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Donna Bilkovic

Donna Marie Bilkovic

Research Associate Professor of Marine Science, Center for Coastal Resources Management

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



Watershed Facility

(804) 684-7331

Research Website

VIMS Faculty Page



Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the ecology of estuarine and coastal shallow water environments and habitat use of coastal fishes. A central goal of my research is to support the development of restoration/conservation strategies and decision-tools for coastal ecosystems. Much of my recent research has been aimed at improving our ability to quantify the effect of multiple coastal stressors, such as land use, shoreline and climate change, on nearshore fish and benthic communities and their habitats. Better understanding of the mechanisms and processes that control and link terrestrial and aquatic resources will aid in the management and conservation of critical ecosystem functions and services. During the past several years, I have developed and applied integrative indices for measures of fish community integrity in the estuarine nearshore, and quantified ecological thresholds of shoreline and riparian development. Throughout, I have pursued the development and use of geospatial tools such as GIS and spatial analysis to evaluate and model living marine resources and their associated habitats with management applications. This includes the application of spatially-explicit approaches to identify, evaluate and quantify habitat suitability for estuarine fauna. In addition, I co-manage a derelict trap removal program that strives to link research, management and commercial interests (watermen) to address marine debris in Virginia.

See web page for current research interests.


Current Projects

Foundation for future development of by-catch reduction strategies for commercial and recreational blue crab fisheries: Diamondback terrapin habitat mapping. 2011-2012. Funded by Virginia Sea Grant. CO-PI with Randy Chambers, Matthias Leu and Kirk Havens.

Marine Science Studies in the James River, Virginia in the Vicinity of Shirley Plantation. 2011. Funded by Shirley Plantation, LLC. Co-PI with S. Kuehl and C. Hobbs.

Ecological and erosion protection functions of Chesapeake Bay living shorelines. 2010-2012. Funded by Chesapeake Bay Trust.

Facilitation of the development of a prototype integrated ecological assessment approach for the Chesapeake Bay. NOAA Chesapeake Bay Program. October 2007-October 2008. $30,000, Co-PI with C. Hershner.   

Assessing the potential for climate-driven changes in Virginia's shallow tidal water habitats. NOAA Chesapeake Bay Program. October 2007-September 2008. $120,000, Co-PI with C. Hershner and M. Berman. 

The influence of spatial arrangement of habitats on fish communities within Mobjack Bay, Virginia, Phase 1, 2007-2008. NOAA-CBO. $167,745, Co-PI with K. Havens and M. Berman

Atlantic sturgeon spawning habitat on the James River. 2007-2009. NOAA-CBO, $20,000, and USFWS, Nov 2005-May 2006, $9,945

Development and testing of gear modification for blue crab pots to reduce crab and by-catch mortality by derelict crab pots, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, December 2007-December 2008, $50,978 Co-PI with Kirk J. Havens

Affects of Ghost Crab Pots in the Chesapeake (VA), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, December 2006-December 2007, $35,000, Co-PI with K. Havens

Determination of the feasibility of using side scan sonar surveys to locate abandoned or “ghost” fishing gear, and the potential impacts of marine debris in Virginia Coastal waters. NOAA Chesapeake Bay Program, Oct 2005-Mar 2006, $60,000. Co-PI with C. Hershner and K. Havens

Shallow water fish communities and coastal development stressors in the Lynnhaven River. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Aug 2006-Aug 2007, $134,695, Co-PI with D. O’Brien (project)

Ecosystem approaches to aquatic health assessment:  linking subtidal habitat quality, shoreline condition and estuarine fish communities. NOAA-CBO, March 2005-May 2006, $100,000. Co-PI with C. Hershner.

Atlantic Slope Consortium-Estuarine and Great Lakes Indicator Development Projects (ASC-EAGLES). Development of ecological indicators for the integrated assessment of aquatic ecosystems of the Atlantic Slope in the Mid-Atlantic States; Cooperative project with Penn State, Smithsonian, and East Carolina University.  EPA-STAR, 2001-2005, $6.0 million, (VIMS portion $1.2 million), Co-PI with C. Hershner., K. Havens, M. Berman.


