University of California,
Ph.D. University of
Max Hommersand's area of research is the
morphology, systematics and biography of the marine algae, with
emphasis on the red algae. He has a world-wide collection of over
thirty thousand specimens of marine algae for use in developmental
studies. Research facilities include a Zeiss photomicroscope for
light microscopy, three large culture rooms for growing algae,
and other facilities for investigating the evolutionary biology
and phylogeny of the marine algae.
Dr. Hommersand is the Curator of Algae
at the University of North Carolina Herbarium. His specimens are
not yet included in the Herbarium's database of specimens. Those
interested in his research or specimens should contact him via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via mail at Biology Department,
Coker Hall, CB#3280, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
NC 27599-3280 USA.
Kari Kozak, Willaim R. Burk and Ian Ewing
of the John N. Couch Biology Library of the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill have compiled an on-line
bibliography of Max Hommersand's publications.
Hommersand, M.H. and S. Fredericq. 1988.
An investigation of cystocarp development in Gelidium
pteridifolium with revised description of the Gelidiales
(Rhodophyta). Phycologia 27: 254-272.
Fredericq, S. and M.H. Hommersand. 1989.
Proposal of the Gracilariales ord. mov. (Rhodophyta) based on
an analysis of the reproductive development of Gracilaria
verrucosa. J. Phycol. 25: 213-227.
Coomans, R.J. and M.H. Hommersand. 1990.
Chapter 12: Vegetative growth and organization. In: K. Cole and
R. Sheath (eds.), The Biology of the Red Algae. Cambridge University
Press, New York.
Hommersand, M.H. and S. Fredericq. 1990.
Chapter 13: Sexual reproduction and cystocarp development. In:
K. Cole and R. Sheath (eds.), The Biology of the Red Algae. Cambridge
University Press, New York.
Hommersand. M.H. 1990. Biogeography of
the marine red algae of the north Atlantic Ocean. In: D. Barbary
and G. South (eds.), Evolutionary Biography of the Marine Algae
of the North Atlantic. NATO ASI Series G: Ecological Sciences
Vol. 22. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
Fredericq, S. and M.H. Hommersand. 1992.
Morphology and systematics of Acanthococcus antarcticus
(Cystocloniaceae, Rhodophyta). Phycologia 31:
Hommersand, M., S. Fredericq, and J. Cabioch.
1992. Developmental morphology of Gigartina pistillata
(Gigartinaceae, Rhodophyta). Phycologia 31: 300-325.
Fredericq, S., J. Brodie, and M.H. Hommersand.
1992. Developmental morphology of Chondrus crispus (Gigartinaceae,
Rhodophyta). Phycologia 3(6), In press.
Anonymous (2006) Hommersand receives lifetime
achievement award. University Gazette 31(1): 8. Chapel Hill, North
Max Hommersand, a biology professor who
joined the University more than 46 years ago, recently received
the 2005 Award of Excellence from the Phycological Society of
America (PSA). Hommersand is a professor emeritus in the biology
department. Phycology is the study of algae and the society is
the largest publisher of papers on algae in the world.
The award was presented at the international
meeting in Durban, South Africa, and recognizes phycologists who
have demonstrated sustained scholarly contributions in and impact
on the field of phycology over their careers. Honorees have also
provided service to the PSA and other phycological societies.
"A committee from the society looks over the work of different
researchers," Hommersand explained. "They are looking
back over the impact of your work over a lifetime."
Hommersand's area of research is the morphology,
systematics, and biology of the marine algae (seaweeds), with
emphasis on the red algae. He has a collection of over 30,000
specimens of marine algae for use in developmental studies.
"It was a surprise," Hommersand
said of the honor. "I was very pleased to be recognized and
placed in the same group as some of my colleagues who have received
Hommersand came to Carolina in 1959 and
stayed here first as an instructor before becoming a professor.
He retired in January 1998, but still comes to the office seven
days a week, he said. "I have filing cabinets full of unpublished
data that keeps me motivated," he said. "There is so
much that has been done by me and my students that is just getting
dust. I want to get the unpublished information, from my file
cabinets and my head, out. I have the opportunity now that I am
retired into this effort."
His fascination with algae and his distinguished
career began more than 60 years ago. "I started with the
Natural History Museum in San Diego," Hommersand said. "This
was during World War II, and I took a field trip from the musuem.
