Donna Marie  Bilkovic

Research Associate Professor

Email: [[donnab]]
Phone: (804) 684-7331
Office: Wetlands/Watershed Facility 106
Department: Center for Coastal Resources Management
Program: Watershed
Webpage: {{}}

Curriculum Vitae

Donna Bilkovic's CV

  • B.S. Biology, University of Michigan
  • M.S. Biology, University of Michigan
  • Ph.D. Marine Ecology, Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Research Interests

A central goal of my research is to support the development of restoration/conservation strategies and decision-tools for coastal ecosystems.  I have worked on multiple aspects of the ecology of coastal habitats and assemblages with particular attention to 1) interacting roles of natural and anthropogenic perturbations and species composition, diversity, and distribution, 2) the assessment of environmental consequences of various anthropogenic impacts – emphasizing coastal development, habitat loss and fragmentation, and marine debris, 3) the conservation and management of coastal habitats, shorelines, and assemblages.  

My research on the effects of coastal development, including shoreline hardening and riparian land use conversion, on nearshore habitats and fish and invertebrate communities has led to substantive changes in how shorelines are managed. In Chesapeake Bay, this research was used to inform recommendations (and ultimately legislation) to limit the use of hardening for shoreline protection. I also co-managed a derelict fishing gear removal program that strove to link research, management and commercial interests (watermen) to address marine debris in Virginia. 

My current research efforts are focused on 1) improving our understanding of social-ecological feedbacks that erode or strengthen coastal habitat resilience, 2) the use of nature-based approaches for shoreline erosion control (living shorelines) and their role as estuarine habitat conservation strategies, 3) the need for decision-support prioritization tools that integrate habitat function and connectivity into conservation and restoration targeting, 4) strengthening science-based shoreline and wetland management guidelines, and 5) worldwide reform in marine debris management.

Current Projects
  • Sustainability in Chesapeake Bay shorescapes: climate change, management decisions, and ecological functions. 2016-2020. Funded by NSF Coastal SEES.
  • Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Virginia coastal wetlands to lessen vulnerability to climate change. 2016-2019. Funded by EPA.
  • Development of strategies to improve conservation of Virginia headwater wetland ecosystems in the face of climate change. 2014-2017. Funded by EPA
  • Regional Impact Assessment of Derelict Fishing Gear in the Chesapeake Bay. 2014-2016. Funded by NOAA
  • Chesapeake Bay sustainability: Implications of changing climate and shifting management objectives. 2013-2015. Funded by National Science Foundation, Coastal SEES Program.
  • Using created marshes to reduce watershed NPS pollution. 2013-2014. Co-PI with R. Chambers (W&M) and A. Beck. Funded by Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • Ecological and erosion protection functions of Chesapeake Bay living shorelines. 2010-2011. Funded by Chesapeake Bay Trust.
  • Foundation for future development of by-catch reduction strategies for the blue crab fishery: diamondback terrapin habitat mapping. 2011-2012. VA Sea Grant.
Selected Publications
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, M. Schliep, R. Isdell, A. Smyth. 2017. Mutualism between ribbed mussels and cordgrass enhance salt marsh nitrogen removal. Ecosphere 8(4):e01795. (link)

  • Bilkovic, D.M., M.M. Mitchell. 2017. Designing living shoreline salt marsh ecosystems to promote coastal resilience. Chapter In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection In D.M. Bilkovic, M. Mitchell,  M. La Peyre, and J. Toft  (eds), CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.(link)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, J. Toft, M. La Peyre. 2017. A Primer to Living Shorelines. Chapter In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection In D.M. Bilkovic, M. Mitchell,  M. La Peyre, and J. Toft  (eds), CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Toft, J. Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, M. La Peyre. 2017. A Synthesis of Living Shoreline Perspectives. Chapter In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection In D.M. Bilkovic, M. Mitchell,  M. La Peyre, and J. Toft  (eds), CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Beck, A.J., R.M. Chambers, M.M. Mitchell, D.M. Bilkovic. 2017. Evaluation of living shoreline marshes as a tool for reducing nitrogen pollution in coastal systems. In D.M. Bilkovic, M. Mitchell,  M. La Peyre, and J. Toft  (eds), Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

  • Kornis, M., D. Breitburg, R. Balouskus, D.M. Bilkovic, L. Davias, S. Giordano, K. Heggie, A. Hines, J. Jacobs, T. Jordan, R. King, C. Patrick, R. Seitz, H. Soulen, T. Targett, D. Weller, D. Whigham, J. Uphoff Jr.  2017. Linking the abundance of estuarine fish and crustaceans in nearshore waters to shoreline hardening and land cover. Estuaries and Coasts DOI:10.1007/s12237-017-0213-6.

