SciQuilt – Looking Out at the Ghosts of the Coast

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December 23, 2022 by Dr. G

This quilt was selected as part of the juried art exhibit The Changing Chesapeake at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (St. Michaels, Maryland), opening March 1, 2023 and running for one year. Here, I share a video that describes the quilt with the crochet attachment. The video narration including the description included with the quilt on display. The quilt was completed August 8, 2022, and measures 25 inches across by 29 inches in height.

Ghost forests are a topic I have been following closely for years and from different geographic regions. Below is a short read I authored for the Penn State Short Editions Writing Contest (PSU Through the Woods). The writing was selected as a Runner-Up by the Jury. It is available online at the Penn State Short Edition website, and I reproduce it here for a different perspective from when I was among the ghost forests of Louisiana.

Ghost Forests of Louisiana

We slowly headed down a Louisiana bayou in Terrebonne Parish – a small group of scientists and writers sitting comfortably on a boat 26 feet in length named Dos Gris. We came from locations across the globe to the southern Louisiana coast to seek out stories of coastal optimism, stories of hope and resilience in a region known to be subject to extreme weather events and so much more. But at this moment, we were staring across an area of healthy cord grass with skeletons rising above the surface – skeletons of dead trees.

Our guide from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) motioned from the Dos Gris across the viewscape, pointing out tree after tree that once was a part of a community of deciduous woodlands. What happened to these trees that are now just bare trunks with a handful of branches missing their leaves? It’s not a mystery. South Louisiana, especially in regions of the Mississippi River Delta, has been subjected to rising sea level and coastal subsidence. With saltwater now creeping into regions where the plant life relies on freshwater, the new water chemistry acts as a poison to the Bald Cypress and Live Oak – the land becomes too wet and too salty to support healthy coastal woodlands.

It’s difficult to know what was the scariest part of what we were seeing. Is it the overall loss of the native littoral landscape? Or knowing that as sea level continues to rise, there will be more dead trees contributing to the growth of ghost forests? It is projected that coastal forested wetlands on the North American Coastal Plain will be covered in ghost forests within 100 years. We continue down the bayou on the Dos Gris to find stories that are not-so doom-and-gloom…

These photos of the quilt are featured in the above video and certainly reflect the ghost forests we see in any coastal zone.

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