When K. Greg Murray ’77 (Biology), M.S. ’79 (Biology) started his education at California State University, Northridge in fall 1972, he had no idea how profound an impact the school would have on his life.
“There is no possible way that I could overstate how important CSUN was for me — in several ways,” Murray said.
CSUN prepared Murray to pursue a doctorate in zoology from the University of Florida, establish a career as professor of biology and pursue research in the cloud forest of Costa Rica — and not to mention, CSUN was where he met his wife.
In July 2017, Murray was appointed to a 10-year term as the T. Elliot Weier Professor of Plant Science at Hope College in Holland, Mich. “I’m very greatly honored to be chosen for this position and to be associated with Professor Weier,” he said.
T. Elliot Weier was a Hope alumnus and internationally recognized for his research on photosynthesis. Murray first came across Weier during his time at CSUN, reading the textbook Botany: An Introduction to Plant Biology, by Weier, C. Ralph Stocking and Michael G. Barbour, for a plant biology class in 1974. More than 40 years later, Murray still has the same copy of the textbook on his bookshelf. “Now I’ve been endowed to this professorship named after the person whose textbook I used as an undergraduate,” he said.
CSUN also impacted Murray’s personal life. He met his future wife, Kathy Winnett-Murray ’79 (M.S., Biology), during his graduate studies. The pair worked together on a research project about seabirds on Santa Barbara Island. Their careers and lives have been intertwined ever since.
“After graduating from CSUN, we applied for Ph.D. programs together,” Greg Murray said. The couple married in 1979, and they started doctorate programs in Florida the same year.
In 1986, Murray and Winnett-Murray started teaching at Hope College. Murray teaches courses in ecology, introductory biology, conservation biology, marine biology and biophysics, and mathematical biology.
His research focuses on plant-animal interactions. Murray wrote his dissertation about the dispersal of plant seeds by fruit-eating birds, and studied hummingbird feeding ecology and pollination ecology in Costa Rica.
In 1981, Murray and his wife moved to Costa Rica for about two years to conduct tropical ecology studies in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. In 1990, the couple built a house just outside the reserve and has spent summers there ever since, along with their two sons.
Murray continues his research in Costa Rica, studying the demography of pioneer plants — plants that are the first ones to settle and start natural regeneration processes in damaged areas — and forest dynamics, which examines how much of a forest is damaged by physical disturbance and how quickly it regenerates. Some of his research includes long-term projects that have been operating since 1981.
“Studies like these are very important to ecology, because there are certain questions you can’t answer in a short amount of time,” he said.
Murray noted that he feels a strong connection to the community and cloud forest in Costa Rica.
“It’s just a wonderful place,” he said. “It’s a place where I love being, and where I feel at home the most.”