Courses: 2021-22 Academic Year

Spring 2022

Humans and Changing Oceans: The Future of the Oceans in the Anthropocene

BIOLOGY 159 / MARSCI 201 - Tu/Th 12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

The ocean covers two-thirds of the planet, forming the backbone of healthy ecosystems and many growing economies worldwide. Despite this importance, we know far less about the oceans than terrestrial environments. This course provides an overview of why the oceans matter, including the many ways people use and depend on the oceans. We will discuss the major issues that threaten our oceans, and students will explore emerging solutions to these challenges of changing ocean use using market-based, scientific, and policy approaches. Course will include an optional weekend field trip to the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort.

Instructors: John Virdin, director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute; and Meagan Dunphy-Daly, Lecturing Fellow and Director in the Marine Science and Conservation Division of the Nicholas School

Global Health Ethics: Policy Choice as Value Conflict

GLHLTH 210 / PUBPOL 330 / ICS 397 - MW 3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

The primary foci of this course are: the ethics of engagement with marginalized/stigmatized populations; understanding the influence of power dynamics; and understanding the ways in which policies create structures that limit abilities. Students explore the roots of their personal value systems and those of others, in an effort to understand causes of conflict and ethical missteps in global health engagement. Involves reading texts and coming to class ready to engage in conversations and activities related to the learning objectives. Weekly 5-question quizzes help to ensure that students come to class prepared to engage with the material.

Instructor: Kay Jowers, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute.

Duke Environmental Leadership - Energy Law and Policy

ENVIRON 990 - W 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Content to be determined each semester.

Amy Pickle, director, State Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

Climate Change and the Law

LAW 520 / ENVIRON 502 - class times TBD

This 2-credit seminar will examine global climate change and the range of actual and potential responses by legal institutions – including at the international level, within the United States and other countries (such as Europe, China, and others), at the subnational level, and at the urging of the private sector. We will compare alternative approaches that have been or could be taken by legal systems to address climate change: the choice of policy instrument (e.g., emissions taxes, allowance trading, infrastructure programs, technology R&D, information disclosure, prescriptive regulation, carbon capture & storage, reducing deforestation, geoengineering, adaptation);  the spatial scale; the targets of the policy and criteria for deciding among these policy choices.  We will examine actual legal measures that have been adopted so far to manage climate change:  international agreements such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), its Kyoto Protocol (1997) and Paris Agreement (2015), plus related agreements like the Kigali Amendment (on HFCs) and ICAO (aviation) and IMO (shipping); as well as the policies undertaken by key national and subnational systems.  In the US, we will study national (federal) and subnational (state and local) policies, including EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act, other federal laws and policies relevant to climate change mitigation, state-level action by California, RGGI states, and North Carolina. We will also explore litigation involving tort/nuisance civil liability and the public trust doctrine to advance climate policy.

Instructor: Kate Konschnik, Director, Climate and Energy Program; and Jonathan Wiener, William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professor of Law, Professor of Environmental Policy, Professor of Public Policy

Environmental Litigation

LAW 737 - M 2:00 p.m. - 3:50 p.m.

This course provides insight into the procedural, substantive, and tactical considerations attendant to environmental litigation - from the perspectives of both plaintiffs and defendants. The course is based upon a hypothetical set of facts and an "administrative record" that summarizes certain government actions implicating various federal environmental statutes.

Instructor: Steve Roady, professor of the practice of law at Duke Law School, and faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute.

Coastal Resilience in the Face of Climate Change

LAW 714 - T 8:30 a.m. - 10:20 a.m.

Recent hurricanes have highlighted the need for coastal communities to address a wide range of issues associated with climate change including increasing resilience when faced with storms and rising sea levels; information-gathering (maps, drones, and scientific research about coastal/ocean processes); law and policy refinements (statutes, regulations, and guidance); and the use of litigation to develop useful common law doctrines relevant to the tidelands and the public trust. Through the use of current cases and policy issues under debate, students will analyze relevant facts, laws, policies, socio-economic considerations, and local ordinances and prepare proposed solutions.

Instructor: Steve Roady, professor of the practice of law at Duke Law School, and faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute.

