Stiassny, Melanie main content.

Melanie Stiassny

Melanie Stiassny New

Herbert R. and Evelyn Axelrod Research Curator, Department of Ichthyology, Division of Vertebrate Zoology
Principal Investigator, Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics
Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School

Curriculum Vitae (short version)


  • University of London, Ph.D., 1980
  • University of London, B.S., 1976

Research Interests

Melanie’s research focuses on the systematics and evolutionary morphology of tropical freshwater fish faunas, and applies classical descriptive anatomy, geometric morphometrics, CT and MRI scanning for hard and soft tissue visualization, and 3D reconstruction for spatial and volumetric analyses. Her taxonomic expertise spans the teleostean tree of life, and includes phylogenetic studies of diverse teleostean lineages. Ongoing projects are centered in central Africa and seek to document how diversity is partitioned, and to elucidate mechanisms underlying species diversification applying population genetic and phylogeographic components that integrate novel hydrographic and bathymetric data at varying geographic scales. Current work also seeks to aid NGO’s and governmental agencies develop regional conservation strategies. Key to this is the establishment of in-country expertise and she maintains an active collaboration with the universities of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Marien Ngouabi (Republic of Congo) to promote training of Congolese nationals.

She serves as advisor to numerous international scientific and conservation organizations such as the IUCN, USAID, and the International Foundation for Science. She is a member of the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund and the Advisory Board of National Geographic Society’s Conservation Trust.



ARROYAVE, A., DENTON, J.S.S. AND STIASSNY, M.L.J. (2013). Are characiform fishes Gondwanan in origin? Insights from a time-scaled molecular phylogeny of the Citharinoidei (Ostariophysi: Characiformes). PLOS ONE 8(10): e77269. doi:10.1371

STIASSNY, M.L.J., DENTON, J.S.S. AND MONSEMBULA IYABA, R.J.C. (2013). A new ectoparasitic distichodontid of the genus Eugnathichthys (Characiformes: Citharinoidei) from the Congo basin of central Africa, with a molecular phylogeny for the genus. Zootaxa, 3693(4), 479-490

MONSEMBULA IYABA, R.J.C. & STIASSNY, M.L.J. (2013). Fishes of the Salonga National Park (Congo basin, central Africa): a list of species collected in the Luilaka, Salonga, and Yenge Rivers (Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of Congo). Check List, 9(2), 246-256.

SCHOBERT, C.S., STIASSNY, M.L.J., SCHWAB, I.R., ZEISS, C., SCHELLY, R.C. & DUBIELZIG, R.R. (2012) Comparative ocular anatomy in a blind African cichlid fish, Lamprologus lethops. Veterinary Ophthalmology. DOI 10.1111/vop.12006 (pub online 11.2012)

MBIMBI, J.J. & STIASSNY, M.L.J. (2012). A new Alestopetersius (Characiformes: Alestidae) from the Kwilu River (Kasai basin) of central Africa; with a phylogeny for the genus and synonomy of Duboisialestes. Zootaxa 3166, 59-68.

LIAO, T.Y., ARROYAVE, J. & STIASSNY, M.L.J. (2012) Diagnosis of Asian Raiamas (Teleostei: Cyprinidae: Chedrina) with comments on chedrin relationships and previously proposed diagnostics for Opsaridium and Raiamas. Ichthyological Research, 59, 328-341.

ARROYAVE, J & STIASSNY, M.L.J. (2011) Phylogenetic relationships and the temporal context for the diversification of African characins of the familyAlestidae (Ostariophysi: Characiformes): evidence from DNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 60(3), 385-397.

LOWENSTIEN, J., OSUMNDSON, T., TSHIBWABWA, S., BECKER, S., HANNER, R., & M.L.J. STIASSNY (2011). Incorporating DNA barcodes into a multi-year inventory of the fishes of the hyperdiverse Lower Congo River, with a multi-gene performance assessment of the genus Labeo as a case study. Mitochondrial DNA, 21(S2): 1-19.

MARKERT, J.A., SCHELLY, R.S. & M.L.J. STIASSNY (2010). Genetic isolation and morphological divergence mediated by high-energy rapids in two cichlid genera from the lower Congo rapids. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:149.

STIASSNY M.L.J.,C. REVENGA & P. COMER (2010). Aquatic Ecosystems: Diversity and Dynamism. In: Fresh Water – The Essence of Life. Chapter 2. R.A. Mittermeier, T. Farrell, I. Harrison, T.M. Brooks & A. Upgren (eds). CEMEX/ILCP, Virginia, USA, pp. 93-116.

Teaching Experience


Faculty Appointments

  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University.
  • Adjunct Professor, The Graduate Center, CUNY. 

Courses Taught

  • Fish biodiversity: systematics and evolution, undergraduate/graduate class with lab (co-taught with John Sparks), Columbia University.

Graduate Advisees

  • Raoul Monsembula, Ph.D. candidate, University of Kinshasa
  • José Justin Mbimbi Mayi Munene, Ph.D. candidate, University of Kinshasa
  • Nathan Fedrizzi, M.S. candidate, Columbia University
  • Tobit Liyandja, M.S. candidate, University of Kinshasa

Graduate Committees

  • Dawn Roje, Ph.D. candidate, RGGS

External Links