Select Publications

K. J. Havens, D.M. Bilkovic, D. Stanhope, and 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.

Bilkovic, D. M. 2011. Response of tidal creek fish communities to dredging and coastal development pressures in a shallow-water estuary. Estuaries and Coasts. 34(1): 129-147  DOI: 10.1007/s12237-010-9334-x (published online August 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. 

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. Derelict Blue Crab Trap impacts on marine fisheries in the lower York River, Virginia. N. Am J. of Fish. Manag. 28(4):1194-1200. (.pdf)

J.E. Olney, Bilkovic, D.M., C.H. Hershner, L.M. Varnell, H. Wang and R.L. Mann. 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

Bilkovic, D.M., M. Roggero, C.H. Hershner, and K. Havens. 2006. Influence of land use on macrobenthic communities in nearshore estuarine habitats. Estuaries and Coasts 29(6B): 1185-1195.

Havens, K., C. Hershner, D.M. Bilkovic and D.H. Wardrop.  2007. Assessment of Chesapeake Bay Program Selection and Use of Indicators.EcoHealth. 4(2):187-193. (publication)

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. (publication)

Contributing author to: Brooks, R.P., D.H. Wardrop, K.W. Thornton, D. Whigham, C. Hershner, M.M. Brinson and J.S. Shortle, eds.  2006.  Integration of ecological and socioeconomic indicators for estuaries and watersheds of the Atlantic Slope.  Final Report to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency STAR Program, Agreement R-82868401, Washington, DC.  Prepared by the Atlantic Slope Consortium, University Park, PA.  96pp.+ attachments (CD). (publication)

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. (publication)

Bilkovic, D.M., C.H. Hershner, M.R. Berman, K.J. Havens and D.M. Stanhope.  December 2004. Evaluating Estuarine Indicators of Ecosystem Health in the Nearshore of  Chesapeake Bay. In S.A. Bortone (ed.). Estuarine Indicators. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida. (publication)

Bilkovic, D.M. and 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 Fish. Manag. 22(4):1176-1192. (publication)

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. (publication)

Bilkovic, D.M.  2000.  Assessment of Spawning and Nursery Habitat Suitability for American Shad (Alosa sapidissima) in the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Rivers. Doctoral Dissertation. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point.  (publication)

 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.         


Recent Presentations

Bilkovic, D.M. and M.M. Roggero, "Living Shoreline Monitoring", CCRM Presentations: What's Up? CCRM Update, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, November 4, 2010.

D.M. Bilkovic, 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.

D.M. Bilkovic, 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. and M.M. Roggero.  Coastal development impacts on nearshore estuarine nekton communities.  The 137th Annual American Fisheries Conference.  September 2-6, 2007. San Francisco, California. Presentation

Bilkovic, D.M. and M.R. Berman. Shallow Water Use Studies and Shoreline Inventory. June 2007. Presented to the The Lynnhaven Ecosystem Restoration Project, led by U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Project

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.  (Coastal development impacts on biological communities in the Chesapeake Bay: Examples from the Atlantic Slope Consortium)

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. (presentation)

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.

Olney, J.E., D.M. Bilkovic, C.H. Hershner, L.M. Varnell, H. Wang, and R.L. Mann. Six fish and 600,000 Thirsty Folks; A Fishing Moratorium on American Shad Thwarts a Controversial Municipal Reservoir Project in Virginia, USA ; Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, VA. A poster presented at the 4th World Fish Congress in Vancouver, BC, Canada, May 2004.


Professional Affiliations

  • Chesapeake Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committe (STAC), Alternate

  • American Fisheries Society, 1999-present

  • Early Life History Section of AFS, 2002-present

  • American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 1999-2000

  • Ecological Society of American, 1999-present

  • Atlantic Estuarine Research Society, present