Cassie Gurbisz

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies



I consider myself to be a coastal ecosystem ecologist. Ecosystem ecology takes a holistic approach to studying the environment. It involves integrated investigation of living and nonliving components of ecosystems, how those components interact, and how those interactions affect ecosystem structure and function. I investigate how human stressors, like climate change and nutrient pollution, affect coastal foundation species, such as seagrass (also known as submersed aquatic vegetation, or SAV) and salt marshes. I also investigate how changes in marsh and SAV abundance, in turn, affect coastal ecosystem processes. My goal is to understand the underlying mechanisms of coastal ecosystem decline, recovery, and resilience, and to quantify the effects of ecological change on ecosystem functions, such as nutrient cycling. This is relevant work because many of the functions that SAV and marshes carry out are valuable to people. For example, in the Chesapeake Bay region, federal, state, and local jurisdictions are spending a lot of time and money to reduce nutrient inputs to the estuary through one of the most ambitious coastal restoration programs in the world. Research that aims to understand how human activities affect marshes and SAV, and how these systems, in turn, affect estuarine nutrient cycling, informs these restoration efforts. Prior to joining SMCM, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, a graduate research assistant and ocean science education program manager at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory, and an environmental educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Areas of Research Specialization

  • Coastal and estuarine systems ecology
  • Marsh and seagrass dynamics
  • Ecosystem ecology


  • Ph.D. in Marine, Estuarine, and Environmental Sciences at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 2016
  • B.S. in Environmental Science and Studio Art at Dickinson College, 2005