Duke University names new dean of environmental studies

Posted by John Murawski on May 14, 2014 

Duke University has selected ecosystem ecologist Alan Townsend as its new dean of environmental studies, a school that has produced frequently cited research critical of fracking.

Townsend, 48, a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, will become dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment effective July 1. He was a lead author on the recently released U.S. National Climate Assessment, which warns of the perils of global climate change.

Townsend succeeds William Chameides, the Nicholas School’s dean for the past seven years. Chameides will remain a member fo the Nicholas faculty.

Townsend was picked in a search that involved 270 candidates. His wife, Diana Nemergut, is a professor at the University of Colorado and will be joining Duke’s biology department.

The most recent research by Duke scholars debunking shale gas exploration, commonly referred to as fracking, concludes that widespread shale gas drilling is not likely to substantially alter total greenhouse gas emissions because cheaper gas will encourage more energy usage. The study, “Understanding the Risks of Unconventional Shale Gas Development,” was published in a special issue of Environmental Science and Technology and announced Wednesday.

Previous research from academics at Duke’s Nicholas School concluded that fracking contributes to methane contamination of drinking water.

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