Tim McCay - Biology Faculty - Colgate University

Colgate Directory

Tim McCay

Tim McCay

Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies; Chair of the Department of Biology
Biology/Environmental Studies, 213 Olin Hall
p 315-228-7705
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. 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. The first grant funded work on the invasion of the Northeast by European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and how animals influence the invasion and are affected by it. The second grant funded work on how acid rain in the Adirondacks has affected processes and species at the forest floor.

Along with students and collaborators, I am developing a new project aimed at better understanding the factors that limit the distributions of various earthworm species in central New York and beyond. The earthworm fauna of New York State consists of about 30 species — some of which are native to North America and others believed to have been introduced from Europe and Asia. It is unclear whether many of these introduced earthworms are still expanding their ranges (and thus are a potential concern faced by managers of natural areas) or whether range expansion is complete. By understanding the factors that currently limit distributions, we can better understand just how active these invasion processes are. This project is being expanded across North America using the NSF-funded Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN).


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


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


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., D.H. McCay, A.V. Caragiulo*, and T.L. Mandel*. 2009. Demography and distribution of the invasive Rhamnus cathartica in habitats of a fragmented landscape. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 136:110-121.

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.

McCay, T.S., D.H. McCay, and J.L. Czajka*. 2009. Deposition of exotic bird-dispersed seeds into three habitats of a fragmented landscape in the northeastern United States. Plant Ecology 203:59-67.

McCay, T.S., and D.H. McCay. 2009. Processes affecting the success of European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) in a fragmented landscape. Biological Invasions 11:1835-1844.

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.

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.

* Colgate undergraduate authors


  • 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.


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


Phi Eta Sigma Professor of the Year 2003

Leadership and Governance

  • Director, Colgate Environmental Studies Program (2009-2012)
  • Chair, Colgate Department of Biology (2014-P)
  • Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, Inc., board of directors (2010-P)
  • Ecological Research as Education Network, leadership team (2013-P)