September 5, 2023

Duke Named a Partner in Network for Engineering With Nature

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Duke University is bringing its expertise in environmental management, policy and engineering to an active community of researchers, practitioners and educators who are addressing major infrastructure challenges in the United States through “Engineering With Nature®.”

logo for the Network for Engineering with NatureDuke has accepted an invitation to join the Network for Engineering With Nature (N-EWN) as a partner university. The Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability will lead Duke’s involvement in N-EWN, working with faculty, staff and students across the university, including at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Pratt School of Engineering. The partnership is aligned with the goals of the Duke Climate Commitment, which unites the university’s education, research, operations, and external engagement missions to address the climate crisis.

The university’s involvement in N-EWN will tap into a growing body of work by Duke experts to advance nature-based solutions—actions to protect, sustainably manage or restore natural or modified ecosystems to address societal challenges, simultaneously providing benefits for people and the environment. 

“Duke scholars across multiple disciplines are helping design nature-based solutions, and build the policy and economic pathways to accelerate their deployment for meeting challenges such as growing climate risks,” said Lydia Olander, director of the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and an adjunct professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment. “Our involvement with the Network for Engineering With Nature promises to deepen Duke’s impact as we exchange knowledge and embark on purposeful partnerships with other universities and organizations.”

N-EWN was established in 2019 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University of Georgia. The term “Engineering With Nature®” refers to the intentional alignment of natural infrastructure and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through collaboration.

Today, N-EWN boasts more than 15 partners from federal, state and local agencies; academic and research institutions; nonprofit organizations; and the private sector. The group works to meet infrastructure challenges through in-depth collaboration, transdisciplinary teamwork, real-world applications and education and outreach.

That approach dovetails with how Duke delivers actionable research on complex issues. The university’s schools and institutes are engaged in a variety of projects and initiatives related to nature-based solutions that will benefit from the partnership with N-EWN, including:

  • Duke Restore: An initiative based at the Nicholas School of the Environment focused on creatively restoring habitats to benefit nature and people. Its projects include a National Science Foundation-funded collaboration with North Carolina State University, The Nature Conservancy, and the North Carolina Coastal Federation to restore degraded and eroded salt marshes, seagrasses, and oyster reefs that help protect North Carolina’s low-lying coastal communities from rising seas, intensifying storms, and other harmful impacts of climate change.
  • Duke Wetland Center: An initiative of the Nicholas School of the Environment that conducts research to advance sustainable wetland functions and services. Efforts include measuring and documenting how restoring pocosin wetlands can improve carbon storage and sequestration.
  • The Climate-Plant Innovation Network: A collective of regional partnerships that aims to use genetic engineering to solve major challenges associated with climate change and its effects on crops and food.
  • National Ecosystem Services Partnership: An initiative of the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability that engages both public- and private-sector individuals and organizations to enhance collaboration within the ecosystem services community. A recent webinar series explored current issues related to nature-based solutions.
  • North Carolina Ecosystem Technology: A National Science Foundation-funded project seeking to boost economic development and climate resilience in coastal North Carolina through nature-based scientific and technological innovations. The project is co-led by researchers at the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Pratt School of Engineering.

What Duke Leaders Are Saying

“Partnerships like the Network for Engineering With Nature help us get smarter faster by pooling our collective knowledge to address the monumental challenge of climate change. I am confident that Duke will benefit tremendously from being part of this dynamic network while also bringing crucial knowledge and capacity into the group.”
Toddi Steelman, Vice President and Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability, Duke University

“In the face of climate change and its impacts, researchers at the Nicholas School of the Environment and across Duke are exploring how nature itself offers effective tools for mitigating carbon emissions and for protecting and building resilience for ecosystems and human communities. Duke’s new partnership with the Network for Engineering With Nature will accelerate best practices across institutions and create new opportunities for collaboration.”      
Lori Bennear, Stanback Dean, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

“The Pratt School of Engineering is very excited to contribute to Duke’s expertise base within the Network for Engineering With Nature. As our national waterways and coastal communities come under increasing stress from climate change, transformative solutions are urgently needed. The impactful work of Duke scholars working in nature-based solutions for ecosystem and infrastructure management will be broadly shared through N-EWN, thereby elevating the impact of our work at national and global scales.”  
Jerome Lynch, Vinik Dean of Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University

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