Episode 41 – The Age of Restoration with Dr. Carter Smith

Masters students Mariana Kendall and Nicholas Fairbairn sit down with Dr. Carter Smith to learn about her circuitous career path to research ecology. Carter explains how her non-traditional and non-linear path to the sciences has made her a better researcher and educator. We center our conversation on the topic of ecological restoration, a field that inspired EO Wilson to deem the coming era the “Age of Restoration” and the UN to declare a “Decade of Ecological Restoration.” What is the next frontier for this field and how has Dr. Smith seen the field evolve throughout her career? What techniques are most salient and what considerations should practitioners and managers keep in mind when restoring an ecosystem? Dr. Smith shares insights into these questions and, along the way, touches on imposter syndrome in the sciences, ecological grief, and the merits of failure. This episode was recorded in Fall 2022 as part of our Lab Notes series.

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Featured Researcher

Carter Smith head shot

Carter Smith is an interdisciplinary coastal ecologist seeking to understand the socioecological drivers of and sustainable solutions for global change. Her interests lie at the intersection of multiple disciplines including community ecology, conservation and restoration science, and coupled human natural systems research. She is passionate about working directly with coastal managers and practitioners to solve coastal management challenges. Carter received a PhD in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BA in Theater from Wesleyan University. When she was interviewed for the podcast, she was a research scientist at the Duke Marine Lab. Soon she’ll take up her new positoin as an Assistant Professor in the School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences at the University of Washington.



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Nicholas Fairbairn. Nico earned a Master’s of Environmental Management at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment where they focussed on management and policy in coastal systems. Nico is interested in how coastal communities can build and restore natural infrastructure to support resilience to climate change. Their master’s project studied the distribution of living shorelines, a nature-based approach to shoreline stabilization. Nicholas identifies as queer, non-binary and vegan and believes that connection, belonging, inclusion and psychological safety are prerequisites for effective and meaningful work.


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Mariana Kendall. Mariana earned her Master of Environmental Management focusing on Coastal Environmental Management at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in May of 2023. While at Duke, her research focused on the ways humans have used coastal wetlands throughout history, and the long-term impact of human activity relating to these environments, as well as the impact entertainment media has on conservation efforts. She is interested in developing innovative strategies to strengthen coastal resilience.



Episode title against backdrop of ocean view from shore