Mark J. Brush

Mark J. Brush

Associate Professor

Email: [[brush]]
Phone: (804) 684-7402
Interests: Coastal systems ecology; ecosystem models
Office: Andrews Hall 334F
Department: Biological Sciences
Address: P.O. Box 1346 Gloucester Pt., VA 23062-1346, USA

Research Web Site
  • B.S., Cornell University, 1995
  • Ph.D., University of Rhode Island, 2002
Research Interests

“Each day as the sun rises and retires the beautiful green bays like great creatures breathe in and out.”  - Howard T. Odum (1956)

I am a coastal systems ecologist and modeler.  Systems ecology is the study of ecosystems as holistic entities made up of multiple interacting components, and seeks to understand ecosystem function by application of quantitative tools including empirical data analysis and simulation modeling.  We strive to maintain a balance between observational-based ecological investigations and synthetic, interdisciplinary ecosystem modeling.  Our research program focuses on the ecology of estuaries and lagoons, and spans a range of scales from large estuaries like Chesapeake Bay to sub-estuaries like the York River to very shallow systems like the lagoons of the Delmarva Peninsula.  We are particularly interested in systems with a diversity of primary producers (e.g. phytoplankton, benthic microalgae, macroalgae, SAV, and epiphytes), their response to nutrient enrichment or reduction, the processes leading to algal blooms and hypoxia / anoxia, the processes controlling ecosystem metabolism, and the processes of eutrophication and oligotrophication.  Work in our lab has also involved modeling of watershed loads and linking lower trophic level models to those for higher trophic levels including fish and shellfish to understand system responses to multiple stressors operating at both ends of the food chain (i.e. bottom-up and top-down controls).  The models we develop tend to follow an alternative, reduced-complexity approach that incorporates a combination of mechanistic, empirical, and statistical functions for the purpose of (1) heuristic study of ecosystem structure and function and (2) application of models to address management questions. 

Current Projects
  • Enhanced assessment and modeling of nitrogen removal associated with restored oyster reefs in Harris Creek, MD. The Nature Conservancy and Oyster Recovery Partnership, 2015-2017. PIs: Kellogg, M.L., J.C. Cornwell, and M.J. Brush.

  • Alteration of carbon fluxes by intense phytoplankton blooms in a microtidal estuary. NSF – Biological Oceanography, 2018-2020. PIs: Anderson, I.C., M.J. Brush, B. Song, and K.S. Reece.  
Selected Publications (last 7 years)
  • Brush, M.J. and S.W. Nixon. 2017. A reduced complexity, hybrid empirical-mechanistic eutrophication and hypoxia model for shallow marine ecosystems. Chapter 4 in: Justic, D., K.A. Rose, R.D. Hetland, and K. Fennel (eds.), Modeling coastal hypoxia: numerical simulations of patterns, controls and effects of dissolved oxygen dynamics. Springer.

  • Crosswell, J.R., I.C. Anderson, J.W. Stanhope, B. Van Dam*, M.J. Brush, S. Ensign, M.F. Piehler, B. McKee, M. Bost, and H.W. Paerl. 2017. Carbon budget of a shallow, lagoonal estuary: transformations and source-sink dynamics along the river-estuary-ocean continuum. Limnology and Oceanography 62(S1):S29–S45.

  • Murphy*, A.E., K.A. Emery, I.C. Anderson, M.L. Pace, M.J. Brush, and J.E. Rheuban. 2016. Quantifying the effects of commercial clam aquaculture on C and N cycling: an integrated ecosystem approach. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-016-0106-0

  • Brush, M.J. and L.A. Harris. 2016. Ecological modeling. Pp. 214-223 in: Kennish, M.J. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Estuaries. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series, Springer Netherlands.

  • Ganju, N.K., M.J. Brush, B. Rashleigh, A.L. Aretxabaleta, P. del Barrio, J.S. Grear, L.A. Harris, S.J. Lake, G. McCardell, J. O’Donnell, D.K. Ralston, R.P. Signell, J.M. Testa, and J.M.P. Vaudrey. 2016. Progress and challenges in coupled hydrodynamic-ecological estuarine modeling. Estuaries and Coasts 39:311–332.

  • Fields*, L., J. Mercer, K.J. Hyde, M.J. Brush, S.W. Nixon, C.A. Oviatt, M.L. Schwartz, D. Ullman, and D. Codiga. 2015. A comparison of surface chlorophyll, primary production, and satellite imagery in two adjacent hydrographically different sounds off Southern New England, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 535:29–45.

  • Lake*, S.J. and M.J. Brush. 2015. Modeling estuarine response to load reductions in a warmer climate:  the York River Estuary, Virginia, USA. Marine Ecology Progress Series 538:81–98.

  • Lake*, S.J. and M.J. Brush. 2015. Contribution of nutrient and organic matter sources to the development of periodic hypoxia in a tributary estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 38:2149–2171.

  • Brush, M.J. 2014. Dedication: Dr. Scott W. Nixon (1943–2012). Special issue on Shallow Coastal Photic Systems, Estuaries and Coasts 37 (Suppl 1):S1–S2.

