Timothy (Tim) McCay

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Timothy (Tim) McCay

Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair in Regional Studies; Dunham Beldon Jr. Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies

Department/Office Information

Biology, Environmental Studies
227 Ho Science Center

My research concerns the soil ecology of the forest floor. I am particularly interested in the shrews, mammals that rule over this system as top predators, and earthworms, which consume and break down plant material more effectively than other decomposers.

From the perspective of basic science, I am interested in the influence that members of these two taxa have on other species and the process of decomposition. From an applied perspective, I am interested in how people influence this system through acid rain, which is caused by air pollution, the introduction of new species, the removal of logs, and other interventions. During my time at Colgate, this research program has been funded by two grants from the National Science Foundation, a grant from the US Department of Agriculture, and the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute.

I am currently working to better understand the factors that limit the distributions of various earthworm species in the American Northeast. The earthworm fauna of New York State consists of about 30 species — some of which are native to North America and others that were introduced from Europe and Asia. Many of these introduced earthworms are expanding their ranges (and thus are a potential concern faced by managers of natural areas). I collaborate with others in the Jumping Worm Outreach, Research, and Management Working Group (JWORM) to better understand the dangers of invasive jumping worms and how to control them.  Little is known about the native earthworms, such as Eisenoides lonnbergi, found in the Northeast. I also lead a collaborative project, which uses the NSF-funded Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), aimed at understanding earthworm distributions across North America.

BS, University of Florida, 1991; MS, The Pennsylvania State University, 1994; MS (Statistics, 1998), PhD (Ecology, 1999), University of Georgia

Research Topics

Forest-floor ecology, invasive species, conservation biology, ecology of earthworms and shrews

Natural History Collections

I help curate Colgate's natural history museum, called the Museum of the Chenango Valley.  The Museum has been featured in a Bicentennial exhibit called Life After Death. Read more about the exhibit in this piece by Jasmine Kellogg. See a video about the exhibit here.

Undergraduate Education

Research is a great way to learn content and valuable life skills, such as critical thinking and logistical planning. I am active in the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN), and the Macrosystems Ecology for All (MEFA) Network. Both are aimed at helping teaching-focused faculty better incorporate research into curricula. 

Community Involvement

I partner with gardeners in the Upstate region to collect data on invasive earthworms and factors associated with invasion. Here is an article describing some of that work: Link.  Students and I work with local land trusts and environmental organizations as part of service-learning projects in the Environmental Studies Curriculum.

Articles in Journal of Mammalogy, Acta Theriologica, Biological Invasions, Forest Ecology and Management, Mammalian Species, Physical Geography, American Midland Naturalist, Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, Plant Ecology, Brimleyana, Journal of Parasitology, and others.

Brown, M.E., R.O. Prieto, J.D. Corbin, J.H. Ness, R. Borroto-Páez, T.S. McCay, S.F. Cushman, and M.S. Farnsworth. 2021. Plant Pirates of the Caribbean: is Cuba sheltered by its revolutionary economy? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment doi:10.1002/fee.2311

Chang, C.-H., M. Bartz, G. Brown, M. Callaham, E. Cameron, A. Dávalos, A. Dobson, J. Gorres, B. Herrick, H. Ikeda, S. W. James, M. R. Johnston, T.S. McCay, D. McHugh, Y. Minamiya, M. Nouri-Aiin, M. Novo, J. Ortiz-Pachar, R. A. Pinder, T. Ransom, J. B. Richardson, B. A. Snyder, and K. Szlavecz. 2021. The second wave of earthworm invasions in North America: Biology, environmental impacts, management and control of invasive jumping worms. Biological Invasions 23:3291-3322.

Johnson, D.M.*, K.M. Gale*, A.M. Dobson, and T.S. McCay. 2021. Distribution and public perception of invasive pheretimoid "Jumping Worms" in the northeastern United States. Northeastern Naturalist 28: 383-396.

McCay, T.S., G. Brown, M. A. Callaham, Jr., C.-H. Chang, A. Dávalos, A. Dobson, J. Gorres, B. M. Herrick, S. W. James, M. R. Johnston, D. McHugh, T. Minteer, J.-D. Moore, M. Nouri-Aiin, M. Novo, J. Ortiz-Pachar, R. A. Pinder, J. B. Richardson, B. A. Snyder, K. Szlavecz. 2020. Toolkit for monitoring and study of peregrine pheretimoid earthworms (Megascolecidae). Pedobiologia 83:150669.

