Shannon Cunniff

Deputy Director, Water Program

Areas of expertise: Ecosystems, rivers and deltas, water engineering, natural infrastructure, climate resilience, coastal protection


Building on her 27 years working for the federal government at the intersection of water resources engineering and environmental policy, Shannon Cunniff leads EDF’s natural coastal infrastructure program. In this capacity, Shannon develops strategies for accelerating the creation of engineering design guidance for natural infrastructure to ensure both engineering and environmental success and expanding means for financing restoration of natural infrastructure.

As deputy director of EDF’s water program, Shannon also:

  • Conducts research and develops strategic plans and tactics for EDF’s water and natural infrastructure programs
  • Organizes and runs workshops and trainings on coastal community climate adaptation solutions
  • Provides advice on working with federal agencies to resolve issues and secure action
  • Develops campaign goals, objectives, strategies and work plans
  • Writes grant proposals and prepares reports to funders

Prior to EDF, Shannon worked at the U.S. Department of Defense as the executive director for Chemical and Material Risk Management, where she guided development and implementation of the Department’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Shannon’s government service included numerous senior positions in which she was responsible for a variety of water resources, environmental and science policy issues.

Most relevant to her current EDF responsibilities, Shannon was the deputy director of the Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee, formed by the White House in the wake of the 1993 Midwest floods, to address national policy and program implementation issues related to flooding and flood risk management.

Shannon also worked at the Bureau of Reclamation, where she managed research and policy programs; addressed environmental, water supply, and energy challenges; and for several years, worked on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration.

Shannon also served as the Environmental Protection Agency’s national expert on federal water resources programs and as EPA’s liaison to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency. She also led EPA’s oversight of the National Environmental Policy Act compliance by federal water and energy agencies.

Early in her career, Shannon worked on coastal and water resource projects as a district ecologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


  • Executive Director, Chemical and Material Risk Management, Department of Defense
  • Director, Research and Natural Resources, Bureau of Reclamation
  • Director, Policy, Bureau of Reclamation
  • Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Department of the Interior
  • Deputy Director, Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee, Office of Management and Budget/Council on Environmental Quality
  • Chief, Water and Energy Team, Office of Federal Activities, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Chief Ecologist, Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


  • University of California, Los Angeles: Masters of Arts in Geography
  • University of California, Los Angeles: Bachelor of Arts in Biology


  • "The time to start is now: How implementing natural infrastructure solutions can improve and protect our coasts." Shore & Beach. Winter 2016.
  • "Performance of Natural Infrastructure and Nature-based Measures as Coastal Risk Reduction Features.With Aaron Schwartz. September 2015.
  • "Making Sense of the Changing Global Supply Landscape: New Rules and Reformulations”. With Dr. Carole LeBlanc. Defense AT&L. July/August 2011. Pg. 16-20.
  • The Mission Case for DoD Sustainability”. With David Asiello. LiveBetter eMagazine. March/April 2011.  
  • Controlling Acquisition Risks via Scanning for Emerging Contaminants”. With David J. Asiello. Defense AT&L. July/August 2009. Pg. 22-27.
  • “Identifying Emerging Contaminants”. The Military Engineer. Vol 101. No. 657. January/February 2009. Pg. 45-46.
  • “California – DoD Prioritization Protocol to Address Perchlorate”. With Laurie Racca, Clare Mendelsohn, John Bishop, Baha Zara, and Rick Moss. EM - The Magazine for Environmental Managers. December 2008.
  • “Emerging Contaminants: a new frontier for the Department of Defense”. EM – The Magazine for Environmental Managers. October 2007. Pg. 6.
  • Book Review of Greening of the US Military: Environmental Policy, National Security, and Organizational Change. Survival. Issue 4. 2007. Pg. 169.
  • Perchlorate: Challenges and Lessons”. With R.J. Cramer and H.E. Maupin. Pg. 1-14 in Baobua, G. and Coates, John D.  in Perchlorate – Environmental Occurrence, Interactions, and Treatment. 411 pg. Springer Press. 2006.
  • “Reflections on Leadership”. Women in Natural Resources. Vol 21. Number 1. Fall. 1999.
  • “Use of RiverWare to Assist Floodplain Management”. With D. Frevert and T. Fulp. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association of State Floodplain Managers. 1999.
  • What’s Happened in Floodplain Management since the 1993 Mississippi Flood?” With Gerry Galloway, John Kelmelis, Michael Robinson, Harold Shoudy. Natural Hazards Observer. Volume XXII. No. 5. 1998.
  • Stream Corridor Restoration Handbook. 1998. (with 14 federal agencies as authors).
  • “The Future of Federal Water Resource Development”. With J. Bernard, D. Brady, and P. Christiansen. Conference on Management of Landscapes Disturbed by Channel Incision. 1997.
  • “The Nexus of Agency Reinvention and Water Resource Management: Incorporating a watershed approach into agency activities”. Watershed '96
  • “Meeting the Water Resource Management Challenges of the 1990sIndian Journal of Water and Power. Spring 1996.
  • “Water Resources Partnerships”. Western Wetlands and Water Quality Workshop. 1995.
  • Sharing the Challenge: Floodplain Management Into the 21st Century. Report of the Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee. June 1994.
  • “The National Environmental Policy Act and Watershed Management”. Watershed '93.
  • Joint USACE/EPA Guidance Documents for Dredged Material (With Palermo, Mathis, Wilson, Southerland, Chase) in Proceedings of the 26th Annual Dredging Seminar and Western Dredging Association XIV Annual Meeting. May 25-28, 1993.
  • Implementation of Habitat-based Evaluations: Issues and Concerns. Coastal Zone '87. 5th Symposium on Coastal and Ocean Management.
  • “Multi-scalar Analysis of Barrier Beach Vegetation”. U.S. Navy's 1983 Mugu Lagoon/San Nicholas Island Ecological Research Symposium.
  • The Invasion and Ecology of the Marine Weed, Sargassum muticum”. 1983 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers.
  • Reconnaissance of Barrier Beach Vegetation at Point Mugu, California. 1982 Graduate Student Meeting of the California Botanical Society.
  • Shannon Cunniff

    Shannon Cunniff


Washington, D.C. office

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202-572-3382 (office)
202-553-2543 (cell)
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