Donald Cheney

Donald ChenyAssociate Professor
Macroalgal Biotechnology and Marine Pollution Remediation

Marine Science Center
Northeastern University
430 Nahant Road
Nahant, MA 01908 USA

Academic Education

  • Ph.D., University of South Florida, Tampa
  • B.S., University of Massachusetts, Amherst


  • Associate Professor appointment, Dept. of Biology, Northeastern University (1986 – present)
  • Instructor, Field Biology & Ecology, Shoals Marine laboratory, NH (2003)
  • Visiting Scientist, Boyce Thompson Institute For Plant Research, Cornell Univ. (1998)
  • University Research Fellow, Dept. of Botany, University of Nottingham, UK (1987 – 1988)
  • Assistant Professor appointment, Dept. of Biology, Northeastern University (1980 – 1986)
  • Instructor, Marine Phycology, Friday Harbor Laboratories (1980)
  • Guest Investigator, Environmental Systems Laboratory, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1979 – 1980)
  • Post Doctoral Fellow, Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Univ. of New Hampshire (1975 – 1980)

Other Professional Activities

  • Editorial Board: The Journal of Applied Phycology (1988 to present)
  • Appointments: Member of Task Force on Marine Biotechnology, New England Aquarium (1997-1998); Member of Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Outfall Monitoring Task Force (1995-1996)

Research Interests

Current research in my laboratory focuses on both potential new uses of seaweeds for protecting our marine environment and threats they pose to other marine organisms and humans. For example, we have shown that a variety of the Red alga Porphyra can produce very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and be used as a high protein, high PUFA feed supplement to make fish (eg salmon) aquaculture more sustainable. We have also discovered that species of the Green alga Ulva are causing an annual seaweed bloom in the Superfund site of New Bedford Harbor, MA, and are taking up and concentrating PCBs to levels not previously known. We have found plants in the Superfund site with (total) PCB concentrations of nearly 100 ppm, which is over 800 times greater than the highest PCB level previously reported in a seaweed and over 30,000 times the level of PCBs in the water. Although Ulva can hyperaccumulate PCBs and could potentially be used to remove PCBs from New Bedford’s Superfund site, new evidence showing that it is consumed by both mysid shrimp and Fundulus suggest that it is also a major conduit for the transfer of PCBs up the Super site’s food chain. In the summer of 2009, we discovered that Ulva was the principal food in the diet of class size 2 and 3 Fundulus and appears to be digested in its gut. Because Fundulus is a major food item for the two most important recreationally caught fish species in the region and found at the top of NBH’s food chain, striped bass and bluefish, we think PCBs in Ulva is a dangerous new source of PCBs that can potentially get into the diets of humans. These findings suggest that New Bedford Harbor’s Ulva bloom is the first example of a new type of seaweed “Harmful Algal Bloom” that can pose a far greater health threat to humans than previously thought.

Teaching Activities

I currently teach three courses: Marine Botany, Plant Biotechnology and Plant Biology. Marine Botany is taught every Fall at the MSC in conjunction with the “3-Seas” Program and is probably my favorite course. This course examines the taxonomy, life histories, ecology, biogeography and importance of not just marine macrophytes but also microalgae, salt marsh plants and seagrasses. Plant Biotechnology is a new Fall course designed to introduce upper level undergraduates and graduate students to the rationale behind and methods used for increasing crop production and sustainability, plant-based pharmaceuticals and plant stress tolerance. Plant Biology is taught every Spring and designed to give an overview on plant evolution, biodiversity and ecology, as well as to make students appreciate the myriad of plant uses today (good and bad) and in the future.

In addition, I have been advisor to 17 Masters and PhD students that have a long list of accomplishments, including receiving the Bold Award from the Phycological Society of America and the Wilce Award from the Northeast Algal Society.
superfund ulva


  • Lotufo, G, Lydy, M., Rorrer, G., Cruz-Uribe, O. and Cheney, D. (2008). Bioconcentration, bioaccumulation, and biotransformation of explosives and related compounds in aquatic organisms. In: Ecotoxicoogy of Explosives, edited by G. Sunahara, G. Lotufo, J. Hawari and R. Kuperman. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 135 – 155.
  • Cheney, D., Brudner, M., Aulisio, D. and Gardner, K. (2007). Seaweed removal and remediation of organic pollutants from marine sediments. European Phycological Journal, v. 44: 80-81.
  • Cruz-Uribe, O., Cheney, D. and Rorrer, G. (2007). Comparison of TNT removal from seawater by three marine macroalgae. Chemosphere 67: 1264-1272.
  • Reddy, C.R.K., Dipakkore, S., Kumar, R., Jha, B. Cheney, D. and Fujita, Y., (2006). An improved enzyme preparation for rapid mass production of protoplasts as seed stock for aquaculture of macrophytic marine green algae. Aquaculture 260: 290-297.
  • Waaland, J. R., J. Stiller and D. Cheney, (2004). Macroalgal candidates for genomics. J. Phycology 40: 26-33.
  • Rorrer, G. and Cheney, D., (2004). Bioprocess engineering of cell and tissue cultures for marine seaweeds. Aquacultural Engineering 32: 11-41.
  • Rorrer, G., M. Tucker, D. Cheney and S. Maliakal, (2001). Bromoperoxidase acitivity in microplantlet suspension cultures of the macrophytic red alga Ochtodes secundiraea. Biotechnology and Bioengineering 74:389-395.
  • Watson, K., D. Cheney and I.Levine, (2000). Biomonitoring of an aquacultured, introduced seaweed, Porphyra yezoensis, (Rhodophyta, Bangiophycidae) in Cobscook Bay, Maine, USA. In: Biological Invasions; Proceedings of First National Conference on Marine Biological Invasions, J. Pedersen (ed.), MIT Sea Grant Program, pp. 260-264.
  • Kunimoto, M., H. Kito, Y Yamamoto, D. Cheney, Y. Kaminishi and Y. Mizukami, (1999). Discrimination of Porphyra species based on small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequence. J. Applied Phycol. 11: 203-209.
  • Cheney, D. (1999). Strain improvement of seaweeds through genetic manipulation: current status. World Aquaculture 30: 55-56 & 65.