Anderson, L.J., J.A. Dosch, E.S. Lindquist, T.S. McCay, J.-L. Machado, K.L. Kuers, T.B. Gartner, K. Shea, C. Mankiewicz, V.L. Rodgers, P.A. Saunders, R. Urban, J.S. Kilgore, A. Powell, B. Ramage, M. Steinweg, J. Straub, S.L. Bunnell, M. Witkovsky-Eldred. 2020. Assessment of student learning in undergraduate courses with collaborative projects from the Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN). Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research 4:15 - 29. 

McCay, T.S. and P. Scull. 2019. Invasive lumbricid earthworms in northeastern North American forests and consequences for leaf-litter fauna. Biological Invasions 21: 2081-2093. 

Armstrong, G.W.*, A. Mahmood*, A. Nugent*, S. Dexter*, E. Hutto*, T.S. McCay, and A. Ay. 2017. WORMSPREAD: An individual-based model of invasive earthworm population dynamics. Computational Ecology and Software 7:109-122.

McCay, T.S., R.A. Pinder, E. Alvarado*, and W.C. Hanson*. 2017. Distribution and habitat of the endemic earthworm Eisenoides lonnbergi (Michaelsen), in the northeastern United States. Northeastern Naturalist 24:239-248.

Homan, C.*, C. Beier, T. McCay, and G. Lawrence. 2016. Application of lime (CaCO3) to promote forest recovery from severe acidification increases potential for earthworm invasion. Forest Ecology and Management 368: 39-44.

McCay, T.S., C.E. Cardelus, and M.A. Neatrour. 2013. Rate of litter decay and litter macroinvertebrates in limed and unlimed forests of the Adirondack Mountains, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 304: 254-260.

Thompson, J.D.*, J.S. Fish*, and T.S. McCay. 2013. Soil liming mitigates the negative effect of simulated acid rain on the isopod, Porcellio scaber. Journal of Crustacean Biology 33: 440-443.

Bernard, M.J.*, M.A. Neatrour, and T. S. McCay. 2009. Influence of soil buffering capacity on earthworm growth, survival, and community composition in the western Adirondacks and central New York. Northeastern Naturalist 16:269-284.

* Student authors

Visiting Senior Fellow, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia (2008)

Cuba to cultivate research partnerships regarding invasive species (2016)

Chile and Argentina to cultivate sustainability curriculum (2016)

RCN: Macrosystems Ecology For All (MEFA) Research Coordination Network. National Science Foundation.

Jumping worm invasion and impact in the Northern Forest. Northeastern States Research Consortium, USDA.

Understanding the single and combined effects of co-occurring stressors: white-tailed deer, invasive earthworms, and invasive plants. Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership.

Developing online teaching tools for field ecology and data science through an EREN-NEON partnership. National Science Foundation.

C-RUI: Calcium depletion in Adirondack forests affected by acid deposition and its effect on aquatic and terrestrial food chains. National Science Foundation.

RUI: Dynamics of European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) invasion in the northeastern United States.  National Science Foundation.

Phi Eta Sigma Professor of the Year 2003

  • Director, Colgate Environmental Studies Program (2009-2012)
  • Chair, Colgate Department of Biology (2014-2017)
  • Ecological Research as Education Network, board of directors (2013-2016, 2019-)
  • Macrosystems Ecology for All Network Management Team (2022-)
  • Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, Inc., board of directors (2010-2016), president (2015-2016)
Students attend Vertebrate Zoology class with teacher Tim McCay.

Ecology, Biostatistics, Conservation, Zoology

Students play a large role in my research program and frequently are co-authors on papers. I am active in several communities of faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions that value the role of undergraduate research in education.

Stack Whitney, K., M.J. Heard, L.J. Anderson, S. Cooke, D. Garneau, J. Kilgore, M.B. Kolozsvary, K. Kuers, C. K. Lunch, T.S. McCay, and A. T. Parker. 2022. Flexible and inclusive ecology projects that harness collaboration and NEON-enabled science to enhance student learning. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 103:e01963.

Simmons, J.A., L.J. Anderson, D.R. Bowne, J.A. Dosch, T.B. Gartner, M.F. Hoopes, K. Kuers, E.S. Lindquist, T.S. McCay, B.R. Pohlad, C.L. Thomas, and K.L. Shea. 2016. Collaborative Research Networks Provide Unique Opportunities for Faculty and Student Researchers. CUR Quarterly 36: 12-18.