I was 13 at the time. We arranged to out to the Scripps Institute
of Oceanography and we met with researchers. I actually made a
collection that I still have. From the time I was 13, I was collecting."
He first researched the organisms while an undergraduate student
at the University of California at Berkeley in 1948.
Today, he sees the field continuing to
evolve. "A lot of people around the world now are using molecular
techniques to look at all algae," Hommersand said. "There
is already a great expansion in the use of molecular tools to
study the systematics of algae. More people are collecting with
scuba and submersibles in deeper water around the world. A lot
of the picture of the classification and distribution of marine
algae are starting to come from the newer collections that are
being made this way."
Always a researcher, Hommersand has an
ida about where phycology should go in the future. "I think
someone should do follow-up research to expeditions from the early
1800's that went to the remote places of the world," he said.
"Those expeditions were to collect everything under the sun,
by the French, British, and Germans. They hit all these little
islands in the Southern Hemisphere. Since then, no one has sent
a ship around the world to look at those remote areas. It is conceivable
to go back and re-survey the areas that were done in the 19th
centiry and look at them from a modern perspective. Much could
be learned by doing that."
Anonymous (2005) PSA Awards of Excellence,
2005: Thanarapu Vedanta Desikachary, Max Hoyt Hommersand, and
Frank Eric Round. Phycological Newsletter, a publication of
the Phycological Society of America 41(2): 2.
Max, as he is known to most of us,
has had (and continues to have) a remarkable career of great
significance in terms of teaching, scholarship and service
to phycology. He received his Bachelor’s degree from
the University of California at Berkeley in Botany in 1954.
He received his Doctorate in Botany from the University of
California at Berkeley under the aegis of Professor George
F. Papenfuss where he produced a massive dissertation on the
morphology and taxonomy of selected Ceramiaceae and Rhodomelaceae.
In the fall of 1957, Max was awarded a two-year NSF [National
Science Foundation] Postdoctoral fellowship from Harvard University.
Max has been on the faculty of the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill for over 38 years and has supervised more than
22 doctoral students.
For people who know Max, his being
an energetic and active Professor Emeritus is not a great
surprise. According to Paul Silva, Max was a precocious high
school student the year they met (1946) at the Allan Hancock
Foundation. As a young student, Paul encountered Max “reading
Fritsch (Structure and Reproduction of the Algae) while eating
sandwiches!” Max was fascinated by seaweeds after being
introduced to them on nature walks by E. Yale Dawson (following
World War II). Actually, Max’s fascination and passion
for seaweeds has been his signature trait throughout his life.
He has traveled the world collecting material for his phycological
Many contemporaries of Max consider
him to be one of the great phycological intellects of the
last half century. He and his many collaborators have had
unparalleled contributions to the fields of seaweed biogeography
and red algal systematics. He has published more than 68 major
scientific papers. His evolution from a classical macro-algal
taxonomist to one of the worlds’ leaders in using and
interpreting molecular data together with more classical observations
on algal morphology and reproduction is unique among his generation
of phycologists. According to Mike Guiry, “the significance
of the development of the female reproductive apparatus before
and after fertilization was first recognized by Schmitz in
Germany, pursued by Kylin in Sweden, and by Papenfuss in Berkeley,
but it was Max and his co-workers who have striven to establish
the value of the hypotheses.”
Perhaps the last 15 years have been
most significant for Max in terms of his professional accomplishments.
Working with a number of colleagues, Max has significantly
altered our genetic level understanding of the classical Order
Gigantinales. He has revised the taxonomic understanding of
key genera in the Ceramiales, Gracilariales and Gelidiales,
and improved our understanding of red algal phylogeny and
phylogeography. Max has published seminal papers highlighting
the information to be gleaned by marrying his extensive knowledge
of marine floras and in particular, the red algae, with what
we know of plat tectonic movements. He and his co-workers
have used the huge potential of DNA sequences in constructing
phylogenetic hypotheses. As Steve Murray writes, “today,
almost 50 years following the award of his dissertation, Max
is at the top of his game and continues to impact phycology.”
Max continues to be a
model and an inspiration to a new generation of scientists in
phycology from around the world. Max Hoyt Hommersand has demonstrated
the very essence of what it means to be nominated and receive
the PSA [Phycological Society of America] Award of Excellence.