice prior to the deadline will be charged the full tuition. You may send a substitute to attend the course in your place, however, a $100.00 administrative fee will be assessed for this change, regardless of when written notice is submitted.Any cancellation or substitute request must be received in writing.

  • 15 or more days prior to the course start date – Full tuition refund, minus a $100 administrative fee.
  • Less than 15 days prior to the course start date – Full tuition is assessed and a refund is forfeited.
  • Substitute within your organization can attend in your place for an additional $100.00 administrative fee.

In order to receive a refund, you must cancel your registration (in writing to execed@nicholas.duke.edu) by 5:00 pm on the refund deadline date for the course.