Devil Fish

Second Spring Semester in the CEM Program
by Emma Kelley -- June 24th, 2015

My second and final spring semester at Duke University wrapped up on a warm, sunny Saturday in May with the Nicholas School graduation ceremony. Not to worry – I’ll be staying on the Nicholas School blogging team as an alumni blogger, chronicling one graduate’s job hunt. Before diving into all that, I’ll spend the coming few weeks posting entries about my final field course: Tropical Ecology and Conservation in Gabon.

For now, I’d like to wrap up my time in the CEM program with an entry on the second spring semester in Beaufort. Although each CEM’s spring varied hugely – some traveled, some took four blocks of classes, some threw themselves into independent studies, and others zeroed in on their Masters Projects – I thought it might be helpful to write a bit about my own experience and what I heard from other students.

For those unfamiliar with the program, the CEM spring semester in Beaufort is broken up into four blocks, each lasting about a month. During Block A, I took Conservation and Development with Lisa Campbell. I wrote a bit about this course in two previous blogs: The Block Schedule and the Consumer Versus the Citizen and 12 Apps from Conservation and Development.  As I’ve mentioned in those blogs, Lisa is a fantastic teacher. If you’re headed to the marine lab, don’t miss taking at least one course with her.

The times and days each course meets varies greatly. For Conservation and Development, we met 9am-12pm each day. In this course, we covered the major environmental dialogues. For example, we discussed survivalism, the idea that the Earth’s population is growing rapidly and our planet has no hope of sustaining this population. Policies stemming from this discourse are those that may attempt to limit population growth. It was another eye-opening course here at the Nicholas school and even included a mock stakeholder negotiation where my classmates and I all took on different stakeholder roles and had to decide as a group how to manage our fictional marine resources. I won’t spoil it for next year’s group by revealing how (or even if) we all came to an agreement.

Meanwhile, one of my housemates was taking another Block A option: Biological Oceanography, a lab course. Keep in mind that this is a lab course at the Duke Marine Lab, which means rather than hole up in a laboratory for four hours, lab times are spent out on one of the lab’s boats or exploring the nearby salt marshes. Speaking of salt marshes, that is where I spent much of my time during the second block of the spring semester, Block B. I worked with Brian Silliman on an independent study exploring hermit crab shell selection preferences on Carrot Island, across from the marine lab. I wrote two previous entries during this time: A “Cold” Day in the Salt Marsh and Field Work and a Feral Horse.

The independent study option gives you the freedom to explore a topic and set your own learning goals for the experience. I needed to fulfill the ecology credit requirement and was happy to work on a project involving kayaking and chasing crabs – two of my favorite pastimes. This was just one example of a CEM independent study. Another CEM spent two semesters working with data from aerial drones and exploring different options for visualizing data using this new technology.

During Block C, I didn’t take any courses, but worked on my MP. The rest of my housemates took Andy Read’s Conservation Biology course in Hawaii. You can read about their incredible experiences here. During Block D, many of my other classmates traveled to the Gulf of California with Javier Basurto to study community-based marine resource management. You can read their blogs here. I spent Block D taking Coastal Watershed Science and Policy with Professor Kirby-Smith, a marine lab legend, who was teaching the course for the last time. It was a fantastic course with minimal lecture time and many field trips. We were even lucky enough to have Dr. Kirby-Smith take us out to explore the estuary on the R.V. Kirby-Smith!

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The RV Kirby Smith.  Photo Credit: Emma Kelley.

I’m already missing Beaufort and all the wonderful experiences in the Nicholas School, but it’s on to the next chapter in life! Stay tuned for entries on the tropical ecology and conservation in Gabon.

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