Mike Fay has spent his life as a naturalist—from the Sierra Nevadas and the Maine woods as a boy, to Alaska and Central America in college, to North Africa and the depths of the central African forest and savannas for the last 25 years.
Fay has worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Bronx since 1991. He received a B.S. in 1978 from the University of Arizona and spent six years in the Peace Corps as a botanist in national parks in Tunisia and the savannas of the Central African Republic. He joined the staff of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1984 to do a floristic study on a mountain range on Sudan's western border, but ended up doing his Ph.D. on the western lowland gorilla. It was at this time that Fay first entered the forests of central Africa, surveying large forest blocks and creating and managing the Dzanga-Sangha and Nouabale-Ndoki parks in the Central African Republic and Congo.
In 1996, Fay flew over the forests of Congo and Gabon and realised there was a vast, intact forest corridor spanning the two countries from the Oubangui to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1997, he walked the entire corridor, over 3,200 kilometres, surveying trees, wildlife, and human impacts on 12 uninhabited forest blocks. Called Megatransect, the project had the objective of bringing to the world's attention the last pristine forest in central Africa and the need for protection. This work led to a historic initiative by the Gabonese government to create a system of 13 national parks in Gabon, making up some 28,500 square kilometers.
Fay also hosted Colin Powell on a forest walk in Gabon after the former secretary of state's announcement to support the Congo Basin with tens of millions of dollars for national park creation, development, and forest management. Fay worked for a year setting up park management infrastructure in Loango National Park.
In 2004, Fay completed the Megaflyover, an eight-month aerial survey of the entire African continent. He logged 800 hours and took 116,000 vertical images of human impact and associated ecosystems, many of which are now visible on Google Earth.
In 2008 Fay completed the Redwood Transect, a new project to learn more about the redwood forest. He walked the entire range of the redwood tree, over 1,000 kilometres.