  • M. Kornis, D.M. Bilkovic, L.A. Davias, S. Giordano, and D.L. Breitburg. 2017. Shoreline hardening affects nekton biomass, size structure and taxonomic diversity in nearshore waters, with responses mediated by functional species groups. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI: 10.1007/s12237-017-0214-5. (link)

  • Du, J., Shen, J., D.M. Bilkovic, C.H. Hershner, and M. Sisson. 2017. A numerical modeling approach to predict the effect of a storm surge barrier on hydrodynamics and long-term transport processes in a partially mixed estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 40:387-403.

  • Corso, A.D., Huettenmoser, J.C., Trani, O.R., Angstadt, K., Bilkovic, D.M., Havens, K.J., Russell, T.M., Stanhope, D. and Chambers, R.M.. 2017. Experiments with by-catch reduction devices to exclude diamondback terrapins and retain blue crabs. Estuaries and Coasts, DOI: 10.1007/s12237-017-0223-4.

  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, J. Davis, E. Andrews, A. King, P. Mason, J. Herman, N. Tahvildari, J. Davis. 2017. Review of boat wake wave impacts on shoreline erosion and potential solutions for the Chesapeake Bay. STAC Publication Number 17-002, Edgewater, MD. 68 pp. (link)

  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, P. Mason, K. Duhring. 2016. The role of living shorelines as estuarine habitat conservation strategies. Special Issue (Conserving Coastal and Estuarine Habitats) in Coastal Management Journal 44:161-174. (link)

  • Scheld, A, D.M. Bilkovic, K. Havens. Jan 2016. The Dilemma of Derelict Gear. Nature Scientific Reports 6:19671.

  • Isdell, R.E., R.M. Chambers, D.M. Bilkovic, M. Leu. 2015. Effects of terrestrial–aquatic connectivity on an estuarine turtle. Diversity and Distributions, 1–11.(link)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., K. Havens, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt. 2014. Derelict fishing gear in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia: Spatial patterns and implications for marine fauna. Marine Pollution Bulletin 80:114-123. (link)
  • Horan, J., D. Bilkovic, N. Gardner, J. Greiner, L. Karrh, K. Sellner, Q. Stubbs. 2014. Designing Sustainable Coastal Habitats. STAC (Chesapeake Bay Program Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee) Publ. #14-003), Edgewater, MD. 74 pp.(pdf)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M.M Mitchell. 2013. Ecological tradeoffs of stabilized salt marshes as a shoreline protection strategy: effects of artificial structures on macrobenthic assemblages. Ecological Engineering 61:469-481.(link)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., K. Havens, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt. 2012. Use of fully biodegradable panels to reduce derelict pot threats to marine fauna. Conservation Biology 26(6): 957–966.(link). This research was featured in Scientific American (link)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M.M. Mitchell, C.H. Hershner, K.J. Havens. 2012. Transitional wetland faunal community characterization and response to precipitation-driven salinity fluctuations. Wetlands 32:425437.
  • Havens K.J., D.M. Bilkovic, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt. 2011. Fishery failure, unemployed commercial fishers, and lost blue crab pots: An unexpected success story.  Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 14, Issue 4, Pages 445-450. (link)
  • Bilkovic, D.M. 2011. Response of tidal creek fish communities to dredging and coastal development pressures in a shallow water estuary. Estuaries & Coasts. Volume 34(1):129147. (pdf)This research was featured in Coastal & Estuarine Science News (CESN, Nov 2010)
