Florida Museum of Natural History
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Careers in Ichthyology


Robert H. Robins - Ichthyology Collection Manager

  • How did you become interested in ichthyology?

    "Both my parents are ichthyologists. I have to assume that this had something to do with my career choice despite the presence of a very early, almost innate curiosity regarding fishes, reptiles and amphibians. My folks wouldn't let me have a snake, so I had aquaria. It was probably a combination of both this natural interest in living things and the example my parents set (although they certainly never pressured me) that led me in this direction."

  • What training and education do you have?

    "I completed a B.A. at the University of Miami and an M.Sc. at the University of Florida. Most of my training as an ichthyologist has come in the field or the laboratory although, what you learn in the classroom or at scientific meetings is instrumental in helping you interpret your experiences as an ichthyologist."

  • What personal qualities are important in this field?

    "All scientists need to be able to communicate their ideas/findings/discoveries in an effective manner. Conducting day to day work or research it helps to be organized and patient. I find that when I feel the most overwhelmed by my work that the best remedy is for me to get organized (make a list) and take my time with each task/goal."

  • Describe your work and research:

    "My job as Ichthyology Collection Manager is largely to facilitate the science of those ichthyologists that use the UF Collection of Fishes. To that end, I am charged with directing the activities of others in the division such that the collection is well maintained, organized, and readily accessible to research ichthyologists. In many ways, a scientific collection of specimens functions much like a library. Scientists borrow fishes and obtain information from the specimens that is useful for interpreting what is actually going on in the real world."

  • What skills do you use on the job?

    "This job, like most, requires that I be proficient in the use of a personal computer. Chiefly, I use a computer to track our holdings of specimens and to communicate with other ichthyologists. Additionally, a large part of my job (the fun part!) is spent identifying fishes, collecting fishes, or otherwise working hands on with the specimens in the collection."

  • What interesting discoveries have you made in your studies?

    "It is no exaggeration to say that everyday I learn something new about fishes. In that I am keenly interested in fishes, this makes my job rewarding beyond compare. Some of what I learn is already widely known to others, some less so, and some discoveries are new. The latter are often the most exciting."

  • What is your typical work schedule?

    "8-5, Monday through Friday with little attention to "punching the clock" at 5. If I'm caught up in doing something and don't need to be anywhere else, I'll stick with it. I usually find that I'll wander in at least once on the weekend as well if only to enjoy the quiet while I get some work done."

  • What do you like best about your job?

    "Sorting and identifying fishes. I find this to be very satisfying. Time spent in the field seeing live fishes and interesting habitat is pretty high on the list too."

  • Does this profession require any travel?

    "Require is probably the wrong word here. Travel costs money, which can frequently be in short supply in science. Most scientists I know desire travel and thus when we obtain the funding to conduct research in far flung places to answer a burning question, we jump at the chance. In a relatively short time span, my job has taken me to lakes, streams and rivers throughout the southeastern United States, out to open sea in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, and to foreign locales in Australia, Papua New Guinea, India, Malaysia, and Singapore. Travel is a great if somewhat infrequent aspect to my career as an ichthyologist."

  • What is the general salary range for someone in your position?

    "The salary of a museum collection manager depends in part upon the region of the country/world in which one is living, the degrees obtained by that person as well as the particular duties of the position. Most Ichthyology collection managers in the US probably earn somewhere between 30 and 60K a year."

  • How long have you been an ichthyologist?

    "I've been working full-time in Ichthyology for nearly 11 years. Immediately following the completion of my Bachleor's degree, I started a 3 month job as a field and lab tech for what was then the National Biological Survey. Where has the time gone? Must be having too much fun."

  • Is it difficult to find a job in ichthyology?

    "I suppose it depends on what you are willing to give up. If you don't mind moving to a new place and taking a job for little pay, no benefits, and of uncertain duration, then no, it is not difficult. Parlaying one of those jobs or a series of them into something more stable (obtaining the requisite degrees along the way is usually a must) can be an uphill fight at times."

  • Have you ever considered a career in a different field?

    "I would like to have been a starting pitcher or center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. Alas, I can neither throw a baseball 95 miles an hour, nor hit one traveling that speed. Not even close."

  • Do you ever go fishing in your free time?

    "No. Just not enough time in the day!"