Story+ Project

Unearthing Duke Forest


Story+ 2022 | Unearthing Duke Forest

Overview The ecological history of Duke Forest is embedded within the human history of plantation agriculture, fueled by violent chattel slavery. Hallmark insights about river ecology, biodiversity, community succession, and climate change have come from research in Duke Forest, but what are the conditions that have allowed such research to take place? How does the historical context of the land and people on it affect knowledge production? What stake do researchers have in that history?

Story+ Project Unearthing Duke Forest is an interdisciplinary endeavor begun in fall 2020 to investigate the broader historical conditions through which research in Duke Forest has been rendered possible. Through the creation of a public outdoors exhibit at the Robeson Mill site at Duke Forest, we hope to highlight those peoples that have been displaced, removed, or expunged from the Forest’s archive. This Story+ project will explore the intertwined histories of people, of land, and of scientific inquiry in Duke Forest. Over the course of the summer, students will engage with an archive of documents — ranging from censuses to plat surveys to scientific publications — as well as with the forest itself, a living archive. Students will synthesize their findings into a digital exhibit that will accompany future interpretive signage within Duke Forest.

This team has already secured a graduate project manager so will not be reviewing graduate mentor applications at this time.

Project Sponsor(s): 

Kathleen Donahue, Duke Biology

Christina Chia, Duke Franklin Humanities Institute

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Anita Simha, Ph.D. candidate in Biology


Sara Norton, Madison Hill (MFA student), Destinee Mackey (NCCU)

Courtesy Duke Forest Photo Collection


  • Environment
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • History
  • Mapping