  • Havens K.J., D.M. Bilkovic, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt. 2009. Location, location, location: the importance of cull ring placement in blue crab traps. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 138:720-724.
  • Perry, J., D.M. Bilkovic, K. Havens, and C. Hershner. 2009. Tidal Freshwater Marshes of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. In Tidal Freshwater Wetlands, pp. 157-166. Eds: A. Barendregt, D.F. Whigham, A.H. Baldwin; Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands. (link)
  • Bilkovic, D.M. and M. Roggero. 2008. Effects of coastal development on nearshore estuarine nekton communities. Marine Ecology Progress Series  358:27-39. (pdf)
  • K.J. Havens, D.M. Bilkovic, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt, and C. Hershner. 2008. The effects of derelict blue crab traps on marine organisms in the Lower York River, Virginia. N.Am. J. of Fish. Manag. 28(4):1194-1200. (pdf)
  • Olney, J.E., D.M. Bilkovic, C.H. Hershner, L.M. Varnell, H. Wang, R.L. Mann. March 2008. Six Fish and 600,000 Thirsty Folks - A Fishing Moratorium on American Shad Thwarts a Controversial  Municipal Reservoir Project in Virginia, USA. In Nielsen, J., J. Dodson, K. Friedland, T. Hamon, N. Hughes, J. Musick, and E. Verspoor, editors. Proceedings of the Fourth World Fisheries Congress: reconciling fisheries with conservation. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 49, Bethesda, Maryland. 1,946 pages/2 volumes.(pdf)
  • L. Varnell, D.M. Bilkovic, J. Olney, D. Evans, H. Wang, C. Hershner, R. Mann. 2008. Estuarine surface water allocation: A case study on the interactive role of science in support of management. Environmental Science and Policy 11(7):602612. (link)
  • Havens, K.J. C. H.Hershner, D.M. Bilkovic and D.H. Wardrop. 2007. Assessment of Chesapeake Bay Program Selection and Use of Indicators. EcoHealth. 4(2): 187-193.(pdf)
  • Wardrop, D.H., C. Hershner, K. Havens, K. Thornton and D.M. Bilkovic. 2007. Developing and communicating a taxonomy of ecological indicators: A case study from the Mid-Atlantic. EcoHealth. 4(2):179-186. (pdf)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Roggero, C.H. Hershner, K.H. Havens. 2006. Influence of land use on macrobenthic communities in nearshore estuarine habitats.  Estuaries & Coasts 29(6B):1185-1195. (pdf)
  • Contributing author to “A manager’s guide to indicator selection”. 2006. Published by U.S. EPA Offic of Research and Development, Washington D.C. EPA/600/S-06/002.(pdf)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., C.H. Hershner, M.R. Berman, K.J. Havens and D.M. Stanhope. December 2005.  Evaluating Estuarine Indicators of Ecosystem Health in the Nearshore of Chesapeake Bay. In S.A.  Bortone (ed.). Estuarine Indicators. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida.(link)                                                                                                   
  • Bilkovic, D.M., C.H. Hershner and J.E. Olney. 2002. Macroscale assessment of American shad Spawning and nursery habitats in the Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers.  North American Journal of Fisheries Management 22(4): 1176-1192.(pdf)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., J. E. Olney and C. H. Hershner. 2002. Spawning of American shad (Alosa sapidissima) and striped bass (Morone saxatilis) in the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers, Virginia. Fishery Bulletin 100(3): 632-640.(pdf)
  • Bilkovic, D.M., J. T. Lehman.  1997.  Lipid concentration and size variation of Bythotrephes cederstroemi (Cladocera: Cercopagidae) from Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan.  Journal of Great Lakes Research. 23(2): 151-161.
  • Lehman, J.T., D.M. Bilkovic, C. Sullivan.  1997.  Predicting development, metabolism, and secondary production for an invertebrate predator BythotrephesFreshwater Biology 38: 343-352.

