Dean Saara J. DeWalt
Headshot of Saara DeWalt

Dr. Saara J. DeWalt became dean of the College of Biological Sciences in 2023 after nearly two decades as a member of the faculty of Clemson University where she served in varied leadership and service roles. 

Appointed chair of biological sciences in 2019, Dr. DeWalt led one of Clemson’s largest academic departments, overseeing a broad portfolio of interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate educational programs, research, and outreach activities. She expanded strategic resource development to support enrollment growth in biological sciences while intensifying research productivity. She has overseen focused hiring to attract top faculty in both research and teaching; strengthened advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and increased fundraising for scholarships and fellowships. She worked successfully to strengthen collaborations across the university to advance interdisciplinary biomedical research and has increased engagement with industry and other external partners.

Dr. DeWalt’s academic research as a plant ecologist is globally engaged and cuts across multiple biological sciences disciplines, using ecological and molecular genetic techniques to address a number of questions in population, evolutionary, and community ecology. Her most recent research and publications are focused on understanding plant invasions in temperate and tropical forests, dynamics of hurricane-affected forests in the Caribbean, and rates of biodiversity recovery in second-growth tropical forests. She is a past president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. 

Dr. DeWalt holds a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in biological sciences with a minor in experimental statistics, as well as a B.A. in biology from Brown University. She spent two years as a Huxley Research Fellow at Rice University before joining the faculty at Clemson in 2005.