Clay is originally from Long Island, New York but has spent much of the past 10 years overseas or in Hawaii. He holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Denver and an MSc in Botany from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Clay has conducted ecological research in a variety of habitats across the US and Canada as well as tropical forests in Mexico and Micronesia, mountainous desert of the Sinai, and mixed forest-savannas in India and Guyana.
Before coming to Tasmania, he worked as a Field Botanist for the National Tropical Botanical Garden collecting propagules in some of the world's most rugged terrain for restoration and rare plant conservation on the island of Kauai and other Pacific islands.
He is currently developing a dissertation topic on the ecology of tropical savannas in Australia's Northern Territory. With the cooperation of Kakadu National Park the the Western Arnhem Land Fire Abatement Project (WALFA), he will be examining the variability of fire regimes and the utility of Callitris intratropica as an indicator of effective management and ecosystem health on the Arnhem Plateau.