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Prominent Marine Ecologist to Receive Prestigious Cody Award from Scripps

Mark Hay of the Georgia Institute of Technology to give free public lectures on June 14 and 15


  • Mario Aguilera

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  • Mario Aguilera

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Mark Hay, 2012 Cody Award winner, diving off Dravuni Island island in the Kadavu group, Fiji Islands.

A marine ecologist known for his work on community ecology and chemical ecology has been selected to receive the 2012 Robert L. and Bettie P. Cody Award in Ocean Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Mark Hay, Teasley Professor of Environmental Biology and co-director of the Center for Aquatic Chemical Ecology at Georgia Tech, will be awarded the prestigious prize during a private ceremony on June 14.

As part of the award, Hay will present a public lecture on June 15 at 11 a.m. in the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment (Scripps Seaside Forum), 8610 Kennel Way, just north of El Paseo Grande on the Scripps campus in La Jolla. The lecture, “The Language of the Sea: How Chemically-mediated Interactions Structure Marine Populations, Communities, and Ecosystems,” is designed for a lay audience. On June 14 at 3 p.m. he will present a technical lecture, also in the Scripps Seaside Forum. “The Biotic Death Spiral of Coral Reefs: Can Local Intervention Reverse the Global Decline?” is intended for a scientific audience. Both talks are free and open to the public (street parking only).

The biennial Cody Award, which consists of a gold medal and a $10,000 prize, recognizes outstanding scientific achievement in oceanography, marine biology and Earth science.

The award, part of the Scripps Distinguished Lecture Series, was established by an endowment from the late Robert Cody and his wife Bettie, and a substantial contribution from Capital Research & Management Company, in recognition of Mr. Cody’s service to the Los Angeles-based firm. Robert Cody’s affiliation with Scripps Oceanography dates back to his youth and his association with William E. Ritter, his great uncle and founder and first director of Scripps.

Mark Hay

Hay is an experimental field ecologist who investigates the processes and mechanisms affecting the structure and function of marine communities, with most of his research focusing on consumer-prey interactions, and on the cascading effects of these interactions on the ecology and evolution of marine communities. His research has transformed and deepened our understanding of plant-herbivore interactions in the sea (the base upon which marine food webs are built), and he helped found the modern field of marine chemical ecology.

His fundamental research has provided key insights on critical aspects of the conservation and restoration of coral reefs and challenged how scientists view ecological and evolutionary processes affecting the establishment and impact of invasive species. Hay has commonly worked with media outlets to assure that his basic findings are made accessible and understandable to the general public.

Hay’s field research has focused on tropical coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and South Pacific. He has participated in many ship-based expeditions but more commonly works for extended periods in remote field stations to conduct longer-term experiments. Coral reefs have been his primary focus, although insights from that focus system are often applied to temperate rocky reefs, open ocean plankton communities, inland freshwaters and occasionally to desert and other terrestrial systems.

Hay’s research has been pivotal in structuring science’s understanding of the critical role that consumers play in affecting community structure and function in marine systems. By conducting tests in unrelated systems he is often able to demonstrate that discoveries from marine investigations constitute robust, fundamental concepts that transcend particular species and ecosystems. 

Hay completed B.A. degree requirements in Zoology and Philosophy at the University of Kentucky in 1974, and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Irvine, in 1980. He was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and a post-doctoral fellow in paleobiology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. From 1982-1999 he was on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences.

In 1999, he moved to Georgia Tech as recipient of the Teasley Chair. He has conducted more than 5,000 scuba dives, and has lead three saturation diving missions (using both Hydrolab and Aquarius) – where scientists live and work at depth on a coral reef for periods of 10 days.

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