Diversity of Fishes
Profile: Sonja Herfeld
Ms. Herfeld with specimen
Ms. Herfeld with specimen of Brienomyrus, the subject of her doctoral research.

Sonja Herfeld, a behavioral psychologist whose research focuses on the biopsychology of animal behavior, is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Hunter College in New York City. She is an unexpected member of the AMNH Ichthyology Department. Originally from Germany, Sonja decided that she wanted to do an internship in the United States. In 1996 she applied for an internship and was accepted to work with Peter Moller, an American Museum of Natural History research scientist and a member of the faculty at Hunter College. This internship allowed Sonja to work with Dr. Moller and gather her own data on the effects of temperature and conductivity on the chemical discharges of electric fish which she subsequently used in her master's thesis. In 1997 Sonja moved to this country to pursue her Ph.D. She has also worked at the Museum identifying specimens with collection manager Barbara Brown in the Ichthyology Department.

Although the fish Sonja studies comes from Nigeria, she has not yet had an opportunity to go there to do fieldwork because of the political situation. Although this limitation does not present a problem for her work - Sonja's research is carried out in laboratories at Hunter College - she would like to visit Nigeria one day.

There's a certain amount of financial frustration involved in her work. Sonja constantly faces the challenge of finding funding for equipment and fish - each fish costs $6. Food for the 150 fish in the project - tubifex worms and brine fish - costs $20-30 per week. Testosterone and the other chemicals necessary for her experiments with fish are expensive. Much of her time is spent writing grant proposals. Sonja, however, is very enterprising. To supplement her income she teaches courses at Hunter College and has her own dog-walking business in Manhattan, and she saves some money by living in a student dorm. Her long-term goal is to work for a pharmaceutical company in a managerial position. Sonja's scientific expertise would enable her to work as a liaison between the company and researchers.