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Mitchell A Pavao-Zuckerman

Associate Professor

Associate Professor

Environmental Science & Technology 1426 Animal Science/Agricultural Engineering Building 8127 Regents Drive College Park, Maryland 20742


  • ecosystem services
  • Urban Ecology
  • forest ecology
  • Stormwater
  • socio-ecological systems
  • green infrastructure
  • resilience
  • agrivolatics

Dr. Pavao-Zuckerman leads the Urban and Built Environment Sustainability Lab that links ecology, design, policy, and technologies and uses a co-productive research approach to provide solutions to address urban environmental challenges and foster adaptation and resilience to climate change.

Research Areas

Green infrastructure and ecosystem services

How do soils, plants, and biogeochemistry of green infrastructure and the urban ecosystem function and provide ecosystem services? We investigate connections between soil characteristics and ecosystem processes and how these link to ecosystem services in several settings in Baltimore MD and Washington DC: street-scape green infrastructure, detention ponds and basins, and small woodlots.  Asking, how does the design of small vs. large-scale GI features affect their functioning?  How do landscape characteristics of woodlots and their management history affect their functioning?  We utilize a combination of field and lab techniques from soil quality, soil microbial, biogeochemical, and ecophysiological approaches to collect data from these installation locations. 

Urban forests and stormwater management

Cities generate a lot of stormwater runoff – a key contributor to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Several approaches are used to reduce and manage runoff, including pipes and drains (grey infrastructure) and rain gardens, bioswales, detention ponds, green roofs, etc. (green infrastructure). There is another potential type of green infrastructure that is already fairly common in the built environment: trees! Trees have great potential to reduce stormwater runoff by changing the hydrologic flows in cities.

If a tree loses water to the atmosphere through transpiration, it will not be available in the soil to generate runoff. Despite this promise, no one has measured how much water is actually transpired by trees in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The goal of our project is to address this knowledge gap.

By using a suite of sensors we can measure the transpiration by trees, as well as rain inputs, soil water storage, air temperature, and relative humidity.  Together, these data let us quantify the impact of trees on urban hydrology. We are looking at a few variables to see how this process is different:

  • Between tree species – by comparing sweetgum, red maple, and tulip poplar
  • In different urban settings – by comparing closed canopy forest patches, small clusters of trees, and individual trees

Agrivoltaics: a novel hybrid ecotechnology

Generating solar power at large scales (i.e. photovoltaic (PV) power plants) comes at some environmental costs with the loss of local natural and agro-ecosystems and the services they provide. Agrivoltaics is an approach that co-locates PV solar with agricultural systems. Our research explores (1) the ecosystem service and energy production of different agrivoltaic designs, and (2) political, economic, legal, and cultural barriers to the adoption of agrivoltaics.  

We demonstrated that agrivoltaics is a 'win-win-win' scenario in southern Arizona - where co-location improved crop production, reduced water demand, and increased PV power production efficiency.  

A recent $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Foundational Agrivoltaics Research For MegaWatt Scales (FARMS) will let us break down barriers to adoption of agrivoltaics at large scales in Arizona and Colorado.

Dr. Pavao-Zuckerman is developing a collaboration with Montgomery County, MD to explore agrivoltaics in our temperate mid-Atlantic setting.




My profile on Google Scholar contains my full list of publications and will connect you to journal articles and issues.


Mosleh, L., Neghaban-Azar, M., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A. 2022. Convergence in perceptions of ecosystem services supports green infrastructure decision-making in a semi-arid city. Environmental Management

Wilfong, M., Patra, D., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., and Leisnham, P. 2022. Diffusing Responsibility, Decentralizing Infrastructure: Hydrosocial Relationships within the Shifting Stormwater Management Paradigm, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2022.2133687

Gallas, G.^ and Pavao-Zuckerman, M., 2022. Spatial cover and carbon fluxes of urbanized Sonoran Desert biological soil crusts. Scientific Reports, 12(1), pp.1-9.

Shuster, W.D., Pavao-Zuckerman, M., Mayer, A.L., Herrmann, D.L. and Schifman, L.A., 2022. Defining Passive Green Infrastructure: An Ecosystem Services Perspective to Make It Count. Journal of Sustainable Water in the Built Environment, 8(3), p.1.

