Molly  Mitchell

Marine Scientist

Email: [[molly]]
Phone: (804) 684-7931
Office: Davis Hall 214
Department: Center for Coastal Resources Management
Program: Wetlands

Education
  • B.S. Biology and Environmental Science, College of William & Mary, 1999
  • M.S. Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, 2003
  • Ph.D. Marine Science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, 2018
Research Interests

My research interests focus on shifts in coastal resources due to the interaction of sea level rise and human-driven changes.  Although primarily an ecologist, I work on projects involving physical dynamics (sea level rise trend analysis, shoreline geology) and human decision making (social vulnerability, sea level rise adaptation, adaptive management application).  Changes in shoreline resources are dependent both on the physical processes that drive the natural dynamics of the coastal system and the way in which humans react to those changes.  Coastal adaptation (shoreline stabilization, flood walls, etc.) change the physical characteristics of the systems and affect the natural adaptations of the ecological system. Understanding the interaction of these different disciplines is critical to projecting the future of our coastal resources.

My current research focus is in three, interrelated categories:

  1. How are sea levels changing along coastlines and what are the factors driving variability between rates of change?
  2. As sea levels rise and humans respond to increased flooding, what changes occur in our coastal resources, particularly in our wetlands and wetland-related ecosystem functions?
  3. How can we adapt to rising sea levels in ways that maximize the sustainability of both the natural and human resources along the coast?

My research is meant to be applied by planners on all levels (local, state, federal, etc.) and across resources (marshes, roads, buildings, etc.) I work with representatives from many different groups to help translate research and current scientific understanding into practical recommendations.

Current Projects
  • Sustainability in Chesapeake Bay shorescapes: climate change, management decisions, and ecological functions. Funded by NSF Coastal SEES.
  • Sea-Level Report Cards: Trends, projections, and processes to aid coastal planning. http://www.vims.edu/research/products/slrc/index.php
  • Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Virginia coastal wetlands to lessen vulnerability to climate change. Funded by EPA.
  • Development of strategies to improve conservation of Virginia headwater wetland ecosystems in the face of climate change. Funded by EPA
  • Chesapeake Bay sustainability: Implications of changing climate and shifting management objectives. Funded by National Science Foundation, Coastal SEES Program.
  • Using created marshes to reduce watershed NPS pollution. Funded by Commonwealth of Virginia.
Publications

Bilkovic, D. M., M.M. Mitchell, K.J. Havens and C. Hershner. In Press. Chesapeake Bay. In World Seas: An Environmental Evaluation, Volume I: Europe, The Americas And West Africa, Second Edition, Elsevier Limited.

Boon, J. D., Mitchell, M., Loftis, J. D., & Malmquist, D. M. (2018) Anthropocene Sea Level Change: A History of Recent Trends Observed in the U.S. East, Gulf, and West Coast Regions. Special Report in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SRAMSOE) No. 467. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary. https://doi.org/10.21220/V5T17T

Loftis, J.D., Mitchell, M., Atkinson, L., Hamlington, B., Allen, T.R., Forrest, D., Updyke, T., Tahvildari, N., Bekaert, D. and Bushnell, M., 2018. Integrated Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Observations for Resilience Planning in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Marine Technology Society Journal, 52(2), pp.68-83.

Mitchell, M., J. Herman, D. M. Bilkovic and C. Hershner. 2017. Marsh persistence under sea-level rise is controlled by multiple, geologically variable stressors, Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, 3:10, DOI: 10.1080/20964129.2017.1396009 (link)

Bilkovic, D. M. and M.M. Mitchell. 2017. Designing living shoreline salt marsh ecosystems to promote coastal resilience. In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection. (Eds: Bilkovic, D. M., M. Mitchell, J. Toft, M. La Peyre) Taylor & Francis Group and CRC Press; CRC Press Marine Science Series.

