Elizabeth Nowlin,originally from Jacksonville, North Carolina, graduated from Duke in 2019 with a degree in environmental science and policy and a certificate in marine science and conservation leadership. While at Duke, Elizabeth focused on environmental science education and communication as part of DukeEngage Kaua’i as well as during her semester away at the Duke University Marine Lab. Elizabeth also explored her passion for wildlife conservation and human-wildlife interactions by assisting the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative grantees with their research at the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary in Namibia.
Elizabeth Nowlin is spending her fellowship year in Tanzania at the Noloholo Environmental Center on the border of Tarangire National Park, where she is working with Tanzania People and Wildlife. TPW works to promote sustainable and community-engaged human-wildlife conflict mitigation.
Many times in the conservation field, visitors come to an area with the sole objective of bringing back wildlife. However, they do not understand or consider the complex dynamics that exist in areas where humans and wildlife live in close proximity. TPW seeks a different model, partnering with rural people to develop community-based conservation models that lead to long-term wins for both humans and animals.
Elizabeth hopes to conduct an evaluation of TPW’s community rangeland management program. The goal is to document the program’s impact and clarify its decision-making process.
Elizabeth with a large elephant bone.
Excerpts from Elizabeth's Writing
July 25, 2019
A little over three weeks ago, I arrived at Noloholo Environmental Center on the border of Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. My first few weeks here have been both busy and not busy at times, but all the days seem to go by very quickly which I did not expect given the remote location of my community partner organization.
Adjusting to camp life has had its challenges, but I am learning more about what I need to do to feel safe and comfortable every day. I hold my breath when I use the drop toilets because the stench is...disturbing. Baby wipe baths have become customary for the days when it is too cold to bucket bathe. Little things like rice and beans for lunch bring me more joy than I could have ever anticipated. Side note: I have been eating vegetarian for about two weeks now since I saw a cow that I had stupidly created a relationship with be slaughtered. Lastly, I have come to accept that I will never get used to spiders, no matter how many of them live in my room.
I started learning Swahili using Duolingo, which has been alright, but I am also just picking up things from people around camp who are willing to help me learn. I have asked around and will continue to ask around about a teacher in the coming month. The main issue, however, is transportation for me or for the teacher for lessons.
I have not established a set work routine yet, but I am being assigned more tasks now that the Monitoring & Evaluation Manager understands that I am not just here to do my research project. Right now, one of my duties includes documenting the camp daily water usage, which is a necessity because of the absence of water during the current dry season. I assist in collecting camera trap data for wildlife identification and monitoring. Just recently, I was put in charge of cleaning the data from the human-wildlife conflict (HWC) cases that are reported by the HWC officers in the villages. The HWC officers respond to cases of conflict, usually depredation of livestock by wildlife, and report the incidents to Tanzania People & Wildlife (TPW) through an app on the phones provided by TPW. I go through and assess the details of each situation and determine if a follow-up is necessary. Unfortunately, that means that some of my day is spent looking at partially eaten animals.
I have also provided some input on the language used in a current collaboration between National Geographic Society and TPW. The project is a community engagement framework that TPW is now being asked to create trainings on, so I will likely be assisting with this project more in the coming months. I have already written the job descriptions for the adult learning consultant, curriculum development consultant, and graphic designer needed to create the trainings.
Given that I live in the same place that I work, it has been difficult to separate the two parts of my life. This seems to be a common sentiment shared by the other people working here as well. Leaving Noloholo is not easy given that it is at least three hours from the nearest major city, Arusha. I have found ways to have fun here, though. I joined the Noloholo running club. I am nowhere near as acclimated to the elevation and incline as everyone else, but I am improving daily. I am signed up for an uphill 5k in August, and my goal is to run a half marathon through Serengeti National Park in November. Excising is painful no matter where you do it, but at least I have a nice view here. Plus, the threat of a leopard or a cape buffalo attacking you is a motivation to run faster like no other.
