College of Arts & Sciences

UNCW Graduate Student Receives WRRI Fellowship to Support Study of Ghost Forests

JANUARY 11, 2023

UNCW graduate student Kendra Devereux has been curious about the natural world her entire life, leading to her interest in science, specifically, climate change and its impact on our world and how we can protect it. Devereux was recently awarded a prestigious $10,000 NC Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) fellowship to support her research of ghost forests.

She grew up near the Chesapeake Bay (an area of ghost forest development), where she first learned of ghost forests and became more interested in them. As Devereux learned more about how climate change and sea level rise cause ghost forest formation, she became motivated to study them and their effects on coastal ecology.

Devereux shares, “Coastal forests provide a critical habitat for many species and also help protect people living near the coast.” She continues, “For example, the forested wetlands that I am studying here in Wilmington help reduce flooding during storms, improve water quality, and control pollution. However, when the trees die and ghost forests form, they are no longer able to provide us with these ecosystem services.” Understanding how these forests respond to sea level rise is important for coastal communities and people living near areas that flood. It is this importance to both the natural and human environments that motivates Devereux to study how forested wetlands become ghost forests. 

Through her research, Devereux is contributing to our understanding of how bald cypress trees react to increasing salinity caused by sea level rise in hopes that learning about bald cypress growth under these conditions can lead to a better understanding of the process of ghost forest formation. 

Devereux anticipates graduating with a Master of Science in marine science in 2024. She is co-advised by Earth and Ocean Sciences Professor Andrea Hawkes and Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Monica Rother who are both proud of Devereux’s early accomplishments.

-ME Frizzell