Beck, A., R.M. Chambers, M.M. Mitchell, D.M. Bilkovic. 2017. Evaluation of living shoreline marshes as a tool for reducing nitrogen pollution in coastal system. In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection. (Eds: Bilkovic, D. M., M. Mitchell, J. Toft, M. La Peyre) Taylor & Francis Group and CRC Press; CRC Press Marine Science Series.

Toft, J.D., Bilkovic, D.M., Mitchell, M.M. and La Peyre, M.K. 2017. A Synthesis of Living Shoreline perspectives. In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection. (Eds: Bilkovic, D. M., M. Mitchell, J. Toft, M. La Peyre) Taylor & Francis Group and CRC Press; CRC Press Marine Science Series.

La Peyre, M.K., Toft, J.D., Mitchell, M.M. and Bilkovic, D.M., 2017. A Primer to Living Shorelines. In Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-based Coastal Protection. (Eds: Bilkovic, D. M., M. Mitchell, J. Toft, M. La Peyre) Taylor & Francis Group and CRC Press; CRC Press Marine Science Series. pp. 3-10. CRC Press.

D.M. Bilkovic, M. Mitchell, R. E. Isdell, M. Schliep, A. Smyth. 2017. Biofiltration potential of ribbed mussel populations along the York River Estuary, Virginia.

Behr, J.G., R. Diaz, and M. Mitchell. Jan 2016. Building Resiliency in Response to Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding: Comprehensive Planning in Hampton Roads. The Virginia News Letter 92 (1): 1-6. PDF

Bilkovic, D.M., Mitchell, M., Mason, P. and Duhring, K., 2016. The Role of Living Shorelines as Estuarine Habitat Conservation Strategies. Coastal Management, pp.161-174.

Boon, J.D. and Mitchell, M. 2016. Reply to: Houston, J.R., 2016. Discussion of: Boon, J.D. and Mitchell, M., 2015. Nonlinear Change in Sea Level Observed at North American Tide Stations, Journal of Coastal Research, 31(6), 1295–1305. (link)

Boon, J. and M. Mitchell. 2015. Nonlinear change in sea level observed at North American tide stations. Journal of Coastal Research, 31(6), 1295–1305. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208. (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 the Coastal Management Journal.

Mitchell, M., W. Stiles, Jr., and T. Hartley. 2014. "Sea Level Rise: A Relentless Reality That Virginia Must Continue to Plan Carefully For," The Virginia News Letter (published by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia), August 2014. PDF

Mitchell, M., J. Herman, and C. Hershner. 2013. Changing Tides, Changing Times in Essex County. Essex Countryside Alliance Magazine. Pg. 42-49. Re-printed in the Rappahannock Times, Jan 29, 2014. PDF

W. Stiles, M. Mitchell, T. Hartley. 2013. The Policy Climate for Climate Change in Virginia: Overview of adaptation policy, planning and implementation landscape. Sea Grant Law and Policy Journal. 5(2):1-14.

Hershner, C. and M. Mitchell. 2013. Rising Tides, Sinking Coast: How Virginia’s coastal communities can adapt to surging sea levels. Virginia Issues & Answers. www.via.vt.edu. Winter 2012-2013: 22-27.

Bilkovic, D.M., Mitchell, M.M. 2013.  Ecological tradeoffs of stabilized salt marshes as a shoreline protection strategy: Effects of artificial structures on macrobenthic assemblages. Ecological Engineering 61: 469–481. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoleng.2013.10.011

Mitchell, M., C. Hershner, J. Herman, D. Schatt, E. Eggington and S. Stiles. 2013. Recurrent flooding study for Tidewater Virginia. Virginia senate document no. 3. Richmond, Virginia. Report. http://ccrm.vims.edu/recurrent_flooding/recurrent_flooding_study_web.pdf.

Bilkovic, D., M. Roggero Mitchell, K. Havens, C. Hershner. 2012. Transitional Wetland Faunal Community Characterization and Response to Precipitation-Driven Salinity Fluctuations. Wetlands 32(3): 425-437. ISSN 0277-5212  DOI:10.1007/s13157-012-0276-x.