I have gotten very good at this card game that I play with the staff and the Maasai herder boys after meals, “kadi moja.” Sometimes I watch the sunset at marriage rock, which is basically Pride Rock from The Lion King. I also go on night drives looking for simbas and enjoy a drink or two with my coworkers at their tents or at the local “bar” which is really just some plastic chairs in the street outside of a building the size of a closet.
So far, I am really enjoying my time here at Noloholo. Kwaheri!
São Paulo, Brazil
Geynecological health and cervical cancer screening
Luiza Perez, originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, graduated in May 2019 with a degree in sociology and global health. During her time at Duke, she was engaged in multiple research projects, ranging from studying occupational risk factors of Leishmaniasis in the Peruvian Amazon, and examining the epigenetic effects of mercury exposure, to developing sustainable ways to implement an innovative sanitation system in rural Brazil. Her honors thesis explored the link between maternal reproductive health and child health in Peru. Luiza is passionate about equitable development in Latin America and has worked on community-based projects in Uruguay, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica and Brazil.
Luiza Perez is spending her fellowship year in São Paulo, Brazil, where she is collaborating with the Albert Einstein Foundation, an organization that runs a network of hospitals and a medical school.
Luiza hopes to study how the Callascope—an innovative tool for cervix visualization developed at Duke—could aid her community partner’s current programs. In a society where conversations about reproductive health are taboo even in highly educated circles, fostering opportunities for women to discover their bodies can be very important. She seeks to understand how the Callascope could work in an urban Brazilian context, setting the foundation for future studies and eventual clinical and educational use in primary care settings.
Luiza (far right) speaks with colleagues in São Paulo.
Excerpts from Luiza's Writing
July 25, 2019
“21.5 million people”—I keep thinking to myself when I cannot make sense of the volume of people crowding the streets. This past month has been a box of surprises: turning on the heater in a Brazilian winter (in my defense it was 41 degrees Fahrenheit at night), getting accustomed to greeting people with one kiss on the cheek instead of two, catching myself abandoning my Rio accent in some words, and adjusting back to “Brazilian time,” where a 15-minute delay is to be expected.
São Paulo is a delightful city. I have spent chilly afternoons exploring its different corners, getting lost, and finding myself enchanted with the plethora of unique cafés, galleries, restaurants and bars. The city truly never sleeps—I can hear a vibrant nightlife from my bedroom from Monday to Monday. The corporate world dominates the streets, as men in suits march up and down, Av. Faria Lima (an avenue that crosses the entire city), at lunch time. Whenever I tell a new acquaintance I am a research fellow, excited to explore reproductive health and cervical cancer screening in the city, I am received as a pleasant surprise—an intriguing outcast.
Members of FOSP have been very thoughtful while helping me settle in. As the youngest member of the organization, by at least 15 years, I feel looked after and cared for. I have spent most days learning about the organization, shadowing their colposcopy clinic on one day, observing activities at the HPV diagnosis lab on the other. This has given me a holistic understanding of the organization’s role and work.
I have also attended a research meeting, where FOSP brings together all members of their board and key partners to discuss projects’ progress and plans, and had the opportunity to present my vision of a community-based research project with the Callascope to them. I have also learned how they write IRBs (they submit 3 different ones to 3 different institutions!) and research project proposals. I have also dedicated some time to begin making drafts of these documents for my project. I am eager to visit the primary health clinics FOSP partners within the east part of the city, where I hope to conduct my research.
I do not have a routine yet, and am still figuring out where my work will be most beneficial to the organization. Still, I feel so privileged of sitting next to the organization’s president and research director, as they strive to bridge the research-policy gap in cancer care, innovation and epidemiology in São Paulo.
A lonely meal here and there has given me chance to absorb the live performances that are a chief characteristic of São Paulo’s restaurant scene. Having no commitments outside of work has given me a chance to explore the city’s parks, waste time observing how the blue skyscrapers blend with the sky, and wander aimlessly through the streets.
Over the weekend, I am looking forward to going to the Museum of Art São Paulo (MASP), where there is an exhibit of Tarsila do Amaral’s art—one of Brazil’s most famous modern artists from the 1920s.
