Rachel Gittman, Ph.D

Research Associate
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, East Carolina University

Office: Flanagan 2208

Phone: 252-328-9986
Fax: 252-328-4178
Email: gittmanr17@ecu.edu



Ph.D., Ecology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2014

B.S., Environmental Science, Specialization Conservation Biology, University of Virginia, 2006

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in understanding how humans modify the coastal environment and how best to manage or mitigate the ecological consequences of those modifications to sustain ecosystem structure, functions, and services. I am particularly excited about identifying novel approaches for conserving and restoring coastal habitats and supported services in the context of developed coastal areas (e.g. evaluating designs and implementation of living shorelines, testing the methods and criteria for successful ecosystem restoration). Through collaborations with fellow ecologists, social scientists, policymakers, and coastal engineers, I am continuing to explore the ecological and social drivers of coastal development and associated shoreline hardening, as well as identifying ecological, engineering, political, and socioeconomic barriers to the implementation of natural and nature-based alternatives. Additionally, I am currently investigating the role of facilitation and novel materials in determining success or failure of coastal habitat restoration. I am also part of an interdisciplinary and cross-sector working group focused on synthesizing data on coastal habitat restoration projects to inform decision-making and development of achievable metrics and approaches for aligning ecological and social restoration goals.


Keller D.A., Gittman R.K., Bouchillon R., Fodrie F. J. 2017. Life stage and species identity determine whether habitat subsidies enhance or simply redistribute secondary production. Journal of Animal Ecology 00:1–10. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12745

Gittman R.K., Fodrie F.J., Baillie C.J., Brodeur M.C., Currin C.A., Keller D.A., Kenworthy M.D., Morton, J., Ridge J.T., Zhang, Y.S. 2017. Living on the edge: increasing patch size enhances resilience of restored salt marsh to inundation stress. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI 10.1007/s12237-017-0302-6

Fodrie F.J., Rodriguez A.B., Gittman R.K., Grabowski J.H., Lindquist N.L., Peterson C.H., Piehler M.F., and Ridge J.T. 2017. Oyster reefs as carbon sources and sinks. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284: 20170891. DOI: 10.1098.rspb.2017.0891

Grabowski J.H., Conroy C. W., Gittman R.K., Kelley J.T., Sherman S., Sherwood G.D., and Wippelhauser G. 2017. Habitat associations of juvenile cod in nearshore waters. Reviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture. DOI:10.1080/23308249.2017.1328660

Smith C.S., Gittman R.K., Neylan I.P., Scyphers S.B., Morton, J. P., Fodrie F.J., Grabowski J.H., and Peterson, C.H. 2017. Hurricane damage along natural and hardened estuarine shorelines: Using homeowner experiences to promote nature-based coastal protection. Marine Policy 81: 350-358. DOI:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.04.013.

Gittman R.K., Scyphers S.B., Smith C.S., Neylan I.P., and Grabowski J.H. 2016. Ecological consequences of shoreline hardening: a meta-analysis. BioScience 66(9): 763-773. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw091

Gittman R.K., Peterson C.H., Currin C.A., Fodrie F.J., Piehler M.F., and Bruno J.F. 2016. Living       shorelines can enhance the nursery role of threatened coastal habitats. Ecological Applications 26(1): 249-263. DOI: 10.1890/14-0716

Gittman R.K., Fodrie F.J., Popowich A.M., Keller D.A., Bruno J.F., Currin C.A., Peterson C.H., and Piehler M.F. 2015. Engineering away our natural defenses: an analysis of shoreline hardening in the United States. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(6): 301-307. DOI: 10.1890/150065

Gittman R.K., Popowich A.M., Bruno J.F., and Peterson C.H. 2014. Marshes with and without sills protect estuarine shorelines from erosion better than bulkheads during a Category 1 hurricane. Ocean and Coastal Management 102: 94-102. DOI: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2014.09.016

Fodrie F.J., Rodriguez A.B., Baillie C.J., Brodeur M.C., Coleman S.E., Gittman R.K., Kenworthy M.D., Poray A. K., Ridge J.T., Theuerkauf E.J., and Lindquist N.L. 2014. Classic paradigms in a novel environment: inserting food web and productivity lessons from rocky shores and saltmarshes into biogenic reef restoration. Journal of Applied Ecology 51 (5): 1314-1325. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12276.

Rodriguez A.B., Fodrie F.J., Ridge J.T., Lindquist N.L., Theuerkauf E.J., Coleman S.E., Grabowski J.H., Brodeur M.C., Gittman R.K., Keller D.A., and Kenworthy, M.D. 2014. Oyster reefs can outpace sea level rise. Nature Climate Change 4 (6): 493-497. DOI:10.1038/nclimate2216

Gittman R.K. and Keller D.A. 2013. Fiddler crabs facilitate Spartina alterniflora growth, mitigating periwinkle overgrazing of marsh habitat. Ecology 94 (12): 2709-2718. DOI: 10.1890/13-0152.1

Led by East Carolina University (ECU), The Coastal Studies Institute is a multi-institutional research and educational partnership of the UNC System including North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Elizabeth City State University.



Based at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program (NCROEP) advances inter-disciplinary marine energy solutions across UNC System partner colleges of engineering at NC State University, UNC Charlotte, and NC A&T University.  Click on the links below for more information.




ECU's Integrated Coastal Programs (ECU ICP) is a leader in coastal and marine research, education, and engagement.   ECU ICP includes the Coastal Studies Institute, ECU's Department of Coastal Studies, and ECU Diving and Water Safety.


The faculty and staff at the Coastal Studies Institute come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, as well as departments and organizations including ECU Department of Biology, ECU Department of Coastal Studies, NC Sea Grant, the North Carolina Renewable Energy Program, and the UNC Institute for the Environment.


Tour the ECU Outer Banks Campus and learn about the research, education, and engagement projects of CSI and ECU Integrated Coastal Programs through our 360 virtual tour.


The ECU Outer Banks campus is home to the Coastal Studies Institute.
Located on Roanoke Island along the banks of the second largest estuary
in the United States, this coastal campus spans 213 acres of marshes, scrub wetlands, forested wetlands, and estuarine ecosystems.