Careers in Ichthyology
Larry Page - Curator Of Fishes
- How did you become interested in ichthyology?
"Probably two things: As a child I had several aquaria in which I kept tropical fishes, and my parents often took my sisters
and me on camping trips. When we camped, I spent most of my free time walking along streams and trying to identify the fishes.
Either or both of these experiences caused me to learn as much as I could about fish biology."
- What training and education do you have?
"Bachelor's Degree in Biology, Master's Degree and Ph.D. in Zoology, with a specialization in ichthyology."
- What personal qualities are important in this field?
"Probably most important is a love of nature and a curiosity about biological diversity."
- Describe your work and research:
"I am interested in the evolution and ecology of freshwater fishes. My students and I study specimens in museum collections to
learn as much as we can about variation in fishes, and we conduct fieldwork to study how the various morphological traits adapt
the fish to its particular lifestyle."
- What skills do you use on the job?
"The most obvious things are related to the laboratory examination of small fishes including the use of microscopes and
dissection, and to fieldwork including knowing where various fishes can be found and how to catch them. It also is necessary
to understand scientific literature and how to find the appropriate references."
- What interesting discoveries have you made in your studies?
"I have discovered and described about 40 species of fishes previously unknown to science. I also have studied and described
the breeding behaviors of several species of North American fishes and develop a system for classifying behaviors that has
gained wide acceptance in the ichthyological community. In the process of studying breeding behaviors, I also discovered
egg mimics in darters - structures that develop on males and look like eggs."
- What is your typical work schedule?
"Ichthyology, like most science, is sufficiently interesting that we ichthyologists spend much of our time doing something
related to our work, which often doesn't really seem like work. Officially, we work from 8-5, M-F, like most people;
unofficially, we probably work more like 60-80 hours per week."
- What do you like best about your job?
"The discovery of answers to perplexing problems in nature. E.g., how and why did egg mimics develop on the fins of
male darters? The answer is that females choose to mate more often with males that have eggs in their nests rather
than males that lack eggs, and by evolving egg mimics - structures that look like eggs, even males that have no real
eggs in their nests are attractive to females."
- Does this profession require any travel?
"Yes. Often to pristine areas on other continents. Sometimes to museums in large cities."
- What is the general salary range for someone in your position?
"With a Ph.D., an ichthyologist makes $50,000-100,000/year."
- How long have you been an ichthyologist?
- Is it difficult to find a job in ichthyology?
"No. The training of ichthyologists seems to more or less keep pace with the availability of positions.
However, obtaining a position in a large museum or prestigious university can be difficult."
- Have you ever considered a career in a different field?
"Only as a graduate student when I considered other areas of biology, including entomology and botany."
- Do you ever go fishing in your free time?
"If fishing means with a hook and line, no. If fishing means with a seine so that many small
and interesting species as well as the larger more obvious ones are caught, yes, every chance I get."