Melanie L.J. Stiassny
Curator-in-Charge and Axelrod Research Curator (Ichthyology)
Ph.D., University of London, 1980 "Phylogenetic Relationships of Two Genera of African Cichlid Fishes"
Fishes, the most diverse and speciose of all vertebrates, are also the most poorly known and the most threatened. Dr. Stiassny's studies throughout the World's tropical waters span the fields of systematic ichthyology, conservation biology, and evolutionary morphology. Her work in freshwater ecosystems provides a synthesis of these areas with strategies that integrate systematics into conservation planning.
Fish thrive in every conceivable aquatic habitat, from the highest mountain springs to the ocean abyss, and their remarkable diversity provides a wonderful model for evolutionary studies. Sadly, some 20-30% of freshwater species worldwide are already extinct or in serious decline, and upward of 75% of the world's major fisheries are endangered by overfishing. In one current study, Dr. Stiassny and colleagues are documenting the conservation status of fishes in the inland waters of the western central African countries of Cameroon, Rio Muni, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. New species and new records of occurrence are emerging for virtually all fish groups, and taxonomic and phylogenetic data from this study are being integrated into a book on the region's fishes. Similar studies by Dr. Stiassny and colleagues on Madagascar over the past ten years have increased the number of freshwater fish species known on the island by more than 60%. Such baseline biodiversity data provide an important impetus for ongoing revisional and phylogenetic studies, and deliver much-needed information for conservation managers and for local peoples whose livelihoods depend on the sustainable development of these biological resources.
Dr. Stiassny is the lead curator on a project to renovate and update the Museum's Hall of Ocean Life. She is also writing a comprehensive textbook on fish anatomy. One target audience of her book will be students of molecular systematics who may know little of the anatomy of the organisms they are analyzing.
RECENT SIGNIFICANT PUBLICATIONS
Sparks, J. S., and M. L. J. Stiassny. "Introduction to the Freshwater Fishes." In A Natural History of Madagascar, ed. S. M. Goodman and J. P. Benstead. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (in press/2001).
Pimm, S. L., Stiassny, M. L. J., and 31 others. "Can We Defy Nature's End?" Science (in press/2001).
Stiassny, M. L. J. "Atavism." In Keywords and Concepts in Evolutionary Developmental Biology, ed. B. K. Hall and W. Olsen. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (in press/2001).
Stiassny, M. L. J. "Revision of Sauvagella Bertin (Clupeidae; Pellonulinae; Ehiravini) with a Description of a New Species from the Freshwaters of Madagascar and a Diagnosis of the Ehiravini." Copeia (in press/2001).
Lundberg, J. G., M. Kottelat, G. R. Smith, and M. L. J. Stiassny. "So Many Fishes, So Little Time: An Overview of Recent Ichthyological Discoveries in Freshwaters." Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 87, no. 1 (2000): 26-62.
Stiassny, M. L. J. "The Medium Is the Message: Freshwater Biodiversity in Peril." In The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy, ed. J. Cracraft and F. T. Grifo, 53-71. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Harrison, I. J., and M. L. J. Stiassny. "The Quiet Crisis: A Preliminary Listing to Freshwater Fishes of the World That Are Either Extinct or 'Missing In Action.'" In Extinctions in Near Time: Causes, Contexts, and Consequences, ed. R. D. E. MacPhee, 271-331. New York: Plenum Press, 1999.
Stiassny, M. L. J., and A. Meyer. "Cichlids of the Rift Lakes." Scientific American, February 1999, pp. 64-69.
EDITORIAL AND ADJUNCT APPOINTMENTS
OTHER PROFESSIONAL HONORS
POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS AND GRADUATE STUDENTS