"The Defense Coastal Estuarine Research Program: Enhancing Ecosystem-Based Management at a Coastal Installation" by Dr. Patricia Cunningham and Dr. Susan Cohen
Department of Defense (DoD) installations will be challenged with managing trade-offs between sustaining military training and meeting ecosystem health management goals under future climate and land use conditions. To balance military training needs and sustainable natural resources management, DoD managers need easy-to-use decision-support tools, models, and other information to assist them with making complex, ecosystem-based management decisions. The Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program (DCERP) conducted integrated research and monitoring and developed models to understand how climate and installation activities affect critical ecosystem processes at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. DCERP investigated ecosystem processes associated with the carbon cycle, nutrient utilization, and sediment transport within the estuarine, salt marsh, coastal barrier and forested environments. DCERP discoveries include identifying drivers of estuarine water quality, management strategies for enhancing salt marsh resilience, the age and movement of Onslow Beach, and the forest carbon storage capacity of different forest management practices. DCERP shared its scientific findings through peer-reviewed publications, presentations to DoD installation managers and regional stakeholders, and technical reports. The DCERP web-based Data and Information Management System further enhanced the transferability of DCERP data and products to DoD managers, stakeholders, and the scientific community.
Dr. Patricia Cunningham is a senior research scientist at RTI International located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Since 2007, her research has focused on ecosystem-based management as part of the Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program conducted at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina. Dr. Cunningham has extensive experience in providing technical support for numerous United States (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality projects. She has assisted several states with point and non-point source water quality issues, developed two national EPA guidance documents and a database on fish advisory issues, managed the development of five EPA National Coastal Condition Reports summarizing estuarine/coastal water quality challenges, and conducted research for the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary Program. She has authored a dozen peer-reviewed research articles and two book chapters on effects of environmental contaminants on marine invertebrates and associated water quality issues. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Wells College in Aurora, New York, and holds both a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in biological sciences from the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. She also held a post-doctoral traineeship at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina as part of the U.S. Public Health Service’s Toxicology Program.
Dr. Susan Cohen is a biologist with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center located in Point Hueneme, California. Since 2008, she has served as the onsite coordinator for the Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program conducted at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Prior to working with DoD, Dr. Cohen worked as a research biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and holds both a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in forestry from North Carolina State University. Dr. Cohen also served in the U.S. Peace Corps as a forestry extension volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1992 to 1995.