Donald Cheney


BS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
PhD, University of South Florida, Tampa

Area(s) of Expertise

Macroalgal Biotechnology and Marine Pollution Remediation

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.



Marine Science Center
430 Nahant Road
Nahant, MA 01908