G. Carleton Ray

Research Professor · Ph.D. Columbia University, 1960

Contact Information

General Activities

During a span of five decades, I have focused activities on cross-disciplinary coastal-marine research and conservation. These fields have paralleled one another and have now merged to become a recognized discipline of conservation ecology. Early in my career, I recognized the central roles of natural history and interdisciplinary approaches. Hence, I have worked widely in polar, temperate, and tropical environments. I have also sought to inform the public about coastal-marine science and conservation.

My research investigations have required endeavors in several diverse scientific disciplines, among which have been: physiology, taxonomy, oceanography, physics (acoustics), and behavior. In general, my activities have fallen into categories of coastal and marine biodiversity, land- and seascape ecology, marine mammal ecology, and physiological ecology, each of which has eventually contributed to activities in coastal-marine conservation. My research has led to several discoveries and insights. My doctoral work was among the first to recognize that the eco-physiological Bergmann’s and Allen’s rules could be applied to ectotherms. An emphasis on natural history has allowed me to discover about a dozen new species, specimens of which I have turned over to systematists for description. I was the first to initiate scuba-diving in Antarctica for research on polar marine mammals. When a Curator for the New York Aquarium, I initiated work with colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on the thermoregulation and acoustics of marine mammals, and was also among the first, with colleagues, to describe the underwater sounds of marine mammals (seals and walruses) as “song” in a strict behavioral sense. More recently, I have changed interestsnto coastal-marine biodiversity and have placed most emphasis on its landscape and seascape dimensions. This has culminated in a text book: Coastal-Marine Conservation: Science and Policy, Blackwell Science, Oxford, U.K. (co-authors G.C. Ray, and M.G. McCormick-Ray).

During the course of these activities, I have taken a lead in program-building in both research and conservation. My earliest endeavor in this regard was the establishment of the world’s first land-and-sea park (Exuma Cays in The Bahamas, 1958-9), which led to later conservation activities. Almost concurrently and as a result of early interests in marine mammals, I initiated the Marine Mammal Program of the International Biological Programme (IBP) and helped draft and testified in Congress on behalf of, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, following which I served on the initial Committee of Scientific Advisors of the Marine Mammal Commission. I also aided in the formation of the Society for Marine Mammalogy and chaired its initial Committee of Scientific Advisors. With the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), I helped form the Marine Steering Committee, which was the first international effort in marine conservation and which led directly to IUCN’s drafting of the World Conservation Strategy. I also took part in the early development of the concept of Biosphere Reserves for UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB). As a result, I served on U.S. MAB’s first Biosphere Reserve Directorate and the Coastal Marine Ecosystems Directorate.In the 1990s, I helped initiate the IUBS/SCOPE/UNESCO Diversitas Programme. For all of these, I have served on organizing committees, and also often as Chair or Vice Chair.

These activities have led to my being asked to be a consultant (largely pro bono) at local, regional, national, and international levels, and for private and governmental organizations, including; the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration; the National Parks Service; the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress; the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN, the World Conservation Union); the Australian Nature Conservation Agency; the Office of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas; the World Bank; the Chesapeake Environmental Protection Association, Citizens for Albemarle (the County in which I now have my home), and several other organizations concerned with conservation, biological diversity, and resource management. Additionally, I have served on several committees of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council, and have taken part in Congressional legislation (notably the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Coastal Zone Management and Marine Sanctuaries acts), and have testified before Congress on several occasions. Within the University of Virginia, have instituted the Global Biodiversity Fund for facilitating research on the relationship of coastal-marine biological diversity to ecosystem function and conservation and policy issues.

Presently, I am concentrating on teaching as a part of the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Sciences conservation-science initiative. I am also pursuing research interests mostly in arctic environments. For the former, the revision of our book Coastal-Marine Conservation: Science and Policy is taking highest priority; for the latter, I am pursuing research on diminishing Arctic sea ice and its effects on marine mammals.


I have authored or co-authored:  10 books (two for children) and environmental data atlases,  more than 250 scientific papers, reports, and abstracts in science, conservation, and management, and about 50 articles in popular magazines.  I have also taken part in the production of films and television programs on natural history and environmental conservation for educational and entertainment purposes.


Books and Atlases by G. Carleton Ray:

2014. Ray, G. Carleton and J.MCormick-Ray. Marine Conservation: Science, Policy, and Management. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK

2004. Ray, G.C., and M.G. McCormick-Ray. Coastal-Marine Conservation: Science and Policy. Blackwell Science, Oxford, U.K.

1988.  NOAA. Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas Coastal and Ocean Zones Strategic Assessment: Data Atlas. Nat. Ocean. and Atmos. Adm., Nat.  Ocean Service, Strategic Assessment Branch. U.S. Gov’t Printing Off., Washington, D.C. [G.C. Ray, Chief Scientist for Physical Environments,  Biotic Environments, and Living Marine Resources]. Introduction, 100 maps, and references.

1986.  Robins, C. R., and G. C. Ray.  A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes of North America.:  Illustrated by John Douglass and Rudolf Freund. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

1981. Ray, G. C., and M. G. McCormick-Ray. Wildlife of the Polar Regions.  Harry N. Abrams, N.Y.

1980. Ray, G. C., M. G. McCormick-Ray, J. A. Dobbin, C. N. Ehler, and D. J. Basta.  Eastern United States Coastal and Ocean Zones Data Atlas. U. S. Council on Environmental Quality and Nat. Oceanic and Atmos. Adm., Off. Coastal Zone Mgt, Washington, D. C.: 1-7 + 125 maps and references.

1979.  Ray, G. C., M.G. McCormick-Ray, R.V. Salm, D.G. Campbell, J.A. Dobbin, V.E. Smith, K.R. Miller, and A.D. Putney Preliminary Data Atlas: Planning a Marine Conservation Strategy for the Caribbean Region.  International Union for Conservation of Nature (with UNEP/CEPAL Caribbean Environment Programme) Gland, Switzerland. Introduction, 45 maps, and references.

1974.  Schevill, W. E. (ed), G. C. Ray and K. S. Norris (consulting eds).  The Whale Problem.  Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

1956.  Ray, C., and E. T. Ciampi. Underwater Guide to Marine Life. A. S. Barnes, New York.

Recent Publications