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Stephen MacAvoy Department Chair, Environmental Science Environmental Science

Send email to Stephen MacAvoy
(202) 885-3003 (Office)
CAS - Environmental Science
Beeghly - 104
M/Th 9:45-11:45AM
Additional Positions at AU
Graduate Program Advisor, Department of Environmental Science
Working in biogeochemistry and ecology, Professor MacAvoy has been particularly interested in areas where marine and freshwater systems interface such as those that appear in tidal aquatic environments. Dr. MacAvoy is also interested in how nutrients flow through and are utilized by aquatic ecosystem components. Research and consulting activities have taken him to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in a submersible as well as less exotic locations such as Barbados. Stephen MacAvoy obtained his PhD from the University of Virginia in 2000 and conducted post-doctoral work at the University of Georgia. He joined the faculty of American University in 2003 and became Chair of the Department of Environmental Science in 2016. Recent publications have appeared in Applied Geochemistry, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Ecological Engineering and Marine Mammal Science. He is currently conducting research on the geochemistry of the Anacostia River, Washington DC USA as well as climate change resilience among aquatic invertebrates.
See Also
Biology Department
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • American Geophysical Union
    Member (1998-present)

  • American Society of Limnology and Oceanography
    Member (1997-1999)

  • American Fisheries Society
    Member (1994-1995, 2001-2002)

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

I am currently involved in examining where and how organics in the Anacostia River (Washington DC) originate and are transformed. I am also working on models that can describe how organisms incorporate nutrients of different quality and how that is related to metabolic rate. For many years now I have been interested in the role of migrating river herring as marine nutrient vectors to freshwater systems.

Grants and Sponsored Research

SPONSORED RESEARCH: EXTERNAL GRANTS RECEIVED: Approximately $172,000 in external funding since 2006 (*pending renewal).

  • USGS Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI). 2014/15. "Geochemical characteristics of an urban river: detecting the influences of an urban landscape" Award amount; $15,000
  • National Fish and Wildlife Service, through Washington DC Fire Department. 2012-2014. "Nutrient, TSS and Organic Carbon Reduction Associated with Aqualok". · Award amount; $45,215.. Year 1 (2012/13) $25,902; Year 2 (2013/14) $16,313
  • USGS Water Resources Research Institute. 2012/13 "Episodic changes in water chemical composition and nutrient loading in the Anacostia River". Award amount; $15,000
  • USGS Water Resources Research Institute. 2011/12. "Hormone disruption and environmental pollutants in Anacostia and Potomac River fish, Washington DC". Award amount; $15,000
  • USGS Water Resources Research Institute 2010/11. "Determination of Seasonal Source Variation of Hydrocarbons, Fatty Acids, Organics and Nutrients in the Anacostia River: stable isotope ratios of individual compounds" Award amount; $15,000
  • Cave Conservancy of Virginia: 2007/08. Metabolic Differences between Surface and Cave Amphipods: The Evolution of Life Style Differences. Award amount $10,000.
  • Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI)  2008/09. Assessing the distribution of synthetic organics and the degradation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons in the Anacostia river through microbial and stable isotope studies (co-PI with Prof. Bushaw-Newton). Award amount $15,000.
  • Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI)  2006/07. Nutrient flow and biological dynamics in the Anacostia River (CO-PI with Karen Bushaw Newton). Award amount $15,000.
  • American University Mellon Grant:  2006. Marine nutrient contributions to two tidal creeks in Virginia: spawning marine fish as nutrient vectors to freshwater ecosystems. Award amount $2,000

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Outstanding Teaching Award: Biology Department, American University (ENVS 581 Environmental Science II), Fall 2008 (for Spring 2008 term)
  • Outstanding Teaching Award: Biology Department, American University (BIO 240 Oceanography), Fall 2008 (for Spring 2008 term)
  • Outstanding Teaching Award: Biology Department, American University (BIO 396/696; Environmental Geology), Spring 2008 (for Fall 2007 term
  • Outstanding Teaching Award: Biology Department, American University (BIO 499; Senior Seminar, Fall 2005 (for Spring 2005 term)
  • Trout Unlimited Award: For outstanding contributions to cold water fisheries research.