  • Anderson, I.C., M.J. Brush, M.F. Piehler, C.A. Currin, J.W. Stanhope, A.R. Smyth, J.D. Maxey, and M.L. Whitehead. 2014. Impacts of climate related drivers on the benthic nutrient filter in a shallow photic estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 37 (Suppl 1):S46–S62.

  • Jarvis*, J.C., M.J. Brush, and K.A. Moore. 2014. Modeling loss and recovery of Zostera marina beds in the Chesapeake Bay following repeated disturbance events: the role of seedlings and seed-bank viability. Aquatic Botany 113:32-45.

  • Kennish, M.J., M.J. Brush, and K.A. Moore (eds). 2014. Drivers of change in shallow coastal photic systems.  Estuaries and Coasts 37 (Suppl 1).

  • Kennish, M.J., M.J. Brush, and K.A. Moore. 2014. Drivers of change in shallow coastal photic systems: an introduction to the special issue. Estuaries and Coasts 37 (Suppl 1):S3–S19.

  • Moran, S.B., S.L. Stachelhaus, R.P. Kelly, and M.J. Brush.  2014.  Submarine groundwater discharge as a source of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus to coastal ponds of southern Rhode Island.  Estuaries and Coasts 37:104-118.

  • Lake*, S.J., M.J. Brush, I.C. Anderson, and H.I. Kator. 2013. Internal versus external drivers of periodic hypoxia in a coastal plain tributary estuary:  the York River, Virginia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 492:21-39.

  • Sturdivant*, S.K., M.J. Brush, and R.J. Diaz. 2013. Modeling the effect of hypoxia on macrobenthos production in the lower Rappahannock River, Chesapeake Bay, USA. PLoS ONE 8(12): e84140. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084140.

  • Giordano*, J.C.P., M.J. Brush, and I.C. Anderson.  2012.  Ecosystem metabolism in shallow coastal lagoons:  patterns and partitioning of planktonic, benthic, and integrated community rates.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 458: 21–38.

  • Harris, L.A. and M.J. Brush. 2012. Bridging the gap between empirical and mechanistic models of aquatic primary production with the metabolic theory of ecology: An example from estuarine ecosystems. Ecological Modelling 233:83-89.

  • Lake*, S.J. and M.J. Brush.  2011.  The contribution of microphytobenthos to total productivity in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.  Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 95:289-297.

  • Giordano*, J.C.P., M.J. Brush, and I.C. Anderson.  2011.  Quantifying annual nitrogen loads to Virginia’s coastal lagoons: sources and water quality response.  Estuaries and Coasts 34:297–309.

  • Lynch*, P.D., M.J. Brush, and R.J. Latour.  2011.  Simulated short-term impacts of the Atlantic menhaden reduction fishery on Chesapeake Bay water quality.  North American Journal of Fisheries Management 31(1):70-78.

*  Student author

Current Students
  • Shanna Williamson, M.S. student
Past Students
  • Sara Blachman, M.S. 2016
  • Britt Dean, M.S. 2016
  • Michael Kuschner, M.S. 2015
  • Emily Skeehan, M.S. 2015, co-advised with Dr. Carl Hershner
  • Sam Lake, Ph.D. 2013
  • Brittani Koroknay, M.S. 2012
  • Lance Gardner, Ph.D. 2012
  • Heather Wiseman, M.S. 2010
  • Juliette Giordano, M.S. 2009, co-advised with Dr. Iris Anderson
Courses Taught
  • MSCI 331 – Coastal Marine Environments (co-instructor)
  • MSCI 503 – Interdisciplinary Research in Estuarine and Coastal Systems
  • MSCI 649 – Modeling Biological and Ecological Systems
  • MSCI 650 – Estuarine Ecology (co-instructor with Dr. Linda Schaffner)
  • MSCI 698 – Eutrophication Through the Macroscope: the Life and Legacy of Scott W. Nixon
Faculty and Student Awards
  • 2016 Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence, College of William and Mary
  • 2016 Keynote speaker, Spring meeting, Atlantic Canada Coastal and Estuarine Science Society
  • 2013 VIMS Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award
  • 2012 Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP, DoD) Project of the Year for Resource Conservation and Climate Change, awarded to the Defense Coastal/Estuarine Research Program (DCERP)
  • 2011 Keynote speaker, 11th International Estuarine Biogeochemistry Symposium
Professional Memberships
Collaborative and Interdisciplinary Efforts
  • Editorial Board/Associate Editor for:  Biogeochemistry (2012-15), Estuaries and Coasts (2013-present), Journal of Sea Research (2010-15)

  • Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS) Program Committee Chair (2009-2011), President-Elect (2011-2012), President (2012-2014), Past President (2014-2015), Nominations Chair (2015-present)

  • Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF) Education Committee (2010-2014), Governing Board (2012-2014), Ad Hoc Governance Task Force (2014-15), Affiliate Society Presidents Committee (2014-present, co-chair), Member-at-Large (2015-19)

  • Advisory service to local, state, regional, and national management agencies in the Chesapeake region and VA, NC, and RI

  • Technical Review Panel, Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone Modeling Technical Review Meeting, 2013

  • Long Island Sound Study (LISS) Systemwide Eutrophication Model (SWEM) Model Evaluation Group, 2012-13