Ponte, S., Sonti, N.F., Phillips, T.H., and Pavao-Zuckerman M.A. 2021. Transpiration rates of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) differ between management contexts in urban forests of Maryland, USA. Scientific Reports, 11, Article number: 22538

Matsler, M.*, Meerow, S., Mell, I., and M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2021. A ‘Green’ chameleon: Exploring the many disciplinary definitions, goals, and forms of “green infrastructure” Landscape and Urban Planning, 214:104145

Gerlak, A.K., Elder, A., Thomure, T, Shipek, C., Zuniga-Teran, A., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., Gupta, N., Matsler, M.*, Berger, L., Henry, A.D., Yang, B., Murrieta-Saldivar, J. and, Meixner T. 2021. Green Infrastructure: Lessons in Governance and Collaboration From Tucson, Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 63:3, 15-24, DOI: 10.1080/00139157.2021.1898894

Gerlak, A.K., Elder, A., Zuniga-Terran, A., Sanderford, A., and M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2021. Agency and governance in green infrastructure policy adoption and change. Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning,

Avitia, M., Barrón-Sandoval, A., Hernández-Terán, A., Benítez, M., Barron-Gafford, G.,  Dontsova, K., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., and Escalante, A. 2021. Soil microbial composition and carbon mineralization are associated with vegetation type and temperature regime in mesocosms of a semiarid ecosystem. FEMS Microbiology Letters

Fan, B.#, Li, Y., and M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2020. The dynamics of land-sea-scape carbon flow can reveal anthropogenic destruction and restoration of coastal carbon sequestration. Landscape Ecology doi: s10980-020-01148-9

Wilfong, M. and M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2020. Rethinking Stormwater: Analysis using the hydrosocial cycle. Water 12 (5), 1273

Dusza, Y., Sanchez-Cañete, EP, Le Galliard, J., Ferrière, R., Chollet, S., Massol, F., Hansart, A.. Juarez, S., Dontsova, K., van Haren, J., Troch, P., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., Hamerlynck, E., Barron-Gafford G. 2020. Biotic soil-plant interaction processes explain most of hysteric soil CO2 efflux response to temperature in cross-factorial mesocosm experiment. Scientific Reports. 10, Article number: 905

Barron-Gafford, G., M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman, R.L. Minor, L.F. Sutter, I. Barnett-Moreno, D.T. Blackett, M. Thompson, K. Diamond, A.K. Gerlak, G.P. Nabhan, and J.E. Macknick. 2019. Agrivoltaics provide mutual benefits across the food–energy–water nexus in drylands. Nature Sustainability 2:848–855.

Phillips, T., Baker, M., Lautar, K., Yesilonis, I., M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2019. The capacity of urban forest patches to infiltrate stormwater is influenced by soil physical properties and soil moisture. Journal of Environmental Management 246:11-18.  

Giese, E., A. Shirmohammadi, A. Rockler, M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman 2019. Assessment of stormwater green infrastructure for climate change resilience at the watershed scale. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management. 145: 05019015  

Lu, H., Mei, D., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., Wang, Q., Hong, H., Wu, S., Xu, M., Zhu, X., Liu, J., Yan, C., 2019. Combination of DGT and fluorescence spectroscopy for improved understanding of metal behavior in mangrove wetland. Chemosphere, 229: 303-313  

Hu, M. and M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2019. Bridging net zero and resilience research: a literature review for sustainable built environments. Energies 12 (8): 1539, doi:10.3390/en12081539

Hough, M., M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman, Scott, C.A. 2018. Using trait-based ecology to identify thresholds in the ecosystem service cascade: a framework for decision making. Journal of Hydrology 566:860-871 DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.08.005

Yi, L.#, Li, Y., Kappas, M., and M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2018. Identifying the key catastrophic variables of urban social-environmental resilience and early warning signal, Environment International 113: 184–190. DOI 10.1016/j.envint.2018.02.006

Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., and Sookhdeo, C^. 2017. Nematode community response to green infrastructure design in a semi-arid city. Journal of Environmental Quality 46:687–694. DOI 10.2134/jeq2016.11.0461

Li, Y., Qiu, J., Zhao, B., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., Bruns, A., Qureshi, S., Zhang, C. 2017. Quantifying urban ecological governance: A suite of indices characterizes the ecological planning implications of rapid coastal urbanization. Ecological Indicators, 72: 225–233. DOI 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.08.021

Barron-Gafford, G., R.L. Minor, N.A. Allen, A.P. Cronin, A.E. Brooks, M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman. 2016. The Solar Heat Island Effect: Larger solar power plants increase local temperatures. Scientific Reports, 6, Article number: 35070. doi:10.1038/srep35070

Troy, T.J., M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman, and T.P. Evans. 2015. Perspectives on socio-hydrology: Socio-hydrologic modeling: Tradeoffs, hypothesis testing, and validation. Water Resources Research 51(6): 4806–4814. DOI 10.1002/2015WR017046

