B. A. University of California,
Ph.D. University of California,
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. In 2013
the National Science Foundation funded the Macroalgal
Digitization Project with a goal of imaging, databasing
and georeferencing over 1.1 million algae specimens
from 49 herbaria across North America.
NCU is contributing to this effort, and our specimens are available at
Those interested in Dr. Hommersand’s
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
a bibliography of
Haru “Fran” Chisaki Hommersand, Max’s wife, and their son, Eric A. Hommersand, frequently collect algae together with Max. Fran earned a B.A. in Botany from the
University of California in Berkeley, and Phycodrys franiae S-M. Lin & W.A. Nelson is
named in her honor.
Hommersand, M.H. and S. Fredericq.
1988. An investigation of cystocarp development in Gelidium pteridifolium
with revised description of the Gelidiales (Rhodophyta). Phycologia
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.
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
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,
Fredericq, S. and M.H. Hommersand.
1992. Morphology and systematics of Acanthococcus
Hommersand, M., S. Fredericq, and J. Cabioch. 1992. Developmental morphology of Gigartina pistillata
Phycologia 31: 300-325.
Fredericq, S., J. Brodie, and M.H. Hommersand.
1992. Developmental morphology of Chondrus
3(6), In press.
Anonymous (2006) Hommersand
receives lifetime achievement award. University Gazette 31(1): 8. Chapel
Hill, North Carolina, USA.
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
"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 the award."
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
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."
(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
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 studies.
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
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.