Elsie M Sunderland

Elsie M Sunderland

  • Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry


Elsie M. Sunderland is Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and in the Department of Environmental Health in the Harvard School of Public Health. She is a Faculty Associate in the Harvard University Center for the Environment and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Research in the Sunderland Lab focuses on how biogeochemical processes affect the fate, transport and food web bioaccumulation of trace metals and organic chemicals. Her group develops and applies models at a variety of scales ranging from ecosystems and ocean basins (e.g., the Gulf of Maine, the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans) to global applications to characterize how changes in climate and emissions affect human and ecological health, and the potential impacts of regulatory activities. Her group also makes key measurements of chemical concentrations and reaction rates in environmental samples (natural waters, sediments, and aquatic biota) and humans (hair, blood) to parameterize and evaluate environmental models.

 Ongoing research is elucidating the biogeochemical cycling of compounds with contrasting physical and chemical properties that can be used to obtain insights into the varying exposure pathways and environmental lifetimes for industrial chemicals. The innovation in this work is to quantitatively analyze the entire exposure pathway for these compounds to identify their properties in air and water (e.g., stability in the atmosphere, photodegradation in water, environmental partitioning behavior) that enhance chemical persistence and ultimate accumulation in biota.

Contact Information

Office:Pierce 127
Office Phone:(617) 496-0858
Assistant:Brenda L Mathieu
Assistant Office:Pierce 109
Assistant Phone:(617) 496-5745
Research Mgr: Cecilia T. McCormack

Primary Teaching Area

Positions & Employment

2010-2014: Mark and Catherine Winker Assistant Professor of Aquatic Science, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health

2008-2010: Research Associate, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard Center for Risk Analysis

2003-2008: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters, Senior Staff, Council for Regulatory Environmental Modeling, Washington DC