EPA recognizes VIMS for wetlands work

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recognized VIMS as one of the nation's 25 exemplars of effective wetlands research and management.

The Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM) at VIMS was recognized for helping to develop and apply computer models and GIS tools that allow the Commonwealth's resource managers to better assess wetland condition and value, and to more effectively prioritize wetland restoration efforts.

According to the EPA announcement, the "progressive research strategy and goal-oriented approach" taken by VIMS scientists has allowed them to "make significant strides in the mapping, monitoring, and assessment of Virginia's wetland resources. "They have also worked hard to increase accessibility to information and technological tools gained through their research efforts and facilitate communication between stakeholders."

VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says that EPA's recognition of the CCRM Wetlands Program is well deserved. "CCRM is a real leader in providing advisory services to the Commonwealth of Virginia," notes Wells. "This national recognition is further evidence of the program's value."

The EPA selected its 25 "case studies" of effective wetlands management from current and former recipients of the agency's Wetland Program Development Grants. VIMS has successfully competed for these grants from the onset of the EPA grant competition in 1990.

CCRM Director Dr. Carl Hershner notes that "EPA's grant program has helped us accomplish a primary goal in the advisory service we provide to the Commonwealth—bringing the latest scientific understandings about natural resources directly to the regulatory process."

CCRM scientists initially used EPA funding to support their basic research into the function and value of Virginia's wetland resources. They then used the funding to develop "hydrogeomorphic" models (HGMs) for different wetland types in Virginia. These models allow scientists to assess a wetland's physical, chemical, and biological functions based on the source of its water, its position in the landscape, and how water flows within it.

VIMS has now developed HGMs for hardwood mineral flats, forested depressional, woody depressional and forested headwater wetlands, and is working with Maryland and Delaware to draft a regional woody depressional wetland model. The EPA notes that these models will "prove invaluable as the HGM method for assessing wetlands becomes more integrated in federal and state wetland management."

CCRM was also recognized as a leader in using geographic information systems (GIS) as a "targeting tool" for selecting sites for wetland mitigation and restoration. GIS tools allow Virginia's land-use planners and government officials to make informed decisions on wetland mitigation and restoration based on a wetland's physical characteristics, land-use context, and ecological value.

As part of the College of William and Mary, VIMS was the only university-based program to receive EPA recognition. In addition to VIMS, the EPA recognized 10 state agencies; 5 tribes; 3 multi-agency work groups; 2 counties; 1 state park; and 2 non-government organizations.

For more on the Center for Coastal Resources Management at VIMS, visit For more on the other EPA wetland examplars, visit