Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a professor at Berkeley, was happily going along being a world expert in frog development. Then he met atrazine, a widely used herbicide. In a study funded by atrazine’s manufacturer Syngenta, he found that atrazine caused genital abnormalities and severe hermaphroditism in frogs. Syngenta subsequently tried to buy him off, bury his results, and discredit him.
In spite of his harrowing experience, Dr. Hayes has continued to study atrazine. He’s recently been working on pesticide mixtures, which turn out to be far more toxic than individual pesticides. And he’s an amazing speaker. He gave a talk at SIO last year and brought down the house. (Full disclosure: I was organizing the seminar series at the time, and I invited him. Because I think he is awesome.)
And he has an atrazine rap!
Dr. Hayes first fell in love with frogs growing up in South Carolina. In a Discover Magazine article about him:
Hayes has always been fond of frogs. He grew up in a modest neighborhood of brick houses outside Columbia, South Carolina. The development had been drained of its marsh, but snakes, turtles, and amphibians abounded. Hayes followed them and learned their ways. As a teenager, he dug a pond in his backyard, hoping to breed turtles. He kept lizards…When he began dating, he took girlfriends to the Congaree Swamp, nine miles away. The young women assumed he had other things in mind, but his motives were always the same: He wanted help catching frogs.
He went to college at Harvard, got his PhD at age 24, and went on to be the youngest tenured professor at Berkeley. He’s won many awards, including being deemed a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Dr. Hayes has also mentored many students. From the Discovery article:
From the outset, Hayes’s lab attracted minority students and soon became far and away the most diverse in the department. The department of integrative biology is only 3 percent black and has produced just four black Ph.D.’s in its history… Now nearly 20 percent of his lecture class is black. Hayes says he concentrates on selecting talented students who need nurturing.
Want more Dr. Hayes? Check out his full lecture, “From Silent Spring to Silent Night” on YouTube.