Hope College Biology

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Picture of K. Greg Murray K. Greg Murray Professor of Biology

Education

  • California State University, Northridge - B.A. 1977, Biology
  • California State University, Northridge - M.S. 1980, Biology
  • University of Florida, Gainesville - Ph.D. 1986, Zoology

Research Interests

I have broad interests in ecology and evolutionary biology, especially in plant/animal interactions, community ecology, and vertebrate feeding ecology.

  • My primary research focuses on the ways in which plants, fruit-eating birds, seed predators and pathogens, and physical disturbance regimes interact to determine community structure in tropical forests. Since 1980 I've conducted detailed studies of seed dispersal by birds in cloud forest at Monteverde, Costa Rica, and on the rates at which new openings are formed in those forests by physical disturbance (mostly windthrow of canopy trees). I concentrate on a group of plant species, loosely termed "pioneers," that start the regeneration process, and since 1990 I've studied the survival of all stages (seed through adult) of six pioneer species. We've found that seeds of some species can survive in the soil for 10's to 100's of years (!) waiting for a canopy disturbance to occur, while others survive for less than one year. My current work on this project follows two tracks: 1) incorporation of plant demography and forest disturbance rate data into comprehensive mathematical models to understand the relative importance of different sources of mortality in the evolution of pioneer plant characteristics, and 2) collaboration with organic chemists (Drs. William Mungall and Mike Short; both in the Hope College Chemistry Dept.) to identify the chemicals responsible for the great longevity of some pioneer species' seeds in the soil. Both aspects of this research include fieldwork in Costa Rica.
  • Since 2005 I have collaborated with Dr. Graham Peaslee (Hope College Chemistry Dept.) to understand the biological and chemical factors driving the growth of "nuisance" algae and plants in local residential ponds and lakes, as well as to assess the unintended biological consequences of chemical treatments to inhibit such growth. To date, our findings suggest that the most common treatment protocol - introduction of large quantities of copper sulfate - does significant harm to aquatic animal populations without adequately controlling the nuisance plants and algae.
  • Most recently, I've initiated a collaborative study with Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray (also in the Hope College Biology Dept.) to investigate the consequences of Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (an exotic aphid-like insect that decimates Eastern Hemlock trees) infestation for recruitment and survival of broadleaved trees in eastern and midwestern forests. Our study compares the Hope College Nature Preserve (which has not yet been reached by adelgids) with the Mohonk Preserve in upstate New York (which is heavily infested). We anticipate that hemlock defoliation by adelgids will increase light levels on the forest floor, favoring a shift in species composition toward shade-intolerant broadleaved tree species.
Go to current research projects

Experience

I grew up in southern California, and the seashores, deserts, and mountains that one can visit there in a single day were the perfect place for a budding young field biologist. As an undergraduate I intended to focus on marine ecology, but switched to seabirds when I got the chance to study the breeding ecology of several species while living on an offshore island for several months at a time. After receiving my M.S., we (Dr. Winnett-Murray and I, who were by then married) moved to Florida. Switching study systems again, I studied the interactions between tropical rainforest plants and the hummingbirds that pollinate them and the other birds that disperse their seeds. After finishing our Ph.D. degrees in 1986 we both joined the faculty of Hope College, and I have continued my studies of plant-animal interactions in the mountains of Costa Rica ever since. Having also studied the ecology of sea urchins, lizards, rodents, temperate songbirds, pond ecosystems, and invasive plants, I am a firm believer in the value of a broad background, especially at the undergraduate level!

Affiliations

  • Ecological Society of America
  • Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation
  • Society for Conservation Biology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Ornithologists' Union
  • Sigma Xi

Dr. Murray is a member of Facebook (Hope Biology Alumni)

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Contact Details

Phone: 616-395-7716
Fax: 616-395-7125
E-mail: gmurray@hope.edu
Office: Science Center 2025

Office Hours

Tuesday, Thurday 8:00-10:00 a.m. and Wednesday 3:00-4:00 p.m.