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Donald Cahoon, Ph.D.

Donald R. Cahoon, PhD, is a senior research ecologist with the U. S. Geological Survey at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland and an internationally recognized expert in tidal wetland elevation dynamics and wetland vulnerability to climate change effects (e.g., sea-level rise and storms).

He is a Fellow and Past President of the Society of Wetland Scientists.  Trained as a botanist and plant ecologist, he has spent the past 30 years working as a physical geographer.  In 1992 he developed a field method for measuring tidal wetland accretion and elevation dynamics (the surface elevation table – marker horizon (SET-MH) method) that is used by scientists in coastal wetlands throughout the United States and in 32 countries for evaluating the critical driving forces and subsurface processes controlling elevation, and the impact of current management and restoration practices on elevation dynamics and wetland stability.  His research focuses on the processes and external drivers that control wetland elevation dynamics and wetland sustainability across the broad spectrum of coastal environmental settings. 


  • BA, Drew University, 1972, Botany
  • MS, University of Maryland, 1975, Plant Ecology
  • PhD, University of Maryland, 1982, Plant Ecology


  • DOI, Distinguished Service Award, 2017
  • Merit Award, Society of Wetland Scientists, 2011
  • Fellow, Society of Wetland Scientists, 2011
  • President, Society of Wetland Scientists, 1997-1998
  • USGS, Global Change Research Program funding, 1991-present  
  • Star Award: 1998, 2001, 2006, 2009