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Environmental Science at AU

Students and professor, wearing gloves and holding a bucket, work outside in a lake

Our Masters and undergrad BA and BS programs train students to become effective advocates for the environment. The curriculum consists of rigorous science- and policy-based courses and experiential learning that prepare our students for exciting careers in the environmental field.

At a time when the United States federal government appears indifferent to, or even hostile towards, responsible and forward-looking environmental stewardship, the Department of Environmental Science recommits itself to advancing informed, knowledge-based approaches to confronting local and global environmental concerns.

Our Community: Sustainability


See some of the ways AU and CAS students and faculty pursue sustainability.


In the Media

Sergio Morales (Environmental Science) and Jennah McDonald (Biology), were part of the SEA Semester voyage that discovered good news regarding coral health in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Their discovery was featured in the New York Times. Accompanied by 21 other undergraduates, SEA Semester faculty, and researchers from the New England Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Sergio and Jennah gathered data on the health of the islands' coral reef ecosystem in order to recommend policy implementations to the PIPA management office in Kiribati—all while sailing as active crewmembers aboard a tall ship research vessel.

Selected Publications

Kwon, Min Jun, C. Tudge, K. Kim, D. Baker, S. MacAvoy. in press. Museum collections yield information on nitrogen sources for coastal Gulf of Mexico, North Carolina, USA and Caribbean Sea invertebrates 1850 to 2004. Journal of Shellfish Research.

Sydney Mucha, Glenn Williamson and Stephen E MacAvoy. (2018). Pollution Reduction in Throughflow from Vegetated and Non-vegetated, Foam-Based Surfaces and Green Roofs. Nitrogen 1: 21-33.

MacAvoy SE, N Cortese, J Cybulski, A Hohn, SA Macko. 2017. Sources of stable isotope variation among stranded Western Atlantic dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in North Carolina. Marine Mammal Science DOI: 10.1111/mms.12425.

Niemiller ML, ML Porter, J Keany, H Gilbert, DW Fong, DC Culver, CS Hobson, KD Kendall, MA Davis, SJ Taylor. 2017. Evaluation of eDNA for groundwater invertebrate detection and monitoring: a case study with endangered Stygobromus (Amphipoda: Crangonyctidae). Conservation Genetics Resources

Leonardo da Costa Sousa, Mingjie Jin, Shishir Chundawat, Vijay Bokade, Xiaoyu Tang, Ali Azarpira, Fachuang Lu, Utku Avci, James Humpula, Nirmal Uppugundla, Christa Gunawan, Sivakumar Pattathil, Albert Cheh, Ninad Kothari, Rajeev Kumar, John Ralph, Michael G. Hahn, Charles E. Wyman, Seema Singh, Blake A. Simmons, Bruce E. Dale and Venkatesh Balan, (2016) Next-generation ammonia pretreatment enhances biofuel production from biomass via simultaneous cellulose decrystallization and lignin extraction. Energy & Environmental Science 9, 1215-1223

Roger Cooke, Alexander Golub, Bruce A. Wielicki, David F. Young, Martin G. Mlynczak & Rosemary R. Baize. 2016. Using the social cost of carbon to value earth observing systems. Climate Policy DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2015.1110109

Gardner, J.R., T.R. Fisher, T.E. Jordan and K.L. Knee. 2016. Balancing watershed nitrogen budgets: accounting for biogenic gases in streams. Biogeochemistry, in press. This article was profiled in Shorelines, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's blog.

Kim K (2016) Diseases of Octocorals. Pp 410-415, in Diseases of Corals. C Woodley et al. (eds) Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken NJ

Kim K & K Rypien (2016) Aspergillosis of Caribbean Sea Fan Corals, Gorgonia spp. Pp 236-241, in Diseases of Corals. C Woodley et al. (eds) Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken NJ

Faculty awards

MacAvoy, Stephen. NASA DC Space Grant Consortium.  2017. "Development of a biomonitoring system to assess water quality using an interdisciplinary approach". (co-PI with Prof. Connaughton).  Award amount; $5,250

MacAvoy, Stephen. USGS Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) 2017.  Examination of nutrient and land use patterns in the tidal Anacostia River.  Award amount; $10,000

Alonzo, M. G., "Mapping boreal forest structure and composition using fine-scale lidar and hyperspectral data from the G-LiHT Airborne Imager," NASA, Federal. Received $123,636. Awarded 2017.

Alonzo, M. G., "Expanding Access to Data-Intensive Remote Sensing Algorithms through Collaboration with the Socio-Environmental Research Community," Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (NSF), Federal. Received $89,126. Awarded 2017.

Kim, K. and  Knee K.    “Identifying Hotspots of Nitrogen Pollution in Saipan”. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 2017-2019. $62,736. Funded.

2015 NOAA - Fisheries Habitat Conservation Program Office, Resource Inventory, Resilience, and Historical Change of Reef: Flat Communities Within the Manell-Geus Watershed, Guam's Habitat Focus Area (Kim K Co-PI, $58,988)

MacAvoy, Stephen. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, through Washington DC Fire and Emergency Management Service. 2012-2015. "Nutrient, TSS and Organic Carbon Reduction Associated with Aqualok". Award amount: $64,526 total. Year 1 (2012/13) $25,902; Year 2 (2013/14) $16,313; Year 3 (2014/15) $22,311.


Abbie Veitch

Achievements ·

Abigail Veitch ’21 Awarded Udall Scholarship

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Portrait of Cheldina Jean

Achievements ·

Cheldina Jean Named 2020 President’s Award Winner

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Workers clean plastics out of a river

Science ·

Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay

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Cheldina Jean

Cheldina Jean won the prestigious Udall Scholarship. 38 were awarded out of 384 applicants. Jean is a FUND II UNCF STEM scholar who majors in environmental science and minors in statistics and chemistry. She is passionate about becoming an environmental toxicologist, developing remediation products for environmental clean-ups and improving the quality of life of people in developing countries who are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation.

Avery Williams, MS '21 has won the prestigious The Garden Club of America, 2019 GCA Zone VI Fellowship in Urban Forestry for the project: “Using High-Resolution Satellite Data to Track Phenological Shifts of Urban Vegetation for Individual Tree Scale Analyses.” She will be working on this project with Professor Michael Alonzo and the award comes with a $5000 research stipend.

Jenna Wiegland stands with two people in front of a "" banner

Jenna Wiegand (MS expected 2019) received the Veronique Pittman Award at Less Cancer's Cancer Prevention Day at the Rayburn House Office Building.

Annika Barth

Annika Barth received the Academic Achievement Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research or Creative Work by a Senior! She worked with the Biogeochemistry, Ecosystems, and Climate Group at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory through Princeton University's Cooperative Institute for Climate Science. Her project was related to physiological impacts of ocean acidification on fish.

Jiana Blaha wears scuba gear underwater

Jiana Blaha was selected for the 2019 Academic Achievement Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research or Creative Work by a Junior! Her research uses stable isotope analysis to determine growth rates of the mangrove trees. She also recently participated in a field expedition to Saipan where she worked with Professors Knee and Kim on understanding sources and pathways of nitrogen pollution entering the ocean.

Reaching Out to Reduce Impact

I hope people see the merit of what we’re doing & are inspired to join the fight

As a Student Sustainability Educator, I like finding out what people are interested in, and then catering to those interests. The environment affects everybody, and it's really our job to show people the way in which it affects them. It helps that people are very receptive at AU, so I don't have a hard time engaging with people.

Find out how you can get involved with Sustainability at AU.

Watch: AU's Department of Environmental Science


Learn more about the Department of Environmental Science at American University's College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty and students discuss what sets this program apart from others.