Principles of Machine Learning

IDS705 - MW 10:15 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Automating prediction and decision-making based on data and past experience. Students will learn how and when to apply supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning techniques, and how to evaluate performance. Common pitfalls such as overfitting and data leakage will be explored and how they can be avoided. Topics include model flexibility and regularization; common supervised learning models and ensembles; performance evaluation techniques; dimensionality reduction; clustering; and the fundamentals of reinforcement learning. Open only to Interdisciplinary Data Science students.

Instructor: Kyle Bradbury, Assistant Research Professor, Pratt School of Engineering & Managing Director, Energy Data Analytics Lab

Bass Connections Energy & Environment Research Team: Creating Artificial Worlds with AI to Improve Energy Access Data (2021-2022)

ENERGY 396/796 - MW 12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

Tutorial course for Bass Connections yearlong project team. Topics vary depending on semester and section. Teams of undergraduate and graduate students work with faculty to address critical energy and environmental challenges. Teams may also include postdoctoral fellows and experts from business, government, and the nonprofit sector. A team’s work may run in parallel with or contribute to an ongoing research project. Teams will participate in seminars, data collection and analysis, lab work, field work, and other learning experiences relevant to the project. Requires final paper or product containing significant analysis and interpretation. Instructor consent required.

Instructor: Kyle Bradbury, Assistant Research Professor, Pratt School of Engineering & Managing Director, Energy Data Analytics Lab


Fall 2021

Energy Law

ENERGY 727/LAW 327

This course provides an introduction to U.S. energy law through the examination of the legal framework governing electricity production and the extraction and use of energy sources. It is designed to provide an overview of key topics in energy law so that students develop a foundational understanding of energy law and policy.

Instructor: Amy Pickle, director, State Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

Energy Policy for a Changing World


Energy use is essential to all aspects of modern life and a significant determinant of economic and social opportunity throughout the world. Yet energy production, distribution and use, if left unchecked, can have detrimental effects on the environment and society. Of particular significance is the role that energy from fossil fuel combustion can play in disrupting the planet’s climate system. This course will explore how public policies affect the way in which energy is produced and used and how policies can be designed to advance a more accessible, affordable, reliable and clean energy system. It will draw on material from multiple disciplines to gain a deeper understanding of the breadth and depth of factors affecting our current energy system. Students will have an opportunity to directly engage with experts from the public and private sector to gain insights into policy options for a more sustainable and equitable energy system and to better understand the consequences of those policies for the environment, economy and society. 

Instructor: Brian Murray, Interim Director, Nicholas Institute & Duke University Energy Initiative

Environmental Justice, Nationalism, and Culture


This course examines the environmental justice movement, its countermovements, including nationalist and conservative movements, and how their interplay shapes political opportunities and responses. We will consider the substantive concerns of the environmental justice movement (the needs of humans in the built environment), its methods (community-based political organizing carefully coordinated with allies within legal professions and academia), and the scales at which it operates (local, national, global). Because social movements of political significance will generate opposition, we will also consider the rise of nationalist and conservative movements that interact with and challenge the environmental justice movement. These topics will be explored using a range of materials, including scholarly books, articles, case studies, and documentary films.

Instructors: Kay Jowers, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute.


EOS 723D

An introduction to hydrology by examining how rainfall and snowmelt become streamflow, evapotranspiration, and groundwater with emphasis on hydrological processes inside watersheds. Topic areas include: hydrologic cycle and water balances, evapotranspiration and snow energy balances, vadose zone hydrology, hydrogeology, hyporheic zones, riparian zones, streamflow generation mechanisms, biogeochemical budgets, and field measurement techniques. Linkages between physical hydrology and broader ecological and environmental sciences will be highlighted.

Instructor: Martin Doyle, professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment, and director, Water Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

Program Area Seminar – Water Resources Management

ENVIRON 898-04

This course is intended to give students a first exposure to ideas of planning and management of organizations related to water resources. The course will develop a basic framework for strategic planning for environmental organizations with specific applications to water resources. It will provide some tools for forecasting future water conditions, as well as emerging tools for forecasting uncertain water conditions. Finally, it will expose students to approaches in water management, particularly adaptive management and scenario forecasting.

Instructor: Martin Doyle, professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment, and director, Water Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.