The National Wetlands Research Center had its beginnings in the National Coastal Ecosystems Team, founded in 1975 as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS's) Office of Biological Services. The Team was originally headquartered at Stennis, Mississippi (near Bay St. Louis), on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's rocket-testing site. The mission of the Team was to bridge the gap between researchers and decision makers by gathering, synthesizing, and disseminating information, mostly by using geographic information systems and producing reports such as Coastal Characterizations, Community and Estuarine Profiles, and Species Profiles.
The Team moved its headquarters to Slidell, Louisiana, in 1979. Recognizing the importance of wetland problems nationwide, the USFWS gave the Team a research mission and renamed it the National Wetlands Research Center in 1986. The Center opened field stations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Vicksburg, Mississippi. In 1992, the Center moved its headquarters to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette research park in Lafayette, Louisiana.
Following the move, several organizational changes occurred:
Studies take place primarily throughout the Southeast, Texas, and Mexico, but work is done throughout the Nation and internationally.