Saving Wetlands from the Ground Up: Understanding the Needs of State Decision-makers To Improve Rapid Wetland Assessment

EPA Grant Number: FP917088
Title: Saving Wetlands from the Ground Up: Understanding the Needs of State Decision-makers To Improve Rapid Wetland Assessment
Investigators: Arnold, Gwendolyn B.
Institution: Indiana University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2010 through August 31, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Water Quality: Hydrogeology and Surface Water


What factors lead state environmental bureaucrats charged with wetland regulation to adopt and successfully implement over time rapid wetland assessment tools?


The fellow investigates why many tools for assessing wetland functions and values exist, yet state wetland managers use such tools infrequently. Only roughly four percent of wetlands nationwide are assessed, leaving policymakers without enough data to improve wetland quality. They will survey and interview wetland managers in five states in the Mid-Atlantic region to identify systematically factors that encourage or prevent states from adopting and implementing scientifically sound wetland assessment tools.


I will survey current and former state wetland regulators in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia concerning their experiences with and perceptions concerning rapid wetland assessment tools used in those states since 1980. Following this broad survey, I will do in-depth interviews with a subset of respondents, as well as with state, regional, and national wetland policy experts and scientists. I also will perform content analysis of the rapid wetland assessment tools to understand how the structure and content of such tools affect their usefulness.

Expected Results:

My findings and analysis will help scientists and policymakers learn how to modify rapid wetland assessment tools so that state wetland managers find them more tractable. My research will help states modify their approaches to wetland monitoring and assessment so that they are able to pursue long-term wetland evaluation. States then will be able to gather over-time data that will help policymakers—who sorely lack data on wetland condition—better protect and improve wetland water quality.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection:

Only about 4 percent of the nation’s wetlands are assessed, leaving policymakers without the data necessary to quantify pollution in these resources or protect them adequately. My research seeks to discover the factors that encourage states to adopt and implement the rapid wetland assessment tools critical to gathering such data. When policymakers understand these facilitative factors, they can foster them. Fostering these factors should then lead to increased use of wetland assessment tools by states, increased wetland data availability, and ultimately more scientifically grounded and comprehensive protection of U.S. wetlands.

Supplemental Keywords:

wetland assessment, environmental monitoring, environmental assessment, wetland policy, bureaucrats, state environmental policy, policy learning,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011
  • 2012
  • Final