Janet Bering, a Master of Environmental Management and Juris Doctor concurrent degree student, wanted to pursue a Master's Project (MP) that gave her the opportunity to get hands-on experience analyzing a complex dataset. Her project looked at the spatial extent of commercial fisheries in the Costa Rica Thermal Dome in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean and the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic .

Duke Environment recently corresponded with Bering to discuss the key findings of her MP and why she chose her project.

What are the key findings of your MP?

The key finding of my MP is that the spatial distribution of regional fisheries effort is likely driven both by environmental drivers and jurisdictional drivers. I also found some seasonal trends in effort across the two study regions and I was able to generally characterize the spatial distribution of effort for the client organizations.

How will having practical work experience in this project help you in your career?

As a JD/MEM, I wanted to take on a project that would teach me the questions to ask when assessing a complex dataset and conducting modeling. I won’t necessarily be the one working with the data as a lawyer, but it is critical for environmental lawyers to know how to assess environmental data. I felt like the best way to learn that skill was to take on a project where I analyzed a dataset myself.

What drew you to this project/client?

I came to Duke interested in the oceans and all of the ways in which humans impact ocean ecosystems. While at Duke, I’ve been able to work on a wide slew of issues – from plastic pollution and marine protected areas to marine mammal conservation and offshore energy – and high seas fisheries was the last of the major issues I felt like I needed to analyze. Plus, like I said above, I wanted to work with a big dataset.

The Master’s Project combines the academic rigor of a thesis with the practical experience of an internship, allowing students to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom to projects that tackle real-world environmental challenges.