I am a chemical oceanographer and analytical chemist working at the intersection of environmental organic chemistry, environmental engineering, and public health. I received my B.Sc. in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2008, and my Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (URI GSO) in 2017. I use cutting-edge environmental monitoring and analytical chemistry techniques to study the fate, transport, and biological effects of anthropogenic organic contaminants in aquatic environments. Broadly, I am interested in how the molecular structure and chemical properties of pollutants influence their fate in the environment, as well as their biological effects in aquatic organisms and humans. My overarching objective is to understand human and ecosystem health risk associated with organic contaminants in water and to identify particular compounds of concern that should be prioritized for remediation and toxicological investigation.


My overarching objective is to develop a comprehensive understanding of how synthetic organic contaminants impact aquatic ecosystems and human health by combining innovative environmental chemistry and bioanalytical techniques, state-of-the-art mass spectrometry, and field monitoring campaigns. My work protects the public from exposure to harmful pollutants and draws attention to the global ubiquity of organic contaminants.

Current Work: Postdoctoral Fellow at Colorado School of Mines

As of June 2017, I am a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Christopher Higgins at the Colorado School of Mines, where I am studying bioaccumulation, biological effects, and human exposure routes of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are ubiquitous drinking water contaminants.  I use untargeted high-resolution mass spectrometry approaches to identify and quantify PFASs that should be prioritized for further study due to their bioaccumulation potential, prevalence in drinking water, or prevalence in human blood.

You can download my full CV here


Science Communication

I have founded two blogs where graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and science professionals work together to summarize recent journal articles for the general public using language anyone with a high school STEM education can understand. I am also on the Leadership Committee for the ComSciCon series of STEM communication workshops. These graduate student-run workshops provide inspiring and informative experiences in STEM communication to graduate students, free of cost.

Oceanbites, founded in September 2013, is a blog where oceanography graduate students and postdoctoral researchers describe the latest in cutting-edge oceanography research for the broader public. As part of my work at oceanbites, I have spoken on panels focused on blogging about scientific research and I have run workshops training undergraduate STEM students to write about their scientific research.

Envirobites, which began publishing content in August 2017, is a blog where graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and environmental professionals write posts describing recent research in environmental science topics, including urban pollution, toxicology, and climate change. I co-founded this blog with Dr. Laura Schifman, Ph.D.


Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals


  1. McDonough, C. A.; Franks, D.; Hahn, M. E.; Lohmann, R. Aryl hydrocarbon-mediated activity of gas-phase ambient air derived from passive sampling and an in vitro bioassay.  Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2019. Accepted.


  1. McDonough, C. A.; Guelfo, J. L.; Higgins, C. P. Measuring total PFASs in water: The tradeoff between selectivity and inclusivity. Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. In press. DOI: 10.1016/j.coesh.2018.08.005.
  2. McDonough, C. A.; De Silva, A. O.; Sun, C.; Adelman, D.; Soltwedel, T.; Bauerfiend, E.; Muir, D. C. G.; Lohmann, R. Dissolved organophosphate esters in North Atlantic depth profiles and Canadian Arctic surface waters. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2018. 52, 6208-6216. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b01127
  3. Ma, Y.; Adelman, D.; Bauerfeind, E.; Cabrerizo, A.; McDonough, C. A.; Muir, D. C. G.; Soltwedel, T.; Sun, C.; Wagner, C.; Sunderland, E.; Lohmann, R. Concentrations and water mass transport of legacy POPs in the Arctic Ocean. Geophys. Res. Lett. 2018. 45 (23), 12972-12981. DOI: 10.1029/2018GL078759
  4. Murray, C. C.; Vatankhah, H.; McDonough, C. A.; Nickerson, A.; Hedtke, T. T.; Higgins, C. P.; Bellona, C. L. Removal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances using super-fine powder activated carbon and ceramic membrane filtration compared to granular activated carbon. Hazard Mater. 2018. 366, 160-168. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2018.11.050
  5. Bradley, P.; Kolpin, D.; Romanok, K.; Smalling, K.; Focazio, M.; Brown, J.; Cardon, M.; Carpenter, K.; Corsi, S.; De Cicco, L.; Dietze, J.; Evans, N.; Furlong, E.; Givens, C.; Gray, J.; Griffin, D.; Higgins, C.; Hladik, M.; Iwanowicz, L.; Journey, C.; Kuivila, K.; Masoner, J.; McDonough, C. A.; Meyer, M.; Orlando, J.; Strynar, M.; Weis, C.; Wilson, V. Reconnaissance of mixed organic and inorganic chemicals in private and public supply tap waters at selected residential and workplace sites in the U.S. Sci. Technol. 2018, 52 (23), 13972-13985. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b04622


  1. McDonough, C. A.; Puggioni, G.; Helm. P. A.; Muir, D. C. G.; Lohmann, R. Spatial trends and diffusive air-water exchange of organic flame retardants in the lower Great Lakes. Sci. Technol. 2016. 50, 9133-9141. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b02496
  2. McDonough, C. A.; P. A.; Muir, D. C. G.; Puggioni, G.; Lohmann, R. Polycyclic musks in the air and water of the lower Great Lakes: Spatial distribution and volatilization from surface waters. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2016. 50, 11575-11583. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b03657
  3. Liu, Y.; Wang, S.; McDonough, C. A.; Khairy, M.; Muir, D. C. G.; Helm, P.; Lohmann, R. Estimation of uncertainty in air-water exchange flux and gross volatilization loss of PCBs: A case study based on passive sampling in the lower Great Lakes. Sci. Technol. 2016. 50, 10894-10902. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b02891


  1. Liu, Y.; Wang, S.; McDonough, C. A.; Khairy, M. ; Muir, D. C. G. ; Helm, P. ; Lohmann, R. Gaseous and freely dissolved PCBs in the lower Great Lakes based on passive sampling: Spatial trends, sources, and air-water exchange. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2015. 10, 4932-4939. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04586 


  1. McDonough, C. A.; Khairy, M.; Muir, D. C. G.; Lohmann, R. Significance of population centers as sources of gaseous and dissolved PAHs in the lower Great Lakes. Sci. Technol. 2014. 48, 7789-7797. DOI: 10.1021/es501074r


Magazine/Blog Articles

Toxic chemicals are being freed from melting glaciers – Massive Science

Where have all the insects gone? –