D.M. Bilkovic (Lead editor), M. Mitchell, M. LaPeyre, and J. Toft (eds). 2017. Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection. CRC Marine Science Series, CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group. (link)

Recent Presentations
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, R. Isdell, M. Schliep, and A. Smyth. Mar 2017. Mutualism between Guekensia demissa and Spartina alterniflora enhances salt marsh nitrogen removal: implications for living shorelines. 109th Annual Meeting of the National Shellfisheries Association. Knoxville, TN.
  • Bilkovic, D.M.*, M. Mitchell. Aug-Sep 2016. Designing living shoreline salt marsh ecosystems to promote coastal resilience. Session: The Role of Living Shorelines as Habitat Conservation Strategies. 5th International EcoSummit Congress, EcoSummit 2016. Montpellier, France.
  • Bilkovic, D.M.,K.Havens, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt. Nov 2014. Derelict fishing gear in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia: Spatial patterns and implications for marine fauna. Session: Derelict Fishing Gear:Impacts and Solutions, Restore America’s Estuaries 7th National Summit on Coastal and Estuarine Restoration and 24th Biennial Meeting of the Coastal Society, National Harbor, MD.
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell. March 30-April 2, 2014. Potential for living shorelines to augment biogenic habitat in soft-bottom estuaries. Invited speaker to the 106th Annual Meeting of the National Shellfisheries Association. Jacksonville, Florida
  • Bilkovic, D.M. Jan 15, 2014. Chesapeake Bay living shorelines: Ecological attributes and trade-offs. Invited speaker to Science of Living Shorelines webinar, hosted by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and NOAA's Estuarine Reserves Division.
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M.Mitchell. December 10-11, 2013. Ecological attributes and trade-offs of living shorelines . Invited speaker to Mid-Atlantic Living Shoreline Summit. Cambridge, MD
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell. March 30-April 2, 2014. Potential for living shorelines to augment biogenic habitat in soft-bottom estuaries. Invited speaker to the 106th Annual Meeting of the National Shellfisheries Association. Jacksonville, Florida
  • Bilkovic, D.M., C. Hershner, M. Berman, K. Havens. April 16-17, 2013. Coastal wetland status and trends in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Invited speaker to STAC sponsored workshop – Designing Sustainable Coastal Habitats. Easton, Maryland
  • Bilkovic, D.M. April 11, 2013. Habitat provision of marsh-sills in relation to natural & hardened shorelines – Helping to Inform Public Policy. Invited speaker to the Living Shoreline Site Visit and Discussion organized by Interagency Coastal Wetlands Workgroup (EPA, USACOE, NOAA, USFWS, NRCS, USGS) in cooperation with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Restore America’s Estuaries, Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability, Albemarle-Pamlico Estuary Partnership, & N.C. Coastal Federation. Edgewater, Maryland
  • Bilkovic, D.M., K.Havens, D. Stanhope, K. Angstadt. February 27-28, 2013. Marine Debris: Commercial Fishing Gear in Virginia Waters. Invited speaker to the Virginia Marine Debris Summit held at Virginia Beach, Virginia.
  • Bilkovic, D.M., C. Hershner, M. Berman. September 19-20, 2012. Vulnerability of coastal habitats in Virginia to climate change. Invited speaker to the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), NOAA, EPA, Water RF, CTC workshop – Adaptation Strategies and Information Needs in Response to Extreme Events: Virginia Tidewater Case Study. Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, C. Hershner. March 21–24, 2012. Ecological trade-offs of living shoreline erosion control approaches. 41st Benthic Ecology Meeting. Norfolk, Virginia. Presenter and Session Chair.
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Mitchell, C. Hershner. November 6-10, 2011. Ecological threshold responses by estuarine fauna to shoreline development with potential management solutions. 21st Biennial Conference of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, Daytona Beach, Florida. Session SCI-061 - Multidisciplinary Evaluations of Ecosystem Services at the Regional Scale. Session Co-Chair with M. Russell
  • Bilkovic, D.M., M. Berman, C. Hershner, D. Schatt. October 20-24, 2008. Climate change induced shifts in shallow tidal water habitats in the Chesapeake Bay. 5th World Fisheries Congress. Yokohama, Japan 
  • Bilkovic, D.M., K. Angstadt, D. Stanhope, February 23-25, 2009. Identification of suitable spawning substrate for Atlantic sturgeon with acoustic technologies. Seaboard Fisheries Institute 1st Symposium on Atlantic Sturgeon - A Regional Approach to Atlantic Sturgeon Recovery. Newark, Delaware
  • Bilkovic, D.M., other ASC researchers.  Coastal development impacts on biological communities in the Chesapeake Bay- Examples from the Atlantic Slope Consortium. December 2006.Living Shorelines Summit. Bringing together diverse perspectives to address shoreline protection alternatives, Williamsburg, Virginia. Keynote speaker. 
  • Bilkovic, D.M., C.H. Hershner, D.M. Stanhope and K.T. Angstadt. Ecosystem approaches to aquatic condition assessment:  linking subtidal habitat, shoreline condition and estuarine fish communities. Session: SPS-19 Innovative Techniques for Assessing Fish and Invertebrate Habitat Linkages in Estuaries and Coastal Systems.  The 18th Biennial Conference of the Estuarine Research Federation. October 16-20, 2005. Norfolk, Virginia.
  • Bilkovic, D.M., C.H. Hershner, K.J. Havens, M.R. Berman, D.M. Stanhope and L.Varnell. June 20-25, 2004. Assessment of Linkages between Nearshore Habitat and Estuarine Fish Communities in the Chesapeake Bay. ECSA37-ERF2004. Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Amanda Guthrie, Ph.D.
  • Jim DelBene, M.S. (co-advisor with A. Scheld)
  • Robert Isdell, Ph.D. (co-advisor with C. Hershner)
  • David Perkey, Ph.D. (committee member)
  • Pamela Braff, M.S. (committee member)
  • Karinna Nunez, Ph.D. (committee member)
  • Abbey Humphreys, M.S. at College of William & Mary (committee member), graduated 2017
  • Emily Egginton, M.S. (committee member)
  • Robert Isdell, M.S. at College of William & Mary (committee member), graduated 2013
  • Cielomar Rodriguez, Ph.D. (committee member), graduated 2014
  • Mary Huang, Ph.D. (committee member), graduated 2011
Professional Affiliations
  • Chesapeake Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committe (STAC), 2010-present
  • American Fisheries Society
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Atlantic Estuarine Research Society