Distilled mentions of things going on among Duke researchers, scholars, and other enterprises
October 30, 2017


Odette and Quintin, two collared lemurs, on April 5 welcomed to the Lemur Center their new daughter Bijou, one day after Nacho, a male mongoose lemur, was born to parents Carolina and Duggan. McKinnon and Poehler, two blue-eyed black lemurs, were born a couple weeks earlier. Given that lemurs breed once a year and are receptive to breeding for less than forty-eight hours, well done, lemurs. African warblers protect their eggs by developing complex shell patterns difficult to imitate for nearby cuckoo finches, who like to hide their eggs in the warblers’ nests. The patterns differentiate from those of other nearby warbler species, too, for good measure. | Rats prefer darkness to light but will enter a brightly lit space to prevent other rats from receiving electrical shocks. This decision does not come from only one part of the brain: Multiple parts of the rats’ brains interacted when they made this decision, meaning brains are complicated. | Drones helped researchers confirm that gray seal populations are recovering on the coasts of New England and Canada. | The Duke campus has been enriched by two new dogs, companions of new president Vince Price, whose term began July 1: Scout is an eight-year-old golden doodle, and Cricket is a six-year-old labradoodle. | Seagulls spread contamination and kill underwater organisms by eating from landfills and depositing their nitrogen-and-phosphorous-laden waste in nearby waterways. | According to the shape of their fossilized ankle bones, the earliest primates may have done less climbing and more prancing. 


When parents lose their jobs, their children become less likely to go to college. | When trade is liberalized and tariffs reduced, people who work in previously protected industries may lose their jobs, and the effects may last decades. | Liberal websites are more likely to cite fact-checkers to support their points; conservative websites are more likely to allege partisan bias to fact-checkers (when the Duke Reporters’ Lab released this study, a conservative website accused the study of having a journalistic bias). | Children as young as nine years old may show negative bias toward obesity, with overweight children showing less bias. | At-risk teens ate less-healthy food and slept less well when they were exposed to real-life violence; teens not identified as at-risk slept poorly but did not show changes in diet. Both groups were more active after exposure to violence.| Chemicals used in flame retardants, and lubricants, and plastics may trigger receptors in human cells that are linked with obesity, and they may get into human systems through house dust. | It turns out that studies claiming that improved emergency medicine and critical care had led to gunshot victims surviving at a higher rate were simply misinterpreting data; people still die from gunshots pretty much the same way they always have. |  An analysis of North Carolina school board candidates and district-level segregation shows that board members who are Democrats decrease racial segregation across schools more than their non-Democrat counterparts. | When making decisions in a group, white participants were more likely to conform to incorrect decisions when surrounded by white peers than when placed in a more diverse group. 


In degraded coastal ecosystems, having invasive species is better than having no species at all. Invasive seaweeds can provide many of the same services as the species they superseded: flood protection, shoreline stabilization, food production, and habitat for juvenile sea creatures. | Ozone pollution, long known to damage the respiratory system, can also cause cardiovascular problems like increased blood pressure. | Mountaintop-removal coal mining causes Appalachian streams to run saltier for 80 percent of the year. The detritus, dropped into river valleys, absorbs water, into which minerals leach; it then releases the water during the drier months, rendering the streams salty. The flows affect much of the eastern United States. | Fungal spores launch from their parent fungi by using energy released when two droplets of water on the spore merge. The surface tension diminishes in the combined droplet, and the released energy flings the spore away from the fungus at a million times the force of gravity. Duke scientists figured this out by videotaping homemade polystyrene “spores” and controlling the size of water droplets using ink-jet printers. | The first study of its kind found that a problem with solar energy, especially in the highly polluted places in which it is growing fastest, is air pollution, which prevents light from reaching solar panels. | A study that placed meters in cars instead of on roads found that pollution during rush hour is much worse than previously believed. | Inexpensive sensors placed directly on tires can for the first time monitor tire wear in real time. Printed, flexible electrodes made of carbon nanotubes set up an electrical field that can tell the thickness of surrounding material—like tire tread. | In economics papers, the word “nuance” appears less frequently than in any other social-science field. | One rare type of brain cell—a fast-spiking interneuron, or FSI—controls compulsion, addiction, and habit formation. 


Six new members joined the board of trustees on July 1. The new trustees are Deloitte partner Kathryn (Katy) Hollister ’81, Pritzker Group founder J.B. Pritzker ’87, and former Aramark Corp. executive vice president and chief financial officer L. Frederick Sutherland ’73. They will each serve six-year terms. In addition, three observing members joined the board: Duke Alumni Association President-Elect Laura Meyer Wellman ’73, recent Duke graduate Uzoma Ayogu ’17, and Erika Moore, a Ph.D. candidate at Duke. | The Grainger Family Descendants Fund, a donor-advised fund at The Chicago Community Trust, has given $11 million for the construction and operation of a new state-of-the-art ship that will expand teaching and research capabilities at the Nicholas School for the Environment marine lab in Beaufort. It provides $5 million to build the new sixty-eight-foot oceangoing research vessel and an additional $6 million to support operating costs. | The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI), created in 2009 to steer Duke toward carbon neutrality, is providing $40,000 of matching funds to Durham nonprofits toward tree plantings this fall. | Adjunct faculty reached a new three-year collective-bargaining agreement with the university, earning an average pay increase of 14 percent for faculty paid on a per-course basis and 12 percent for salaried faculty. | Duke announced it would move to a $15-per-hour minimum wage by 2019, up from its current level of $13 per hour; this demand had been one of a number set forth by the Allen Building protesters in 2016. | Duke professors wrote two of the ten books nominated for the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. Both Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, from Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy, and The Blood of Emmett Till, written by senior research scholar at the Center for Documentary Studies Timothy B. Tyson Ph.D. ’94, made the list. MacLean’s book made the further cut for the list of five finalists, with the winning book to be announced November 15.