Student Position – Measuring Effects of Nature-Based Adaptation Projects (Summer 2024)

We are looking for a student to join the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute, supporting our work to develop metrics to monitor the effects of nature-based adaptation projects on community risk reduction and species/habitat climate adaptation.

Nature-based adaptation projects involve the protection, restoration, or management of natural or semi-natural ecosystems to help nature and people adapt to climate change. As governments, funders, and communities increasingly look to nature-based solutions for climate adaptation, it is essential to understand how effective these projects can be in providing the multiple benefits desired. This is particularly important when these projects are intended to reduce community risk; insufficient information about risk reduction is one of the most-cited reasons that nature-based projects are not used. It is also critical to understand how nature-based projects are affecting habitats’ and species’ ability to adapt to climate change, since these projects are often intended to address biodiversity loss. These outcomes are not frequently measured; project monitoring tends to focus on how successfully the project was implemented and a few ecological outcomes that do not directly address the resilience of affected habitats and wildlife. We are beginning a project to address these gaps by developing a set of metrics to measure the performance and reliability of nature-based climate adaptation projects for community risk reduction and species/habitat climate adaptation. 

The student will primarily support this effort through literature review to identify a draft set of metrics and preparing materials for discussions with climate adaptation researchers, risk modelers, and nature-based project practitioners. Depending on timing, additional tasks may include finding methods for measuring selected metrics, participating in meetings with relevant subject matter experts, and designing a data system to organize metrics data.

This student will be reporting to Ecosystem Services Program senior policy associate Katie Warnell and under the guidance of program director Lydia Olander.  The student may also work with faculty and student collaborators at Duke and external collaborators.  This is a full-time (40 hours/week), paid position for summer 2024.  Work will likely be conducted in a hybrid model, using a combination of remote work and regular in-person meetings, but there may be options for primarily remote or in-person work depending on student preference. This position is open to students enrolled at Duke University.  

Key Tasks

  • Pulling data from public project databases to assess what information is currently available for a subset of nature-based climate adaptation projects.
  • Searching academic literature, gray literature (reports from government agencies and NGOs, including project reports), and online resources to develop a draft set of metrics to monitor community risk reduction and species/habitat climate adaptation.
  • Developing discussion questions and related materials (e.g., slides, background information) for expert engagement on the draft metrics list.
  • Reaching out to subject matter experts for feedback and additional information.


  • Literature review
  • Excellent oral and written communication
  • Strong organizational and interpersonal skills 
  • Familiarity with the concepts of nature-based solutions and ecosystem services

To Apply

To apply, please send your resume or CV and a cover letter to Katie Warnell, We will begin interviews on Monday, February 12th on a rolling basis.

The intent of this job description is to provide a representative and level of the types of duties and responsibilities that will be required of positions given this title and shall not be construed as a declaration of the total of the specific duties and responsibilities of any particular position. Employees may be directed to perform job-related tasks other than those specifically presented in this description.

Duke University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunity without regard to an individual's age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Duke aspires to create a community built on collaboration, innovation, creativity, and belonging. Our collective success depends on the robust exchange of ideas-an exchange that is best when the rich diversity of our perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences flourishes. To achieve this exchange, it is essential that all members of the community feel secure and welcome, that the contributions of all individuals are respected, and that all voices are heard. All members of our community have a responsibility to uphold these values.

View all open positions at the Nicholas Institute