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    Working on Watersheds

    DCRP doctoral student and Royster Fellow Danielle Spurlock follows her interests by studying watersheds.


    Working on Watersheds

    by Senior Editor Cindy J. Austin, Fountain


    Danielle Spurlock is a doctoral student in City and Regional Planning and a member of the Royster Society of Fellows. After graduating from Stanford University and working in public health, she was drawn to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by the initiative of Carolina students and her interest in their research. She now researches infrastructure and planning capacity in watersheds, also known as drainage basins. The Fountain's Senior Editor Cindy J. Austin sat down with her to learn more.

    I heard you're a two-time Tar Heel. Tell me more about that.
    Yes, I am, I bleed Carolina Blue. I graduated with my master's in 2005 from the dual degree program between the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and the Department of City and Regional Planning. I was one of two guinea pigs the first year of the dual degree but it was great to have a program that fit my curiosity as a student so perfectly. Now I'm back at UNC working on my Ph.D.

    What attracted you to UNC-Chapel Hill?
    While working in public health in Oakland, I saw footage from the Annual Minority Health Conference held here that is completely student-run and was amazed at what these students were studying and accomplishing. I thought to myself, "I have to be a part of that." And in the past few years I've served as a session speaker at that very conference.

    How did you become interested in public health's relationship with regional planning?
    There was a moment when I was in a class at Stanford that looked at immune response. I was fascinated by a throwaway story the professor told about increased malaria rates in war-torn countries because water was collecting in bomb craters. It was a passing moment for everyone else but it was when I realized what I wanted to study.

    What does your dissertation work entail?
    I'm looking at two watersheds in different states and I'm finding that planning institutions and policy interventions aren't producing a higher quality plan. I want to see if we are incorporating scientific data from other fields to plan watersheds, and then are we implementing policies all the way down to approved and constructed plans? If so, does it make a difference in the end product or repair?

    What impact could your research have?
    I hope my research will better inform policy interventions around watershed protection and encourage planners to incorporate scientific data. One thing I've learned from the Royster Fellowship is that we have a lot to learn from other disciplines, so using all the best research can optimize policies and plans for the future.

    For more information on Royster Society fellows like Danielle Spurlock, please visit

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