Our Team

Jacqueline Gerson, MS

Jackie is an ecology PhD student at Duke University with a focus on chemical cycling and contaminants.  She studies trace metals in streams and their impact on human health.  Jackie has led a number of backcountry trips for middle school, high school, and college students in Alaska, New York, North Carolina, Washington, and Wyoming. Jackie hails from New Jersey, but has lived in upstate New York and Massachusetts, as well as in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  She also spent three months conducting oceanographic research on a ship between South Africa and Antarctica.   During this trip, she had an enthralling game of soccer on the ice while penguins dodged the ball on the court.   Jackie loves leading high school students in the outdoors and watching them develop both knowledge and self-confidence as they are pushed outside of their comfort zone, live as a community, work as a team, and enjoy all that nature has to offer.  When it comes to learning science, she finds that nature is the best teacher.  When not backpacking or engaging in science, Jackie enjoys caving, kayaking, traveling, playing with her dog, and curling up with a good book.


Emily Ury, MS

img_0580Emily is an ecology PhD student at Duke University with a focus on plants.  She studies the effects of saltwater intrusion on the vegetation and soil chemistry of the North Carolina coastal plain.  She grew up in Western Massachusetts, where she developed a deep love for nature and being outdoors.  As an undergraduate at Williams College, Emily led backpacking trips for the Freshman Orientation program and also set out on her path to becoming a scientist.  Emily majored in chemistry and environmental studies and conducted research on topics ranging from environmental pollution, plant pollinator interactions, and sustainable agriculture.  When she’s not thinking about salt and coastal wetlands, Emily can be found cooking, running, and gardening.


Alice Carter

Alice is an ecology PhD student at Duke University with a focus on nutrients and metabolism in streams.  She studies how the stream microbes break down and digest organic compounds causing the whole stream to breathe, much like an organism. Alice is excited about the outdoors and loves using chemistry and mathematics to better understand how natural systems work. The last few years, Alice lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts teaching a field-based environmental science curse and studying marine ecosystems at Woods Hole Biological Station. Before that, she studied the geology and hydrology of cave systems in Mexico. Alice is originally from Utah and loves to hike, bike, ski, and collect rocks when she is not busy thinking about streams.  


Emily Levy
Emily is a biology PhD student at Duke University withEmily Levy Bio Pic a focus on behavioral ecology.
She studies how physical and social environments relate to behavior, hormones, and survival in wild baboons.  In addition to her research, Emily is passionate about increasing science literacy.  Before starting her studies at Duke, Emily was an outdoor science instructor at Teton Science Schools in Wyoming, where she worked toward those goals.  In college, Emily spent a semester in Madagascar, where she studied ring-tailed lemur behavior for 3 weeks.  And she only got pooped on twice!  Emily is originally from Massachusetts and has exclusively lived in places with lots of snow until moving to Durham.  When she’s not studying baboons, Emily likes to bike, hike, and bake brown butter cookies.


Nicolette Cagle, PhD


Nicolette is faculty in the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, the Director of the NSOE Writing Studio, and the Director of the Environmental Science Summer Program.  She conducts research in ecology and environmental education.   As a certified environmental educator, Nicolette also teaches and consults for a number of organizations in the Durham area. Nicolette received her Doctorate in Ecology from Duke University and a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from the University of Illinois – Urbana.  After grad school, her research took her to Italy, where she explored natural areas across the country, collected data on interpretive signs at nature centers, and interviewed Italians with a passion for the environment!  She loves to hike, explore nature, travel, learn languages and write poetry.

Katrina Herrera

Katrina is a graduate student at Duke University earning two Masters degrees: Masters of Arts in Teaching and Masters of Environmental Management. She hails from the sunny Miami, Florida and graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. After undergrad, she took a service gap year to serve with City Year (an AmeriCorps organization) in Manchester, New Hampshire. There she truly found her calling in being more connected to nature. New Hampshire opened her eyes to hiking to summits in the White Mountains and experiencing her second National Park ever, Acadia National Park. This past summer, she spent her time in Aspen, Colorado working for Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and providing free naturalist tours to locals and tourists alike at the Maroon Bells and Aspen Mountain. Katrina hopes to instill confidence in girls of color, so that they can become scientists and succeed. Katrina loves the beach, kayaking, hiking, and soaking in the sun.

Kelli Palaka

Kelli is a first-year Masters of Environmental Management student with the Nicholas School for the Environment at Duke University, focusing on Coastal Environmental Management. She has spent the last three years working as a seasonal fisheries technician in Alaska, with the rest of her year spent abroad in either Panama, Jordan or Honduras gaining experience in the dive industry. Kelli is originally from upstate New York, but has only been back for quick visits since obtaining her Bachelors degree because she really enjoys traveling and learning from other cultures. In undergrad, she majored in biology and minored in anthropology, and she now hopes to work towards implementing a more sustainable relationship between humans and the natural environment. She has always loved the outdoors and spends whatever time she can in the mountains or in the water. Kelli also loves animals, cooking, and watching documentaries with a bunch of snacks.


Elizabeth Allen

Elizabeth is a Duke University sophomore planning to major in Environmental Policy with a certificate in Civic Engagement and Social Change. She is excited to be the GALS 2017-2018 intern, in which she focuses on website development, communications, and more! In Summer 2017, she worked as a communications intern for Portland environmental nonprofit Crag Law Center. She currently volunteers with Alabama environmental justice nonprofit ACRE doing communications work. She enjoys wandering in the woods, sitting around campfires, and looking up at the stars. It is her dream to see all seven natural wonders of the world.