Not knowing anyone my age in the city has been quite a challenge. But I think to myself “21.5 million” opportunities to meet people.
Madison, West Virginia
Policy responses to drug addiction
Rachel Rubin, originally from Fresno, CA, graduated from Duke in 2019 with a degree in public policy studies. has spent the past two summers working in West Virginia around issues of criminal justice reform and social policy. At Duke, she was an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar and participant in the Hart Leadership Program’s Political Engagement Pilot Project, and a member of the women's Ultimate Frisbee time.
Rachel Rubin spent her fellowship in West Virginia (pop. 22,000) with the Southwestern Regional Day Report Center (SRDRC) implementing a Fresh Start Program in Logan County for those leaving prison for drug offenses. At the center of the program was agricultural and artisan programming, aimed at reconnecting clients with their communities. The program offers community mentoring, interagency teamwork, life-based skills, and credit attainment through the local community college. She will also help neighboring Boone County set up a Family Treatment Court.
Boone County has been one of the hardest hit communities by the Opioid Epidemic. One pharmacy filled enough opiate prescriptions to give more than 100 pills per year for every man, woman, and child in the county. The epidemic has also cost Boone County the greatest amount per capita of any county in the United States.
Rubin studied the most harmful aspects of drug use in Boone County and how that might be mitigated.
Rachel Rubin in West Virginia.
Legal and humanitarian needs of migrants
Amulya Vadapalli, originally from New Delhi, India, graduated in 2019, with a degree in Arabic and public policy studies. At Duke, her interest in human rights and social justice drew her to write an honors thesis focused on the war in Yemen, building on her work as an intern at the Yemen Peace Project. She has previously interned at Tamkeen - Fields for Aid in Amman, Jordan (on a Service Opportunities in Leadership grant) and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. On campus, she was president of the Senior Class, captain of Lasya, Duke’s Indian classical dance team, and founded the Arabic Majors Union.
Amulya Vadapalli spent her fellowship year in Amman, Jordan, where she partnered with the Collateral Repair Project on its efforts to aid Yemeni refugees. CRP recently opened a new center dedicated to supporting the needs of Yemeni and Sudanese refugees in Jordan.
There are thousands of Yemeni refugees in Jordan, the result of a civil war that the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. However, they receive far fewer services from the government and NGOs than refugees from Syria and Iraq. CRP has stepped up to fill the void by providing services to Yemenis in Amman.
Working with the organization’s monitoring and evaluation office, Amulya studied CRP’s programs to see which are best serving the needs of refugees and which can be improved.
Amulya (second from the left on the bottom row) and volunteers with the Collateral Repair Project.
Legal and humanitarian needs of migrants
Connor Vasu, originally from Newton, MA, graduated in 2019 with a degree in public policy studies. At Duke, he conducted research on energy in Paraguay and participated in DukeEngage Durban South Africa. He also created a presentation on immigrant rights that has been used by advocacy organizations across North Carolina.
Connor Vasu spent his fellowship year in Dilley, Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border. He is working with the Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP) at the Dilley Detention Center in Texas to help better understand the legal and humanitarian needs of migrants and asylum seekers at the southern border.
The privately-run Dilley detention center is the largest in the country, holding up to 2,400 woamen and children, almost all of whom are seeking asylum. Tapping national enthusiasm surrounding immigrant rights, the DPBP has developed an innovative model—relying on volunteers from around the country to provide pro bono services through one-week service trips. Staff manages volunteers, conducts intakes and represents detainees in expedited hearings, in addition to challenging immigration policies in federal court and collaborating with other nonprofit partners on immigration advocacy and reform.
He helped with the organization’s ongoing mission of providing legal services to migrants in detention facilities.
Connor Vasu (top center) with volunteers at the Dilley Pro Bono Project.
Even amid social distancing restrictions, 18 Duke undergrads are working on virtual summer projects through Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL), a signature component of the Hart Leadership Program.