Dr. Orr Comay

Guest Scientist

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Deutscher Platz 5e
04103 Leipzig

Tel Aviv University

Haim Lebanon St.
6997801 Tel Aviv




Israeli Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (BMS-IL) is the leading Citizen Science project in the country. Established in 2009, it now covers Israel’s diverse ecosystems, from hyper-arid deserts to humid-Mediterranean mountains. BMS-IL includes four main data collecting activities: Pollard Walks (regular transects counted under a standard international protocol), rare species surveys, sporadic observations (with no protocol) and The Great Butterfly Count, in which the public is invited to count butterflies using a simple yet rigorous protocol. The scheme is supported by volunteer coordinators, butterfly experts volunteering to train and guide new butterfly monitorers, an internet based portal and database, various smartphone applications easing observation recording and an iDiv-based scientific team.

Research Interests

My main interest is community ecology: how and why faunas and floras change with the environment. My research so far included annual plants, mollusks, rodents and butterflies. Each taxon has its own traits and mechanisms to deal with environmental stress. By studying these changes in the present, we can make inferences both for the past and for the future. For example, by analyzing how the rodent fauna vary with vegetation cover in modern day Israel, I analyzed the climatic conditions at Manot Cave, dated to the last glacial period 34-46 thousands of years ago. The study of community ecology also requires dealing with varies methodological questions, such as differences in sampling methods (e.g. standard transects vs. sporadic observations) and statistical analyses. Thus, a considerable part of my work so far is methodological, including training and testing models for drawing ecological predictions from observational data.

Scientific Career

05/2018 - present

Postdoctoral Researcher, Tel Aviv University. Guest Scientist at German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and at UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany. Studying ecological trends in the Israeli butterfly fauna using Citizen Science data from the Israeli Butterfly Monitoring Scheme.

2017 - 2018

Postdoctoral Researcher, Tel Aviv University. a) Setting the scene for Anatomically Modern Humans: Reconstructing Manot Cave's ancient environment using fossil remains of small mammals. b) The natural history of the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) in its southern end of distribution.

2016 - 2017

Postdoctoral Researcher, Tel Aviv University. Morphological taxonomy and biogeography of the little known endemic Mus macedonicus spretoides.

2011 - 2016

Direct studies for Ph.D. (including M.Sc.) in Zoology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University. Thesis title: Diet and taphonomic signatures of owls (Strigiformes) as tools for paleoecological reconstruction: Qesem Cave as a test case.

2008 - 2011

B.Sc. in Biology, Faculty of Life Sciences, Research Curriculum for Outstanding students, Tel Aviv University. magna cum laude.



2020 (2)
2019 (1)

You could use our publication index for further requests.

2020 (2)

to index

2019 (1)

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Further Publications

Accepted/ in press

  • Frumkin, A., Comay, O. (in press). The last glacial cycle of the southern Levant: Paleoenvironment and chronology of modern humans, Journal of Human Evolution, Special issue: In Search for Modern Human and the Early Upper Paleolithic at Manot Cave, Western Galilee, Israel - O. Barzilai, F. Berna, I. Gilead, I. Hershkovitz, O. Marder.


  • Comay, O., Dayan, T. (2018). What determines prey selection in owls? Roles of prey traits, prey class, environmental variables and taxonomic specialization, Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 8, pp 3382-3392. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3899
  • Comay, O., Dayan, T. (2018). From micromammals to paleoenvironments, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. doi: 10.1007/s12520-018-0608-8
  • Comay, O., Dayan, T. (2018). Taphonomic signatures of owls: New insights into micromammal assemblages, Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Vol. 492, pp 81-91. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2017.12.014
  • Comay, O., Edelman-Furstenberg, Y., Ben-Ami, F. (2015). Patterns in molluscan death assemblages along the Israeli Mediterranean continental shelf, Quaternary International, Vol. 390, pp 21-28. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2015.05.004
  • Or, A., Comay, O., Gophna, U. (2013). In situ transplant analysis of free-living bacteria in a lotic ecosystem, Research in Microbiologoy, Vol. 164 (3), pp. 262-269. doi: 10.1016/j.resmic.2012.12.004.
    Submitted Articles (4)
  • Comay, O., Ben Yehuda, O., Benyamini, D., Schwartz-Tzachor, R., Pe'er, I., Melochna, T., Pe’er, G. (submitted). Israeli Butterfly Monitoring Scheme: challenges and lessons from analyzing BMS data where butterflies fly year round, submitted to Ecological Applications.
  • Comay, O., Dayan, T. (submitted). On the use of micromammals for paleoenvironmental reconstruction: Qesem Cave as a case study, submitted as a book chapter to Themes in Old World Zooarchaeology: From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, Eds: by U. Albarella, C. Detry, S. Gabriel, C. Ginja, E. Pires and J. Tereso. Oxbow Books.
  • Zeitzov-Raz, M., Comay, O., Motro, Y., Dayan, T. (revised and resubmitted). Barn owls as biological control agents: potential risks to non-target rare and endangered species, Submitted to Animal Conservation.
  • Comay, O., Ezov, E., Yom-Tov, Y., Dayan, T. (submitted). A decade long study of the tawny owl (Strix aluco) in its southern edge of distribution, submitted to Journal of Raptor Research.