Scott A. Schaefer

Dean of Science for Collections, Exhibitions, and the Public Understanding of Science; Curator-in-Charge, Department of Ichthyology, Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Director, Institute for Comparative Genomics

Professor, Richard Gilder Graduate School



  • University of Chicago, Ph.D., 1986
  • University of South Carolina, M.S., 1982
  • Ohio State University, B.S., 1980

Research Interests

Dr. Schaefer studies the systematics, biogeography, and evolutionary morphology of tropical freshwater fishes of Africa and South America. His research seeks to resolve problems in taxonomy, classification, and evolution in those fish groups that dominate the ecology of riverine systems, such as catfishes and characiforms. Fieldwork involves discovery of undescribed fish diversity in poorly known regions, such as the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers of South America. Current projects include systematics and biogeography of Andean freshwater fishes and taxonomic revision of the family Astroblepidae, a group of catfishes that live at high elevations in the Andes of South America. He is also engaged in phylogenetic studies of the trichomycterid catfishes and revisions of African alestid characiform fishes. Recent fieldwork in Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela has surveyed the diversity of Andean fishes up to 4,500 m (14,760 ft.) elevation and resulted in the addition to the Museum of several new and important collections.


Division of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Ichthyology

Institute for Comparative Genomics

Richard Gilder Graduate School


  • Fernández, L., Arroyave, J., and Schaefer, S.A. 2021. Emerging patterns in phylogenetic studies of trichomycterid catfishes (Teleostei, Siluriformes) and the contribution of Andean diversity. Zoologica Scripta, 50:318-336. DOI 10.1111/zsc.12475.
  • Schaefer, S.A., Chakrabarty, P., Geneva, A., and Sabaj Pérez, M.H. 2011. Nucleotide sequence data confirm diagnosis and local endemism of variable morphospecies of Andean astroblepid catfishes (Siluriformes: Astroblepidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 162:90-102.
  • Schaefer, S.A. 2011. The Andes: Riding the tectonic uplift, Chapter 16, p. 259-278. In: Historical Biogeography of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes, J.S. Albert and R.E. Reis (eds.), University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Schaefer, S.A. and J. Arroyave. 2010. Rivers as islands: determinants of the distribution of Andean astroblepid catfishes. Journal of Fish Biology, 77:2373-2390.
  • Aquino, A.E., and S.A. Schaefer. 2010. Systematics of the genus Hypoptopoma Günther, 1868 (Siluriformes, Loricariidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, no. 336, 110 pp.
  • Schaefer, S.A. 2010. [review of] Gonorynchiformes and Ostariophysan Relationships: A Comprehensive Review, by Terry Grande (senior volume editor), Francisco José Poyato-Ariza and Rui Diogo (volume co-editors), Enfield (New Hampshire): Science Publishers, x+587 p.; ill.; index, 2010. Quart. Rev. Biol. 85:516-517.
  • Schaefer, S.A., and L. Fernández. 2009. Redescription of the Pez Graso, Rhizosomichthys totae (Trichomycteridae), of Lago de Tota, Colombia, and aspects of cranial osteology revealed by microtomography. Copeia, 2009(3):513-525.
  • Fernández, L., and S.A. Schaefer. 2009. Relationships among the Neotropical Candirus (Trichomycteridae, Siluriformes) and the evolution of parasitism based on analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 52(2):416-423.
  • Schaefer, S.A. 2009. Family Loricariidae, Subfamily Hypoptopomatinae. p. 38-39. In: Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of the Guiana Shield, R.P. Vari, C.J. Ferraris, Jr., A. Radosavljevic, V.A. Funk (eds.), Bulletin of the Biological Society of Washington, no. 17.

Teaching Experience

Faculty Appointments

  • Investigador Asociado, Instituto de Zoologia Tropical, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Central de Venezuela, 2001-present
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Graduate School and University Center, CUNY, 1998-present
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, 1992-1996

Courses Taught

Graduate Committees

  • Jairo Arroyave, CUNY, Ph.D 2013, dissertation advisor