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Susan Cohen

Associate Director, UNC Institute for the Environment


Susan Cohen has been the associate director of the Institute for the Environment at UNC Chapel Hill since 2018. Prior to coming to IE, she worked for the federal government for more than 20 years, first at the USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina) and later for the Department of Defense at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina. Cohen’s expertise is in adaptive management across southeastern ecosystem types, with a focus on coastal forests and marshes. She particularly loves working in systems adapted to fire. Her work has always tried to bring solutions for environmental problems that challenge managers and natural resource professionals charged with stewardship, conservation, and restoration. She focuses on taking basic science and bringing it to end-users to bridge the critical gap between research and management. Cohen also served in the U.S. Peace Corps as a forestry extension volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1992-1995. Her favorite tree is the amazing longleaf pine!

Cohen stood up the Carolina Drone Lab in 2019, which incorporates the use of remote sensing, in particular drones, to understand and monitor ecosystems from new perspectives. In addition to leading research initiatives (like using drones to study marshes in Currituck Sound or infested hemlock trees), the Lab helps groups establish drone programs and trains new pilots.

In addition to her research, Cohen works with campus partners on the Carolina Tree Heritage Program, taking the oldest and most important heritage trees that come down on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus and turning them into furniture. Sales of items support student internships.



Ph.D., Forestry, North Carolina State University, 2008

M.S., Forestry, North Carolina State University, 1998

B.S., Anthropology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 1991