CERL is both a physical center for conducting innovative coastal research as well as an intellectual center for combining capabilities in observational, experimental, and analytical studies of the coast.

The physical location of the lab along one of the most heavily developed and engineered coastlines in the world offers unique opportunities to study the interaction of natural processes with man-made structures along both open coast and sheltered shorelines. The creation and evaluation of innovative coastal protection technologies is conducted through physical modeling studies in the Davidson Laboratory and in-situ field investigations supported by the Marine Operations Group. These research capabilities are supplemented by real-time observations and numerical simulations and forecasts provided by the Marine Observation and Prediction Laboratory to enable robust understanding of the present and future conditions within the coastal zone for coastal hazard analysis, forecasting and response. Of particular value to the CERL are the real-time hydrodynamic and meteorological observations collected along the New Jersey coast as a part of the NJ Coastal Monitoring Network (NJ CMN), and the high-resolution coastal forecasts generated by the New Jersey Coastal Observation and Prediction System (NJCOPS).

The CERL also houses the New Jersey Coastal Protection Technical Assistance Service (CPTAS), a unique resource created to both inform and counsel New Jersey citizens and government officials regarding coastal protection technology, and the Stevens-NOAA New Jersey Sea Grant Cooperative Extension in Coastal Processes, formed to improve the public’s literacy in coastal issues through outreach and education.

Both services draw upon the experience and expertise of researchers at the CERL to develop effective coastal hazard mitigation techniques, and education and outreach methods to ensure informed decisions are made by coastal residents, public officials and coastal interest groups for the mitigation of coastal hazards and improvement of coastal community resilience.