The Environmental Research Center (ERC) at Duke Kunshan University (DKU) is an interdisciplinary research institution that integrates research and education programs in environmental science and policy. The ERC is committed to cultivating state-of-the-art research projects to deal with the pressing environmental policy challenges in China and beyond.  ERC faculty work in close collaboration with the Nicholas School of the Environment, Sanford School of Public Policy, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and Energy Initiative at Duke University. Since its launch in July 2016, the ERC has achieved remarkable growth in the scale and quality of academic research, policy outreach, undergraduate, graduate, and executive education. As of 2020, ERC is composed of 4 faculty members from DKU’s international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) program, 14 faculty from the DKU undergraduate program, as well as 10 Duke faculty members with a secondary appointment.

The ERC is dedicated to evidence-based environmental policy research in five areas: ecology and conservation, environmental economics, environmental governance, environmental science, and environmental health. The ERC laboratory covers an area of ​​249 square meters. It is equipped with a variety of sample storage, processing and analysis equipment such as -80 degrees Celsius ultra-low temperature refrigerator, ultrasonic cleaning machine, nitrogen blower, high performance liquid chromatography and mass spectrometer, etc. Faculty research projects are supported by reputable funding agencies such as the US National Science Foundation (US NSF) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC General Program and Junior Program). Research findings have been published in leading academic journals in environmental science and policy, including PNAS, Nature Communications, Lancet Planet Health, Biological Conservation, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, and many others.

The ERC endeavors to bridge academics and policy by establishing initiatives in three areas: quantitative environmental policy, green finance, and the Belt and Road Initiative. These endeavors have been supported by organizations from multiple sectors, such as the Southern Power Grid Company and David and Lucile Packard Foundation. ERC scholars regularly advise policy makers from Chinese government offices, such as the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and Ministry of Natural Resources.

The ERC provides a hub for faculty, researchers, and students to engage in academic conferences and workshops, which have brought international and domestic speakers to the DKU campus. In 2016-2020, the ERC hosted over 14 international conferences and workshops, 50 seminars, 20 brown bag lunch talks, three salons, and five panel discussions. Experts and scholars cooperate and inspire each other over discussion and research on topics such as energy, climate change, water, ecosystem conservation, environment and public health. These events have attracted over a thousand participants on site and through online live streaming.

Finally, the ERC hosts a booming executive education program that trains entrepreneurs, professionals, and government officials in environmental policy-making skills. In 2018, the ERC partnered with the Packard Foundation, the Paradise Foundation and Yintai Foundation to develop our flagship non-degree training program the Blue Pioneers Program. For the past three years, 60 trainees in total (20 trainees/ year) have received intensive training, taken field trips and completed capstone projects. Under the guidance of more than 20 Chinese and international scientists, non-governmental organization experts and social entrepreneurs, trainees have gained a deeper understanding of marine conservation and NGO-capacity building.