Biologist recognized for research success and innovation

BOWLING GREEN, O.—After a toxic algal bloom rendered much of northwest Ohio’s drinking water unusable last summer, the study of algae in our region’s waterways has taken on new importance. Dr. Robert Michael (Mike) McKay, Ryan Professor of Biological Sciences and winner of the 2015 Olscamp Research Award, is a regional and national leader in the study of toxic algal blooms and on microbial communities in frozen lakes and the open sea.

Given annually by the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research to a faculty member for outstanding scholarly or creative accomplishments during the previous three years, the Olscamp award includes a $2,000 cash prize and a reserved parking spot for a year. It was given to McKay during the Faculty Excellence Awards on April 14.

“Looking at Prof. McKay’s work more closely reveals some major findings that have drawn international attention,” wrote Dr. George Bullerjahn, professor of biological sciences, in his nomination letter. “The winter lake work demonstrated that lakes do not ‘hibernate’ in winter. Regarding toxic cyanobacterial blooms, Prof. McKay has long been active in research aimed at understanding the physiology and growth of cyanobacteria.”

On April 13 and 14, an international workshop organized by McKay and Bullerjahn was held on campus to discuss the impact of toxic algal blooms worldwide and ways to combat them.

Dr. Jeff Miner, professor and chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, called McKay in his nominating letter the most research successful faculty member in biological sciences and wrote that “through his research, brings extensive international recognition to BGSU.”

In addition to serving as director of the BGSU Marine Laboratory, a successful undergraduate program that has been growing rapidly under his guidance, McKay has also expanded the University’s partnership with Lorain County Community College. He also developed a special relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard, going so far as to teach a BGSU course on board a Coast Guard ship on the aspects of the lake on which the crew worked.

Bullerjahn also pointed out the success of students who have worked in McKay’s lab. One is a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University and another is a Ph.D. student at the University of Southern California currently working in the Antarctic.

McKay has maintained his production on the publication side as well, averaging four research articles per year over the past three years with a total of 69 peer-reviewed publications in his career.

“Mike McKay is an innovative and respected teacher and one of the strongest advocates for the sciences at BGSU,” wrote Miner.