Michael J. Kennish
Emeritus, Faculty
Professor Emeritus

Full CV | Two Page CV

Research Interests

Marine Ecology, Marine Geology, Anthropogenic Impacts on Estuarine and Coastal Marine Environments

My primary research interests are investigating anthropogenic impacts on estuarine and coastal marine environments, as well as coastal watersheds, and developing remedial measures to improve ecosystems. As an ecosystem scientist, I conduct basic and applied research on the structure and function of these environments, concentrating on the development and application of innovative methods to assess ecosystem condition and to mitigate the impacts of natural and anthropogenic stressors. This research includes determination of the natural and anthropogenic drivers of change in coastal ecosystems and the dynamics of environmental forcing factors that generate imbalances in community structure and ecosystem function. The work is multidisciplinary in scope and often employs key water quality and biotic indicators of environmental condition to develop new measures of ecological assessment and to delineate the overall ecological health of these environments. It forms the scientific foundation for ecosystem-based management. I am also engaged in the study of climate change effects on estuarine, wetland, and coastal ecosystems, as well as coastal communities, most notably those in New Jersey. All of this work has resulted in the following publications: 14 scholarly books (author or editor), more than 175 articles in peer-reviewed science journals and other publications (author or co-author), and 9 compendium peer-reviewed science journal special issues (editor).

Short History

I received B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from Rutgers University and became a visiting professor at Rutgers’ Cook College in 1988. I subsequently joined the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University in 1990. I have a long history of conducting studies on a wide range of coastal problems such as the effects of watershed development and climate change (on estuaries and nearshore ocean waters), coastal storms and flooding, resilience of coastal wetlands, wastewater discharges, habitat loss and alteration of aquatic systems, nutrient enrichment and eutrophication, hypoxia and anoxia, organic pollution, chemical contaminants, overfishing, invasive species, watercraft effects, dredging and dredged material disposal, freshwater diversions, calefaction of estuarine waters, entrainment and impingement of electric generating stations, and human use of coastal space and aquatic systems. I also have conducted investigations on the biology and geology of mid-ocean ridge and hydrothermal vent systems. In addition, I have been active for many years in the outreach of science to coastal communities and K-12 schools.

Teaching Efforts

Hydrothermal Vents (Undergraduate Course, 1992-2014)
Byrne Seminar (Jersey Shore and Estuary Environments, 2015-2018)
Guest Lectures (Introduction to Oceanography)


I have been active for many years in the outreach of science to coastal communities and K-12 schools in New Jersey. This activity has included the participation in many community and environmental conferences, workshops, seminars, and other functions that discuss the measures needed to improve environmental conditions of the coastal zone. A considerable amount of my service activity the past few years has been advising and informing coastal communities in New Jersey affected by Superstorm Sandy and other major storms. In this regard, I have worked directly with the coastal communities of Pt. Pleasant, Seaside Heights, Brick, Toms River, Manahawkin, Little Egg Harbor, and elsewhere in New Jersey on assessment of coastal storms and flooding impacts, environmental and community sustainability, and restoration and resilience.

Select Publications

Kennish, M. J. 2019. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System: A review of research and monitoring initiatives. Open Journal of Ecology, 9(3):50-65.

Kennish, M. J. and E. J. Buskey (eds.). 2018. The National Estuarine Research Reserve: An Integrated Network of Research and Monitoring Sites Supporting Coastal Zone Management. Estuaries and Coasts, Special Thematic Issue, Volume 41(1): 25-113. ISSN:1559-2723.

Meixler, M. S., M. J. Kennish, and K. F. Crowley. 2018. Assessment of plant community characteristics in natural and human-altered coastal marsh ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts, 41:52-64. DOI:10.1007/s12237-017-0296-0.

Kennish, M. J., G. P. Sakowicz, and B. Fertig. 2016. Recent trends of Zostera marina (eelgrass) in a highly eutrophic coastal lagoon in the mid-Atlantic region (USA). Open Journal of Ecology, 6:243-253. DOI:10.423/oje.2016.65025.

Kennish, M. J. (ed.). 2016. Encyclopedia of Estuaries. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 760 pp. ISBN: 978-94-017-8800-7.

Kennish, M. J., M. J. Brush, and K. A. Moore (eds.). 2014. Drivers of Change in Shallow Coastal Photic Systems. Estuaries and Coasts, Volume 37, Supplement 1, 242 pp. ISSN 1559-2723.

Kennish, M. J., A. Spahn, and G. P. Sakowicz. 2014. Sentinel site development of a major salt marsh system in the Mid-Atlantic region (USA). Open Journal of Ecology, 4:77-86 DOI:10.4236/oje.2014.43010.

Kennish, M. J. and B. Fertig. 2012. Application and assessment of a nutrient pollution indicator using eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary, New Jersey. Aquatic Botany, 96:23-30.

Kennish, M. J. 2012. Restoration of Estuaries. Nature (Education), 3(11):1-5.

Kennish, M. J. and V. N. de Jonge. 2011. Chemical introductions to the systems: Diffuse and nonpoint source pollution from chemicals (nutrients: eutrophication). In: M. J. Kennish and M. Elliott, eds., Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science, Vol. 8, Human-induced Problems (Uses and Abuses). Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science, Elsevier, Oxford, England, pp. 113-148.

Kennish, M. J. and H. W. Paerl. 2010. Coastal lagoons: Critical habitats of environmental change. In: M. J. Kennish and H. W. Paerl, eds., Coastal Lagoons: Critical Habitats of Environmental Change. Taylor and Francis, CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, pp. 1-15.

Kennish, M. J., S. B. Bricker, W. C. Dennison, P. M. Glibert, R. J. Livingston, K. A. Moore, R. T. Noble, H. W. Paerl, J. M. Ramstack, S. Seitzinger, D. A. Tomasko, and I. Valiela. 2007. Barnegat Bay- Little Egg Harbor Estuary: case study of a highly eutrophic coastal bay system. Ecological Applications, 17(5) Supplement:3-16.

Kennish, M. J. (ed.). 2007. Eutrophication of Estuarine and Shallow Coastal Marine Systems. Ecological Applications, Special Issue, Volume 17(5), 196 pp.

Kennish, M. J. 2002. Environmental threats and environmental future of estuaries. Environmental Conservation, 29:78-107.

Kennish, M. J. 2001. Coastal salt marsh systems in the U.S.: a review of anthropogenic impacts. Journal of Coastal Research, 17:731-748.