Mark D. Hunter, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology in LSA, has devoted his career to the study of plant-animal interactions and how these affect ecosystem ecology and biodiversity.

He is especially interested in applying what he has learned to environmental issues, including pest dynamics, invasive species and climate change.

Photo of Mark Hunter
Mark Hunter

In his upcoming Distinguished University Professor lecture, “Animal Pharm: The Ecology and Evolution of Medication Behaviors in Animals,” Hunter will explain how animals, like humans, use the natural pharmaceuticals in plants to protect themselves from the effects of disease agents.

He’ll also show how herbivores choose appropriate medicines from what he calls the “Great Green Pharmacy,” and he’ll explain how the forces of global environmental change threaten the pharmaceutical use of plants by animals.

The talk will take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Rackham Amphitheatre. The lecture and the reception that follows are free and open to the public.

A Distinguished University Professorship is the highest professorial honor bestowed on U-M faculty. Mark D. Hunter is the Earl E. Werner Distinguished University Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

His talk will demonstrate how different ecological conditions favor the evolution of different medication behaviors by animals. Because the concentrations of toxins in plants vary substantially as a result of such environmental conditions as soil quality, air quality and biotic interactions, Hunter says conservation of the “Great Green Pharmacy” is vitally important to the biological diversity of life on Earth.

Hunter named his professorship for Earl E. Werner, a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at U-M, and an expert in the nature of species interactions and the consequences of those interactions to the structure of ecological communities.

A pioneer in the study of how predators influence prey population dynamics, Werner was a professor in the Department of Biology from 1986 to 2001 and in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from 2001 until his retirement in 2014.

He is a past editor of Ecology and Ecological Monographs and past vice president of the Ecological Society of America. In 1978, he received the society’s prestigious Mercer Award. Werner also served on National Research Council boards and on the scientific advisory board of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

“I am so happy to be able to recognize the trailblazing work of Earl Werner, who has inspired so many of us,” Hunter says. “I used some of Earl’s papers in the first ecology class I ever taught, and I still use his papers in my classes today. They’re also cited in almost everything we publish.”

Hunter received his Bachelor of Arts and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Oxford in England. He served as a NATO International Fellow and as an international fellow for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada before joining the faculty of the University of Georgia in 1995 as a professor in the Institute of Ecology and founding director of the Center for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes.

Hunter joined the U-M faculty in 2006. He has published more than 165 articles and has written or edited six books. He is the recipient of both a CAREER award and an OPUS award from the National Science Foundation. In 2014, Hunter was elected a fellow of the Ecological Society of America.