Dr. K. Greg MurrayT. Elliot Weier Professor of Plant Science
Greg Murray grew up in southern California, where the seashores, deserts and mountains that one can visit in a single day were the perfect place for a budding young field biologist. As an undergraduate he focused on marine ecology, but he switched to seabirds and rodents when he got the chance to study their breeding ecology and interactions on an island off the coast of southern California for several months at a time. Later, his research focus shifted to the study of interactions between tropical rainforest plants, the birds that pollinate their flowers, and those that disperse their seeds.
Along the way he and Kathy Winnett found one another, and after they received their master’s degrees in biology they married and pursued doctoral studies at the University of Florida. In 1986 they both joined the biology faculty of Hope College.
Dr. Murray teaches courses ranging from introductory biology to upper-level explorations of topics including population and community ecology, conservation biology, mathematical biology, and marine biology and biophysics. He has been active in curriculum development in the Department of Biology, and in integrating field experience into the department’s courses.
Throughout his career at Hope, Dr. Murray has continued his studies of plant-animal interactions in the mountains of Costa Rica. Having also studied the ecology of sea urchins, lizards, rodents, temperate songbirds, pond ecosystems, invasive plants and insects, and now the defensive chemicals and microbial communities associated with dormant seeds, he is a firm believer in the value of a broad background, especially at the undergraduate level.
Areas of Expertise
Dr. Murray has broad interests in ecology and evolutionary biology, especially in plant/animal interactions, community ecology and vertebrate feeding ecology. His 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 he has conducted detailed studies of seed dispersal, forest dynamics and plant demography in a cloud forest at Monteverde, Costa Rica, concentrating on a group of “pioneer plants” — species that start the regeneration process after human or natural disturbance.
His current research includes work with Hope mathematician Dr. Brian Yurk that incorporates plant demography and forest disturbance rate data into mathematical models to understand the evolution of pioneer plant characteristics.
He also continues a long-term collaborative effort with Hope College chemists, most recently Dr. Elizabeth Sanford, to identify the chemicals that can protect pioneer species' seeds in the soil for decades or even hundreds of years. With Dr. Winnett-Murray and others, he also is tracking ecological shifts in a West Michigan hemlock forest that is undergoing a potentially devastating insect infestation.
- Ph.D., zoology, University of Florida, Gainesville FL (1986)
- M.S., biology, California State University, Northridge CA (1980)
- B.A., biology, California State University, Northridge CA (1977)
Selected Honors and Grants
- Appointed to T. Elliot Weier Professor of Plant Science endowed professorship, 2017
- “Microbial Interactions in Dormant Seeds: Training a Collaborative Team to Integrate the Microbiome with Plant Population Ecology,” Great Lakes Colleges Association New Directions Program grant, 2012
- “MRI-R2: Acquisition of Instrumentation to Determine Provenance of Environmental Samples,” National Science Foundation grant (with Dr. Graham Peaslee of the Hope College Departments of Chemistry and Geology and Environmental Science, and Dr. Stephen Remillard of the Hope College Department of Physics), 2010
- “Integrating Mathematics and Biology: A Case Studies Approach to Linear Algebra” (with Dr. Janet Anderson of the Hope College Department of Mathematics), National Science Foundation grant, 2000
- “Dynamics of Tropical Forest Seed Banks: Seed Predators as Determinants of Community Structure and Plant-Frugivore Coevolution,” National Science Foundation grant, 1993
Selected Published Work
- “Effects of Urbanization on the Population Structure of Freshwater Turtles across the United States,” with D. R. Bowne et al., Conservation Biology, 2018
- “Diversity of Seeds Captured by Interception Exceeds Diversity of Seeds Deposited in Traps,” with J. L. Stone et al., Biotropica, 2017
- “Chemical Defense and the Persistence of Pioneer Plant Seeds in the Soil of a Tropical Cloud Forest,” with J. W. Veldman et al., Biotropica, 2007
- “Avian seed dispersal of three neotropical gap-dependent plants,” Ecological Monographs, 1988
- “Selection for optimal fruit crop size in bird-dispersed plants,” American Naturalist, 1987
View all of Greg Murray’s published work at Google Scholar.
Outside the College
Dr. Murray enjoys fishing, kayaking and hiking, though he spends far less time on such pursuits than he ought to. A member of the college’s “Green Team,” he’s an enthusiastic supporter of bringing science to bear on environmental and economic problems, and has been active in local, regional and national conservation organizations including the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and the Community Energy Advisory Group of Holland, Michigan. He’s also pathologically devoted to his Australian Shepherds, Mookie and Charlie.