Dr. Deborah French McCay

Director, Research and Model Development

Dr. French-McCay is an internationally recognized expert in oil spill fate and effects modelling for response planning, environmental risk assessments and impact evaluations. She leads development of RPS’s oil and chemical spill models (SIMAP and CHEMMAP), which are applied world-wide. She specializes in quantitative assessments and modelling of oil and chemical releases for response planning, impact, risk, and natural resource damage assessments (NRDA), evaluating transport and fate, exposure, and effects of pollutants on individual organisms, populations and aquatic ecosystems. Dr. French-McCay provides modelling contributions and technical documentation for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), Risk Assessments (RA), Net Environmental Benefit Analysis (NEBA), NRDAs, and similar applications. She has been principal investigator and primary author of more than one hundred technical reports and peer-reviewed published papers evaluating oil trajectory and fate, exposure, effects, and environmental risks. She has provided expert testimony in hearings regarding environmental risk and impact assessments.


In support of the US government’s NRDA for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April-July 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, Dr. French-McCay was lead of the Offshore Water Column, Plankton and Fish Technical Working Group in development of over 40 work plans for cruises each involving one or more vessels in the Gulf of Mexico that collected physical, chemical and biological data for use in the NRDA. She led the effort of conducting oil transport, fate and exposure modelling using the SIMAP model to evaluate injuries for water column organisms. She collaborated with hydrodynamic modelers, evaluating their model output (predicted currents) as input to the SIMAP model. Dr French-McCay also oversaw the development of biological density and life history data for use in modelling baseline biological densities and production foregone due to the spill.  She developed and implemented population models, using published fish life history models and vital rates, to extrapolate from instantaneous direct injuries to additional production lost to the ecosystem due to injured organisms being removed from the environment.


Dr. French-McCay (né Deborah Perryman) received her A.B. in Zoology from Rutgers College in 1974. She (as Deborah P. French) received her PhD in Oceanography from the University of Rhode Island in 1984, focusing on modelling of plankton transport, growth, and food web interactions. Dr. French-McCay has a strong interdisciplinary background and expertise in developing, testing, and applying model software to address environmental exposures and effects.

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