UNCW Master’s Student Kyle Woodward Wins NASA Graduate Research Fellowship

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

UNCW graduate student Kyle Woodward ’20M has been awarded a highly competitive research fellowship funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to document changes in vegetation in parts of southern Africa. The $8,000 NC Space Grant Graduate Research Fellowship will allow him to finish his master’s thesis, as well as contribute to the research of his supervisor, associate professor of geography Narcisa Pricope. 

Woodward’s part of the project, and the focus of his master’s thesis, involved flying drones at close range to take photographs of sections of the landscape and putting those images together to create detailed maps showing where vegetation is healthy, where it is in transition and where it is degraded. His objective is to document the relationship of human activities to the type of vegetation cover that exists where they live. 

“People in this region rely directly on natural resources like firewood, building materials, wild foods and medicines to sustain their daily needs,” Woodward said. “However, if these land use activities are not managed sustainably, the iconic savanna ecosystems will become more degraded and will no longer be able to support biodiversity or the people that rely on them for their well-being.” 

Pricope is one of several principal investigators on a National Science Foundation-funded project that seeks to measure household vulnerability to climate and environmental change in an environmentally sensitive five-country conservation area in southern Africa. 

“Kyle’s achievement is a major point of pride for our geospatial program at UNCW,” Pricope said. “After spending seven weeks in the field in southern Africa during summer 2018 through my collaborative, NSF-funded grant, he started his M.S. program in geosciences with a strong background and field experience that enabled him to develop a competitive proposal. This opportunity will propel Kyle on a fantastic career in geospatial sciences, and we are proud to have such strong students in our program.” 

Faculty and student research are foundations of UNCW’s Strategic Plan

-- Tricia Vance