Profile: Dr. Melanie L. J. Stiassny
Melanie Stiassny is the Axelrod Research Curator and Curator-in-Charge of the Department of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History. Her research interests are in the systematics and evolutionary biology of fishes, with a particular focus on freshwater conservation and the biodiversity of Old World tropical systems.
Melanie remembers her early interest in scientific research stemmed from when she was a young girl and her mother would take her to visit the British Museum of Natural History in London. At first the frogs and worms held her attention, but soon she was won over by fish and their amazing diversity.
After completing her undergraduate studies in zoology, Melanie was keen to go on to study evolution at the graduate level. For her Ph.D. at the University of London, she worked with a British Museum scientist who focused on the cichlids, a family of tropical fish found in South and Central America, continental Africa, Madagascar and southern India.
Following her Ph.D., she continued to research cichlids during a two-and-a-half year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and then took up a position as Assistant Professor at Harvard University, where she taught courses in systematics and fish biology for five years.
In addition to her position at the Museum, Melanie is also an Adjunct Professor at both Columbia University and the City University of New York. She is a scientific advisor to various scientific and conservation organizations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, Conservation International, the World Resources Institute, the MacArthur Foundation, and the International Foundation for Science. She is currently on the editorial board of the academic journal Conservation Biology.