Mark Hay is an experimental field ecologist and chemical ecologist recognized for his work on how consumer-prey interactions structure populations and communities and facilitate the resilience of natural ecosystems. He is known for his work on chemically-mediated interactions affecting seaweed-herbivore-coral interactions and on how understanding the mechanisms underlying these interactions can inform management and restoration of threatened marine and freshwater ecosystems. Hay grew up in Georgetown, Kentucky, received his undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Kentucky, and his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of California, Irvine. He was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and a post-doctoral fellow in paleobiology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In 1982, he joined the faculty at UNC, Chapel Hill; in 1999, he joined the Georgia Institute of Technology as the Teasley Professor of Environmental Biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, recipient of the Cody Award in Ocean Sciences, the Silver Medal from the International Society of Chemical Ecology, the Smith Medal from the NAS, and Lowell Thomas award from the Explorers Club.

Research Interests

Most of Mark Hay's research focuses on manipulative field experiments on reefs in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and South Pacific, but his lab has also worked in deserts, streams, and lakes to test the robustness of their findings concerning how biotic interactions affect the ecology and evolution of populations and communities in general. Field experiments are followed by chemical investigations and laboratory studies to determine the chemically-mediated mechanisms controlling outcomes of consumer-prey, competitive, and host-pathogen interactions, as well as the chemical cues impacting juvenile recruitment. These studies have demonstrated the critical importance of generalist herbivores in selecting for plant defensive traits, the role of predators in selecting for certain herbivores to specialize on toxic plants to acquire safe sites for living and feeding, and the critical role of herbivore diversity in maintaining the structure and function of coral reefs by suppressing allelopathic seaweeds that can kill corals following contact. The fundamental research from Hay's lab provides insights on critical aspects of the conservation and restoration of coral reefs and elucidates the ecological and evolutionary processes affecting the establishment and impact of invasive species in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial systems.

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology