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
  • M 10:15am - 11:15am (Edge Cafe)
  • W 11:00am - 12:00pm (227 Ho Science Center)
  • F 12:00pm - 1:00pm (227 Ho Science Center)

My research concerns the forest-floor ecosystem. Some ecologists call this system the “soil,” but it also includes plant debris and a lot of organisms. 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, introduction of new species, 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. More recently, my work with earthworms has been funded by 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). Little is known at all 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 Interests

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

Natural History Collections

I am also very interested in Colgate's natural history museum, called the Museum of the Chenango Valley.  The Museum has been featured recently 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.

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.

Selected Publications:

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)

  • C-RUI: Calcium depletion in Adirondack forests affected by acid deposition and its effect on aquatic and terrestrial food chains (with R. Fuller, R. April, and M. Hluchy). National Science Foundation.
  • RUI: Dynamics of European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) invasion in the northeastern United States (with D.H. McCay).  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-)
  • Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, Inc., board of directors (2010-2016), president (2015-2016)
Students attend Vertebrate Zoology class with teacher Tim McCay.
  • Biostatistics
  • Ecology
  • Conservation
  • Vertebrate 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.

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.