Erik Christensen, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Erik Christensen’s research activities relate to fate and transport of pollutants in the aquatic environment, including quantifying sources and degradation of organic compounds. He has also contributed to models of the effect of pollutants on aquatic organisms. Throughout his career Christensen has received significant funding for his research from the National Science Foundation as well as from other federal and state agencies. Christensen convened the first International Water Association specialist conference on sediment contamination and remediation in Milwaukee. On the UWM faculty since 1977, he is a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and was named a University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Distinguished Professors by the UW Board of Regents in 2010.


  • Ph.D. Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, 1977
  • M.S. Electrical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, 1967

Research Focus:

  • Aquatics pollutants
  • Radiometric dating of sediments
  • Source apportionment and degradation of environmental pollutants
  • Storm water
  • Membrane separation processes
  • Multiple toxicity models

Honors and Awards:

  • University of California-Irvine: Outstanding graduate research award.
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: Outstanding research award.
  • Tau Beta Pi: Eminent Engineer.
  • Listed in American Men and Women of Science, Who is Who in Science and Engineering, Who is Who in America, Who is Who in the World, Who is Who in American Education.
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (Fellow)



  • Christensen, E.R. and  A. Li. Physical and Chemical Processes in the Aquatic Environment.  Book manuscript in press.  Estimated publication date: August 2014.  Wiley-Blackwell.


  • Zou, Y., E.R. Christensen, W. Zheng, H. Wei, A. Li. 2014. Estimating stepwise debromination pathways of polybrominated diphenyl ethers with an analogue Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm. Chemosphere, In press.
  • Chang, J., G. Zhou, E.R. Christensen, R. Heideman, J. Chen. 2014. Graphene-based sensors for detection of heavy metals in water: a review. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, In press.
  • Zou, Y., E.R. Christensen, and A. Li. 2013. Characteristic pattern analysis of polybromodiphenyl ethers in Great Lakes sediments: a combination of eigenspace projection and positive matrix factorization analysis. Environmetrics 24, 41-50.
  • Wei, H., Y. Zou, A.Li, E.R. Christensen, and K.J. Rockne.  2013.  Photolytic debromination pathway of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in hexane by sunlight.  Environmental Pollution.  174, 194-200.
  • Zou, Y. and E.R. Christensen. 2012.  Phosphorus loading to Milwaukee Harbor from rivers, storm water and wastewater treatment.  ASCE Journal of Environmental Engineering. 138 (2), 143-151.
  • Wei, H., A.C Aziz-Schwanbeck, Y. Zou, M.B. Corcoran, A. Poghosyan, A. Li, K.J. Rockne,  E.R. Christensen,and N.C. Sturchio.  2012.  Polybromodiphenyl ethers and decabromodiphenyl ethane in aquatic sediments from southern and eastern Arkansas, United States. Environ. Sci. Technol. 46, 8017-8024.
  • Soonthornnonda P., Y. Zou, E. R. Christensen, and A.  Li.  2011. PCBs in Great Lakes Sediments, determined by positive matrix factorization.   J. Great Lakes Res. 37, 54-63.
  • Liu, Y., P. Soonthornnonda, J. Li, and E.R. Christensen.  2011. Stormwater pollution characterized by GIS determined source areas and runoff volumes. Environ. Manage. 47 (2), 201-217.
  • Wei, H., R. Yang, A. Li, E.R. Christensen, and K. J. Rockne.  2010. Gas chromatographic retention of 180 polybrominated diphenyl ethers and prediction of relative retention under various operational conditions. Journal of Chromatography A. Vol. 1217, 2964-2972.
  • Henry, R.C. and E.R. Christensen. 2010.  Selecting an appropriate multivariate source apportionment model result. Environ. Sci. Technol. 44 (7), 2474-2481.
  • Christensen, E.R., K.O. Kusk, and N. Nyholm.  2009.  Dose response regressions for algal growth and similar continuous endpoints: Calculation of effective concentrations. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 28 (4), 826-835.
  • Soonthornnonda, P., E.R. Christensen, Y. Liu, and J. Li. 2008. A washoff model for stormwater pollutants.  Sci. Tot. Environ.  402, 248-256.
  • Soonthornnonda, P. and E.R. Christensen.  2008. Source apportionment of pollutants and flows of combined sewer wastewater.  Water Res. 42 (8-9), 1989-1998.
  • Soonthornnonda, P. and E.R. Christensen.  2008.  A load model based on antecedent dry periods for pollutants in stormwater.  Wat. Environ. Res.  80 (2), 162-171.
  • Dilmaghani, S., I.C. Henry, P. Soonthornnonda, E.R. Christensen, and R.C. Henry. 2007. Harmonic analysis of environmental time series with missing data or irregular sample spacing.  Environ. Sci. Technol. 41 (20), 7030-7038.
  • Christensen, E.R. and S. Arora, 2007. Source apportionment of PAHs in sediments using factor analysis by time records: Application to Lake Michigan, U.S.A. Water Res. 41 (1), 168-176.
  • Lu, J.H., P.A. Bzdusek, E.R. Christensen, and S. Arora, 2005. Estimating sources of PAHs in sediments of the Sheboygan River, Wisconsin, by a chemical mass balance model. J. Great Lakes Res. 31 (4), 456-465.
  • Bzdusek, P.A., E.R. Christensen, C.M. Lee, U. Pakdeesusuk, and D.L. Freedman, 2006. PCB congeners and dechlorination in sediments of Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, determined from cores collected in 1987 and 1998. Environ. Sci. Technol. 40 (1), 109-119.
  • Bzdusek, P.A., J. Lu, and E.R. Christensen, 2006.  PCB congeners and dechlorination in sediments of Sheboygan River, Wisconsin, determined by matrix factorization.  Environ. Sci. Technol. 40 (1), 120-129.
  • Merino-Garcia, D., K.O. Kusk, and E.R. Christensen, 2003. Joint toxicity of similarly and dissimilarly acting chemicals to Daphnia magna at different response levels. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 45 (3), 289-296.
  • Li, J., M.K. Mgonella, P.A. Bzdusek, and E.R. Christensen, 2005. PCB congeners and dechlorination in sediments of Upper Sheboygan River, Wisconsin. J. Great Lakes Res. 31 (2), 174-186.

Community Involvement: 

  • Friends of Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
  • Milwaukee Art Museum.
  • Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.