Michael McClain PhD, MSc

Professor of Ecohydrology


Prof. McClain is Chair Professor of Ecohydrology. His interests lie broadly in hydrology and the science and practice of ecohydrology to support integrated water resources management (IWRM) and sustainable development. His research focuses on catchment hydrology and water quality, flow-ecology relationships, environmental flows, and land-water interactions. He routinely advises governmental authorities in a science and management context and leads major research and development projects in Africa and South America. 

Prof. McClain received his PhD from the University of Washington (USA) in 1996. His PhD research focused on organic matter and nutrient dynamics in stream and riparian systems of small catchments of the Central Amazon Basin in Brazil.   In 1997-1998 he was an NSF International Research Fellow at Peru’s National Agrarian University. In 1999 he became an Assistant Professor of Watershed Science at Florida International University, Miami; he became a tenured Associate Professor in 2005. From Aug 2005 until Feb 2006 he was a Fulbright Research and Teaching Fellow at the National Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 2005 he also became director and principle investigator of the USAID Global Water for Sustainability Program, supporting sustainable water resources development and management in South America, East Africa, and South Asia. In 2008 he joined IHE Delft and from 2009-2011 served as Head of the Department of Water Science and Engineering. He became Professor of Ecohydrology in 2012 and served as Head of the Hydrology and Water Resources Chair Group from 2012-2019.

Prof. McClain is an active participant in the international scientific community, beginning as a contributing scientist to UNESCO-IHP’s Ecotones Programme in the mid 1990’s and continuing today on the Scientific Steering Committee of its Ecohydrology Programme. He participated in ICSU’s International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and was principle investigator of two collaborative research networks of the Inter American Institute for Global Change Research.  He regularly serves on the organizing committees of international conferences, convenes or chairs sessions, and gives keynote lectures. He also serves on the editorial board of the journal UCL Open: Environment..


Selected publications are shown. Full publication listings available via Researcher ID, Google Scholar, or Research Gate.

Tickner, D., Opperman, J.J., Abell, R., Acreman, M., Arthington, A.H., Bunn, S.E., Cooke, S.J., Dalton, J., Darwall, W., Edwards, G., Harrison, I., ... McClain, M.E., and 14 others. 2020. Bending the curve of global freshwater biodiversity loss: an emergency recovery plan. BioScience, 70(4), pp.330-342. (Access Paper)

Acuna, V., Jorda-Capdevila, D., Vezza, P., De Girolamo, A.M., McClain, M.E., and 6 others., 2020. Accounting for flow intermittency in environmental flows design. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57(4), pp.742-753. (Access Paper)

Bregoli, F., Crosato, A., Paron, P. and McClain, M.E., 2019. Humans reshape wetlands: Unveiling the last 100 years of morphological changes of the Mara Wetland, Tanzania. Science of the Total Environment, 691, pp.896-907. (Access Paper)

Grill, G., Lehner, B., Thieme, M., Geenen, B., Tickner, D., Antonelli, F., Babu, S., Borrelli, P., Cheng, L., Crochetiere, H. and Macedo, H.E., ... McClain, M.E., and 11 others. 2019. Mapping the world’s free-flowing rivers. Nature, 569(7755), p.215. (Access Paper)

Ruangpan, L., Vojinovic, Z., Di Sabatino, S., Leo, L.S., Capobianco, V., Oen, A.M., McClain, M. and Lopez-Gunn, E., 2019. Nature-Based Solutions for Hydro-meteorological Risk Reduction: A State-of-the-art review of the research area. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci.(Access Paper)

McClain, M. E., Subalusky, A. L., Anderson, E. P., Dessu, S. B., Melesse, A. M., Ndomba, P. M., Mtamba, J. O. D., Tamatamah, R. A., Mligo, C. 2014. Comparing flow regime, channel hydraulics and biological communities to infer flow-ecology relationships in the Mara River of Kenya and Tanzania. Hydrological Sciences Journal 59 (3-4), 801-819. (Access Paper)

Masese, F. O., Kitaka, N., Kipkemboi J., Gettel, G. M., Irvine, K., and McClain, M. E. 2014. Macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups in Kenyan highland streams: evidence for a diverse shredder guild. Freshwater Science 33 (2), 435-450.  (Access Paper)

Dessu, S. B., Melesse, A. M., Bhat, M. G., McClain, M. E. 2014. Assessment of water resources availability and demand in the Mara River Basin. Catena, 115(0), 104-114. (Access Paper)

McClain, M. E. 2013. Balancing Water Resources Development and Environmental Sustainability in Africa: A Review of Recent Research Findings and Applications. Ambio 42 (5), 549-565. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-012-0359-1. (Open Access)

McClain, M. E., Kashaigili, J. J. and Ndomba, P. 2013. Environmental flow assessment as a tool for achieving environmental objectives of African water policy, with examples from East Africa. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 29(4), 650-665. (Access Paper)

McClain, M. E., L. Chicharo, N. Fohrer, M. Gavino Novillo, W. Windhorst, and M. Zalewski. 2012. Training hydrologists to be ecohydrologists and play a leading role in environmental problem solving. Hydrology and Earth System Science 16: 1685-1696, doi:10.5194 (Open Access)

Arthington AH, Naiman RJ. McClain ME, and Nilsson C. 2010. Preserving the biodiversity and ecological services of rivers: new challenges and research opportunities. Freshwater Biology 55: 1-16. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02340. (Access Paper)

McClain ME and Naiman RJ. 2008. Andean Influences on the Biogeochemistry and Ecology of the Amazon River. BioScience 58: 325-338. DOI: 10.1641/B580408 (Access Paper)

Naiman RJ, Decamps H and McClain ME, 2005, Riparia - Ecology, Conservation, and Management of Streamside Communities. Elsevier Academic Press. (Access Book)

McClain ME, EW Boyer, CL Dent, SE Gergel, NB Grimm, PM Groffman, SC Hart, JW Harvey, CA Johnston, E Mayorga, WH McDowell & G Pinay. 2003, Biogeochemical hot spots and hot moments at the interface of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Ecosystems 6: 301-312. (Access Paper)

McClain ME (ed). 2002, The Ecohydrology of South American Rivers and Wetlands. Special Puplication #6 of the International Association of Hydrological Sciences. (Access Book)

McClain ME, Victoria RL and Richey JE (eds.), 2001, The Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin. Oxford University Press. (Access Book)


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