Lyle Varnell homepage

Lyle Varnell

Associate Director for Advisory Services

Email: [[lyle]]
Phone: (804) 684-7764
Office: Watermen's Hall 249
Unit: Office of Research & Advisory Services


My responsibilities and interests involve the nexus of science, policy, regulation, and environmental law.  My research generally follows two tracks, which can overlap: the use of natural form to provide engineering-based approaches to natural resource issues and the understanding of tidal shoreline dynamics as it relates to management and restoration.

The Office of Research and Advisory Services interacts continuously with lawmakers, regulators, engineers, and consultants on issue-specific projects exploiting the marine and estuarine environment.  These interactions help to guide my research interests and also provide a ready outlet for the results of mine and other technical studies.


M.S. Oceanography, 1988, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA

B.S. Biology, 1982, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN

Current Projects
  • Tidal shorelines and the dynamic drivers of effects and responses
  • Documenting the historical development of Virginia’s marine-related natural resource management model and structure
Selected Publications

Varnell, L.M. 2014. Shoreline energy and sea level dynamics in lower Chesapeake Bay: history and patterns. Estuaries and Coasts 37(2), 508-523. DOI 10.1007/s12237-013-9672-6.

Varnell, L.M., C.S. Hardaway and D.A. Milligan. 2010.  Classification of fetch limited dunes in the lower Chesapeake Bay: evidence of morphologic equilibrium.  Journal of Coastal Research 26(4), 63-672.                                              

Varnell, L.M., D.A. Evans, D.M. Bilkovic, and J.E. Olney. 2008.  Estuarine surface water allocation: a case study on the interactive role of science in support of management. Environmental Science & Policy 11, 602-612.

McElfish, J.M., Jr. and L.M. Varnell. 2006. Designing environmental indicator systems for public decisions.  Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 31(1), 45-86.

Varnell, L.M. and C.S. Hardaway, Jr. 2005. A risk assessment approach to management of estuarine dune fields.  Ocean & Coastal Management 48: 767-781.                      

Varnell, L.M., D.A. Evans, and K.J. Havens.  2003.  A geomorphological model of intertidal cove marshes with application to wetlands management.  Ecological Engineering 19(5): 339-347.

Hardaway, C.S., Jr., L.M. Varnell, D.A. Milligan, W.I. Priest, G.R. Thomas, and R.C.H. Brindley.  2002.  An integrated habitat enhancement approach to shoreline stabilization for a Chesapeake Bay island community.  Wetlands Ecology and Management 10(4): 289-302.

Varnell, L.M. 1998. The relationship between inundation history and baldcypress stem form in a Virginia floodplain swamp. Wetlands 18(2): 176-183.

Varnell, L.M. and K.J. Havens. 1995. A comparison of dimension-adjusted catch data methods for assessment of fish and crab abundance in intertidal salt marshes. Estuaries 18(2): 319- 325.

Varnell, L.M., K.J. Havens and C. Hershner. 1995. Daily variability in abundance and population characteristics of tidal salt marsh fauna. Estuaries 18(2): 326-334.