School of Biology professor cofounded field of marine chemical ecology.
Jun 7, 2016 | Atlanta, GA
School of Biology Professor and Harry and Linda Teasley Chair Mark E. Hay has been elected a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America (ESA). ESA fellows are members who have made outstanding contributions to a wide range of fields served by ESA, including, but not restricted to, those that advance or apply ecological knowledge in academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the broader society. They are elected for life.
Hay is being recognized for advancing the science of ecology. Specifically, Hay is credited for seminal contributions to understanding community organization, consumer-prey interactions, and the chemical cues regulating biotic interactions in aquatic ecosystems.
An experimental ecologist, Hay has been revolutionizing marine conservation and management and is a founder of the field of marine chemical ecology. For the past four decades, he has led scientific expeditions to remote regions to study the processes and mechanisms that control the organization, function, and sustainability of natural ecosystems.
“Mark links the design of field experimentation with laboratory analysis in ways that reinforce, and often revise or invent, ecological theory,” comments Alan P. Covich, a professor of ecology at the University of Georgia.
Among Hay’s seminal contributions, James A. Estes singles out the identification and demonstration of the interplay between plant secondary metabolites and species interactions in ocean systems. Estes is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. These early research findings, Estes says, have led to key discoveries – such as the multiple functionality of secondary metabolites – and “an integrated view of the ecological importance of plant secondary metabolites across marine, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems.”
Notably, Hay’s pioneering work was carried out in remote areas of the world, like Fiji, that otherwise would lack long-term ecological research, comments Mary E. Power, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Mark and his graduate students overcame logistical and cultural challenges to maintain prolonged field studies of reefs in remote tropical areas.”
And according to Georgia Tech School of Biology Professor Joshua S. Weitz, through outreach, education, and communication efforts, Hay “has transformed conservation practices for coral reefs and helped support the next generation of marine ecologists.”
Recently, Hay’s work has enabled scientists to “listen” to the conversations of marine organisms, carried out with chemical signals. Hay is learning to treat marine environmental collapse by understanding the chemical communication of critical marine organisms.
“Mark’s accomplishments make us beam with pride,” says College of Sciences Dean Paul M. Goldbart. “Mark is an exemplary scientist and educator, inspiring students and colleagues alike.”
In April, Hay received the Georgia Tech Outstanding Faculty Research Author Award, in recognition of his highly impactful publications.
A skilled science communicator, Hay has shared his discoveries with various nonexpert audiences, including village chiefs in Fiji. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, BBC, NPR, and other global media outlets. For being at the forefront of conservation science, Hay received the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award from the Explorers Club in 2015.