Local and Global Service Experiences :

Environmental Science Summer Program at Duke, Durham NC

In early 2012, I worked with the Nicholas School of the Environment and Durham Public Schools to create The Environmental Science Summer Program (ESSP) at Duke, a program that cultivates environmental leaders in our own community.

Dr. Nicolette Cagle (center standing) and ESSP students in New Hope Creek

Dr. Nicolette Cagle (center standing) and ESSP students in New Hope Creek

ESSP selects talented rising sophomores and juniors, from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, to participate in a 1-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

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.

Dr. Cagle helps ESSP student analyze water chemistry in New Hope Creek.

Dr. Cagle helps ESSP student analyze water chemistry in New Hope Creek.

Biology and English Teaching, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

In December 2006 I was fortunate to travel to Gongo Lamboto, a small town south of Dar-es-Salaam, to teach Biology and English to incredibly motivated students. Below is a short vignette that describes my day-to-day experience in Tanzania.

* * *

Standing in a small gray classroom, with cold concrete walls, I greet my youthful Tanzanian students enthusiastically, “Habari za asubuhi! Mambo?” Good morning! How are you?

The teenage students respond in unison, “Poa! Vipi?” Good. And you?

“Swari.” I reply, with a conspiratorial smile on my face. The class giggles at my use of the Swahili word for “groovy.”

I catch one bright, young man still peering through the barred windows, looking out onto the dusty dirt roads and outdoor markets of Gongo La Mboto, our small town outside Dar-es- Salaam, Tanzania.

“Let’s begin,” I smile, “Has any one here ever seen a lizard?” Half of the class raises their hands. “Where did you see this lizard? And where do you normally find lizards? What kind of habitat do they like?” I emphasize the word habitat, and write it on the board.

The students begin listing the places they had found lizards: “On the wall!”

“On a tree!”

“In the bathroom!” This response elicits happy laughter.

“Why might you find a lizard in the bathroom?” I question the class, thinking about the buckets of river water used to flush the pit toilets, “What might be in the bathroom that the lizards would need?”



Very good, I think to myself. They’re really going to enjoy our animal observation projects this week!


Bridge Building at Occoneechee Mountain, Hillsborough, NC

In September 2007, I worked with Ranger Chris Grenier at Occoneechee Mountain State Park, Hillsborough NC, to build a footbridge on a new trail along the river. With the help of dedicated volunteers, we were able to install the bridge in record time.

Environmental Education and Water Quality Monitoring as an AmeriCorps Volunteer, Knoxville, TN

In August 2002, I began service as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Knoxville, TN. My first mission was to teach local high school and middle school students about ecology, especially stream ecology. This experience whetted my appetite for formal classroom teaching, but also reminded me of the importance of hands-on experience and service-learning. Teaching at Stock Creek High School was especially enlightening (please see my Teaching Philosophy for details.)

Newspaper article about our work at Austin East High School, CAC Americorps, Knoxville, TN

My second mission was to monitor the water quality of a number of Knoxville’s streams. I spent weeks performing surveys, where I analyzed the physical properties of the stream, including stream velocity and depth. This also meant taking a number of water samples and quantifying their basic chemistry (e.g., N, P and dissolved O2 concentrations) and the degree of bacterial contamination (i.e., fecal coliform levels). The best part of a stream survey was the biotic inventory: I loved identifying the fish and tiny macroinvertebrate larvae of Knoxville’s waterways.



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