Work In Progress

  • MacAvoy SE, Ewers E, Bushaw-Newton K. in review. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. A Biogeochemical Survey of the Anacostia River, Washington DC.E
  • Eushaw-Newton KL, Ewers E, C. S. Fortunato CS, Ashley JT, D. Velinsky DJ, SE MacAvoy. Microbial diversity snapshots from sediments of the Anacostia River. in prep for Applied Microbiololgy

Selected Publications

  • MacAvoy SE, Katie Plank, Sydney Mucha and Glenn Williamson.  2016.  Effectiveness of foam-based green surfaces in reducing nitrogen and suspended solids in an urban installation.  Ecological Engineering 91: 257-264
  • Kraeer K, L Arneson, SE MacAvoy. in press. The intraspecies relationship between tissue turnover and metabolic rate in rats. Ecological Research.
  • Connor NC, Sarraino S, Frantz D, Bushaw-Newton K, MacAvoy SE. 2014. Geochemical characteristics of an urban river: influences of an anthropogenic landscape. Applied Geochemistry 47:209-216.
  • MacAvoy SE, S Lazarov, K Kraeer and L Arneson. (2012). Sex and strain differences in isotope turnover rates and metabolism in mice (Mus musculus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 90(8): 984-990.
  • Bushaw-Newton KL, Ewers E, Fortunato CS, Ashley JT, Velinsky DJ, SE MacAvoy. (2012). Bacterial community profiles from sediments of the Anacostia River using metabolic and molecular analyses. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 19 (4): 1271-1279. Appeared in electronic format, Nov 2011: DOI: 10.1007/s11356-011-0656-4
  • Hanson N, M. Fogel, D Fong, SE MacAvoy. (2010). Marine nutrient transport: anadromous fish migration linked to the freshwater amphipod (Gammarus fasciatus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 88:546-552.
  • MacAvoy SE, Garman GC, Macko SA. (2009). Anadromous fish as marine nutrient vectors. Fish. Bull. 107:165-174.
  • MacAvoy SE, Morgan E, Carney RS, Macko SA. 2008. Chemoautolithotrophic production as a fuel for heterotrophs in hydrocarbon seeps: an examination of mobile benthic fauna and seep residents. Journal of Shellfish Research 27(1), 153-161

Professional Presentations

  • 2/14/07 American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA" Biogeochemical snapshot of an urban water system: The Anacostia River, Washington DC" S.E. MacAvoy*, E. Ewers, and KL Bushaw-Newton
  • 9/5/06 University of Virginia, Department of Environmental Science, "Exploring the Deep-sea communities of the Gulf of Mexico"
  • 4/21/06 Virginia Commonwealth University, Center for Environmental Studies, Rice Collaborators Group. "Anadromous fish as nutrient vectors to tidal freshwater: seasonal pulse utilized by primary producers and consumers"
  • 10/5/04 Fairfield University, Environmental Studies Program, Seminar Series (honorarium). "Mysteries of the Deep Ocean: Life Without Light"
  • 10/12/01 Georgetown University, Biology Department (honorarium) “Life without light: Exploring the trophic interactions among chemosynthetic and heterotrophic fauna in the Gulf of Mexico”

Media Appearances

  • FOX NEWS CHANNEL 5, WTTG TV, 9/18/2006. Fish used to detect attacks on water supply
  • National Public Radio, Morning edition. 10/2/2006.  Interview about snakehead catfish in the DC area.

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

fracking, hydrocarbons, effects of acid rain on fish, petroleum disasters, drilling in Gulf of Mexico

Additional Information

MacAvoy researches freshwater coastal fisheries and pollution; deep sea ocean resources; and urban water/runoff and combined sewage outflow in Washington, D.C.

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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