Pangle, L., DeLong, S., Abramson, N., Adams, J., Barron-Gafford, G., Breshears, D.D., Brooks, P.D., Chorover, J., Dietrich, W.E., Dontsova, K., Durcik, M.J., Espeleta, J., Ferre, T.P.A., Ferriere, R., Henderson, W., Hunt, E.A., Huxman, T.E., Millar, D., Murphy, B., Niu, G-Y., Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., Pelletier, J.D., Rassmussen, C., Ruiz, J., Saleska, S., Schaap, M., Sibayan, M., Troch, P.A., Tuller, M., van Haren, J., and Zeng, X. 2015. The Landscape Evolution Observatory: A large-scale controllable infrastructure to study coupled Earth-surface processes, Geomorphology 244:190-203. DOI 10.1016/j.geomorph.2015.01.020

Tanner, C., F. Adler, N. Grimm, P. Groffman, S. Levin, J. Munshi-South, D. Pataki, M. Pavao-Zuckerman, W. Wilson. 2014. Urban ecology: advancing science and society. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 574–581. DOI

Zhang X., Niu G.-Y., Elshall A.S., Ye M., Barron-Gafford G.A., and Pavao-Zuckerman M. 2014. Assessing five evolving microbial enzyme models against field measurements from a semiarid savannah – What are the mechanisms of soil respiration pulses? Geophysical Research Letters 41. DOI: 10.1002/2014GL061399

Felson, A., M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman, T. Carter, F. Montalto, W. Shuster, E. Stander, and O. Starry. 2013. Mapping the design process for urban ecological researchers. Bioscience 63(11): 852-864. DOI 10.1525/bio.2013.63.11.4

Setala, H., Bardgett, R., Birkhofer, K, Brady, M., Byrne, L., de Ruiter, PC, de Vries, F., Gardi, C., Hedlund, K., Hemerik, L., Hotes, S., Liiri, M., Mortimer, S.R., M.A. Pavao-Zuckerman, R. Pouyat, Tsiafouli, M., van der Putten, W. 2013. Urban soils and agricultural soils: conflicts and trade-offs in the optimization of ecosystem services.  Urban Ecosystems 17:239-253. DOI 10.1007/s11252-013-0311-6


Dr. Pavao-Zuckerman has been a Sustainability Teaching Fellow at UMD and received a Teaching Innovation Grant from the UMD Provost's office. His courses integrate active learning and practicum approaches to topics in ecosystem ecology and resilience.

Ecosystem Ecology

ENST 360 (Fall)

The study of ecology has a long and interesting history, from early society's efforts to understand and alter their environment as a matter of survival to the challenges the modern world is facing that are global in scale. Through the course text, distributed supplemental chapter readings and an understanding of the scientific literature, this course will cover the essential concepts and principles of ecosystem ecology as well as its history and past and present controversies. Several of the basic methods and tools of field research and the applied management of ecosystems will be discussed and demonstrated with several field excursions in the natural environs of the DC area. Central to this course will be the understanding that modern human society is an integral part of nature, with the power to impact and influence elements of the natural world at multiple scales. An analysis of policy implications for the biosphere will be discussed.

Ecosystem Services: An integrated assessment

ENST 410 (alternating Springs)

The importance of our ecosystems and the services they provide will be discussed. Basic principles used to analyze ecosystem services will be discussed and applied using case studies & field exercises. Forestland, wetlands and our marine resources are increasingly recognized for their ecosystem services provided to society, to include clean air and water, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, carbon storage and pollination services. This course will prepare students to deal with the complex issues involved in understanding those and other ecosystem services and their importance to society and environmental sustainability. Slowly, new markets are emerging for these services. Students will analyze the ecological, policy and financial dimensions of enhancing, restoring, and sustaining ecosystem services. New and on-going government programs and private business ventures will be discussed.

Adaptation and Resilience in Cities

ENST 607 (alternating Springs)


Knowledge about the relations between urbanization and global and local challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, resource deficiency, poverty, justice and health, is of key importance to move towards sustainable development and resilient systems. This course takes a trans-disciplinary approach to understanding urban questions. Urban possibilities and challenges are analyzed by using a systems approach where ecological, social, and economic aspects are integrated through a social-ecological perspective to analyze resilience and sustainability. Linkages between and perspectives from science, social-sciences, and practice are emphasized throughout the course.

The Urban and Built Environment Sustainability Lab

The Urban and Built Environment Sustainability Lab is housed in the recently renovated Pilot Plant in the Animal Sciences/Ag Engineering Building.  The lab houses equipment to assess soil and plant biogeochemical properties and automated instrumentation to assess soil hydrologic properties and water contents. We also have a suite of portable instrumentation to measure fluxes of water and carbon in the field and a set of environmental sensors to assess temperature and water properties in urban ecosystems.