Orrin Pilkey Marine Science and Genetics Conservation Center

Pilkey Center Construction 09-04-13 (21)

Click Here to view a slideshow of the building’s progress in September.

While the Duke Marine Lab has led the way in marine and conservation science over the past 70 years, the new Orrin Pilkey Marine Science and Conservation Genetics Center will ensure that our coastal campus continues to have the outstanding facilities needed to fulfill its mission of creating leaders and knowledge of consequence.

Scheduled for completion at the end of 2013, this new 12,000+ square feet LEED platinum certified  facility, will provide cutting-edge technology and collaborative spaces that will enhance and expand the capacity for Marine Lab researchers and students to study conservation genetics, climate change related to ocean warming and environmental microbiology. The new facility will be a community gathering place to foster the exchange of ideas and innovation, provide a setting for inspiring artwork and house teaching laboratories with the latest technology and tools.

The cutting edge technology and collaborative spaces within the new Center will enhance and expand the capacity for Nicholas School researchers and research trainees to study conservation genetics, biotechnology and biofuel development, climate change related to ocean warming and ocean acidification, environmental microbiology, and to explore the underlying molecular basis for behavioral, physiological and biochemical conditions of marine organisms.   For instance:

  • Environmental Toxicologist Dana Hunt PhD is an expert in the study of how synthetic nanoparticles released into the environment are transformed and degraded by microbes. The molecular approaches she uses can also be applied by scientists studying microbes that degrade petroleum products such as those spilled into the Gulf.
  • Zackary Johnson PhD is a world leader in the study of Prochlorococcus, a photosynthetic microorganism found in the ocean, and its response to climate change. Using genetic tools, he has shown that these microbes sort themselves into genetically distinct groups according to light conditions and temperatures. Next, he’ll probe deeper into the biology of the cells to understand which cellular systems are involved in adapting to temperature changes.
  • The river herring, a fish that spawns in freshwater and migrates to the sea, forms a critical link in marine and freshwater food webs. However, its population has declined by 99% in the past 50 years, largely as a result of bycatch in offshore commercial fishing. Eric Palkovacs PhD is using genetic markers to assess river herring stock structure, to give fisheries managers vital data to develop strategies to avoid at-risk populations at sea.

In keeping with Duke University’s commitment to leadership in sustainability, the upgraded Marine Lab will be a model for environmentally sustainable development, designed with sensitivity to the changing coastal environment.  It also meets high benchmarks for sustainable design, construction and maintenance practices.


For naming opportunities or to make a contribution to the new Pilkey Center, please contact Mike Gulley in the Office of External Affairs at michael.gulley@duke.edu or 919-613-8187.


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