Oceans, Human & Environmental Health

Investigating interactions between human and environmental health at the Duke Marine Lab and Duke-Kunshan University.

Oceans, Human and Environmental Health embraces the idea that the health of animals, people, and the environment are connected. This Duke Immerse program will focus on human interactions with the ocean and study how those interactions in turn affect human health and food security, as well as the ecosystem services and critical habitat the marine environment provides.   

Oceans, Humans, Environmental Health

This immersive semester-long experience teaches students the fundamentals of evaluating the health of the natural environment and will include measuring environmental factors and organismal biomarkers that serve as health indicators (e.g. chlorophyll a, nutrients, marine biodiversity, fecal coliforms, pollutants, toxicological biomarkers). In addition to developing a scientific understanding of human and environmental health, this semester will expand students’ understanding of human well-being, health, environmental justice, access to resources, and environmental policy.  

This semester will be divided into three main parts:  

  1. North Carolina field experiences and laboratory exercises, contextualizing the process of measuring environmental health. Students will engage with the North Carolina Coastal Federation and tour restored wetlands.  
  1. A two-week trip to China to compare and contrast the universal challenges to environmental health and the unique issues specific to the United States and China.   
  1. Faculty-guided team projects. Possible topics include: marine mammals as integrators of human and environmental health, the role of non-governmental organizations in setting environmental policy, or environmental impacts of microplastics in the oceans.   


Locations: Duke Marine Lab (Beaufort, NC); China; Shanghai, China

Term: Fall 2023

Dates: August 2023 – December 2023, specific dates forthcoming

Application Deadline: Applications will open November 2022, dates forthcoming

Academic Themes: 

Eligibility: Students must have taken WRITING 101; non-Duke students matriculated at Duke are eligible for this program. It’s recommended that students have taken Intro to Biology and Intro to Chemistry.

Program Fee

$1,500; Duke provides additional grant aid to cover the cost of any course fee for all students receiving financial aid. The course fee is in addition to tuition, room and board. Contact Duke’s Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support (finaid@duke.edu) for more information.


The course list for Oceans, Humans & Environmental Health is forthcoming.

Course numbers: BIO 373LA-02 LAB, ENVIRON 373LA-02 LAB, NEUROSCI 381LA-02 LAB (updated course numbers forthcoming)
Curriculum codes: NS,R, W (updated curriculum codes forthcoming)
Course Description: TBD
Instructors: Daniel Rittschof, Ph.D. 

Course numbers: BIO 308A-01 LEC, ENVIRON 308A-01 LEC, GLHLTH 308A-01 LEC (updated course numbers forthcoming)
Curriculum codes: CCI, N, STS (updated curriculum codes forthcoming)
Course Description: TBD
Instructors: Dana E. Hunt, Ph.D.

Course numbers: ENVIRON 390SA-01 SEM (updated course number forthcoming)
Curriculum codes: NS, STS (updated curriculum codes forthcoming)
Course Description: TBD
Instructors: P. Lee Ferguson, Ph.D.

Course numbers: TBD
Curriculum codes: TBD
Course Description: TBD
Instructors: TBD

Lead Faculty

Dana Hunt

Dana Hunt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology, Nicholas School of the Environment & Duke Marine Lab

P. Lee Ferguon

P. Lee Ferguson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering, Nicholas School of the Environment & Chemistry

Grant Murray

Grant Murray, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Marine Policy, Nicholas School of the Environment & Duke Marine Lab

Dan Rittschof

Dan Rittschof, Ph.D.

Norm L. Christensen Professor of Environmental Science, Nicholas School of the Environment, Biology & Duke Marine Lab

Program contacts: Email Dana Hunt (dana.hunt@duke.edu) or Duke Immerse (immerse@duke.edu) for more information.


All students who are interested, regardless of documentation or citizenship status, are encouraged to apply; accommodations and opportunities will be made for students who are unable to travel internationally due to visa issues.
We welcome Durham based DKU students and UNC Robertson Scholars to apply. Please email Duke Immerse director (immerse@duke.edu) if you are interested in participating. Submit the following items using MyExperientialEd:

  1. Online application
  2. Duke Transcript