New directions for Marine Lab yield new philanthropic opportunities

It has been seven months since Andy Read took over as director of the Duke University Marine Lab. We asked him to share some of the exciting new things happening at our coastal campus that our donors might be interested to hear about.


Over the last two decades, the Marine Lab’s Global Fellows Marine Conservation Program has trained more than 150 international scholars and professionals from 63 countries who have returned home to develop in-country conservation efforts and build cross-country networks. Now, says Read, the Marine Lab is considering the next evolution of the Global Fellows Program to make an even greater impact on marine conservation worldwide.

“We are looking at more focused targets for our Global Fellows Program, whether geographic regions or specific marine conservation issues. For example, for the Pacific Islands, which share a common suite of problems like sea level rise and fisheries sustainability, we would bring young professionals and scholars from different countries here to Duke to talk about those issues, exchange ideas and learn together, and share Duke’s expertise and resources. We’ll also bring Duke undergraduate and graduate students into the mix so they can learn from that experience and consider how they can help to solve some of those problems.

“As we reach the 20-year milestone for Global Fellows, it’s a great time to reinvigorate this seminal program and renew our efforts to make Duke the place to come for education and training in marine conservation, and to grow this global village of active, engaged marine conservationists.”


The Marine Lab is working with Duke Libraries to plan a much-needed renovation of the island’s Pearse Memorial Library.

“Back in the 1970s, when our library was designed, if you wanted a journal article you’d have to go to the library, get into the stacks, and pull down a volume,” Read says. “Now, with all of the great electronic library resources, that’s all done with the click of a mouse in your office or dorm room.

“Today’s libraries serve a different role,” he notes. “They are collisional spaces, where students and faculty can come together to brainstorm and work on projects, theses, independent studies. Right now we don’t have a lot of these places on the island where students can gather. We are very excited to create what will be focal point for our students, to provide this collisional space in addition to traditional library services.”


The Marine Lab is in discussions with colleagues at the UNC System to acquire a shared research vessel to facilitate oceanographic and marine biological research.

For several years, Duke has been a marine lab without a research vessel – not a good situation for one of the world’s premier sites for marine and oceanographic research and teaching, Read notes. Previous vessels (the Hatteras and the Susan Hudson) are now out of service. Duke and UNC, which both have facilities on the North Carolina coast, have developed a plan to share a vessel, if funds can be raised.

“With all the interest in alternative energy especially, there’s a lot of interest in being able to conduct research up to 50 miles from shore. We currently have a 30-foot boat for research near the coast, but we really need a larger vessel capable of supporting research teams out in the ocean for several days.”


Read also mentioned the new Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Laboratory (aka “the Drone Center”), based at the Nicholas School’s Duke Marine Lab. Thanks to several generous donations, the Marine Lab’s Boathouse is being renovated to serve as the center’s home. (A leadership funding opportunity still exists to name the center.) You can read more about the Drone Center on the Nicholas School website, and the cover story in the latest edition of Duke Environment magazine.


The Marine Lab is also connecting with other parts of Duke University in more ways than ever before. New partnerships with the Pratt School of Engineering and the Sanford School of Public Policy are getting more Durham-based students interested in coming to the coastal campus to work on ocean-related projects, from developing innovative conservation solutions to using protein from the sea to reduce food insecurity. The first students from the Center for Documentary Studies recently took classes the coastal campus. Provost Sally Kornbluth has also provided funding to enable faculty from other parts of Duke to spend a semester teaching at the Marine Lab. Lee Ferguson, from the Pratt School, will be the first faculty to take advantage of this program. He will teach a class in marine pollution next fall in Beaufort, focusing on ocean plastics.

“We have a lot of expertise here that we think would be really useful in discussions about broader global issues, so we’re looking at new ways to integrate what we do with the larger mission of Duke,” Read says.

Philanthropic opportunities abound, and are much needed, in each of these areas. Student support, both for Duke students to attend Marine Lab programs and for young professionals and scholars from all over the world to come to Duke as Global Fellows, is especially critical. To learn more about any of these programs and discuss how you can help, please contact Kevin McCarthy at (919) 613-8003 or