Melanie Stiassny's Research

Link to the Congo Project

Melanie Stiassny is the Axelrod Research Curator in the Department of Ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University where she has active graduate and undergraduate teaching programs. Before coming to New York she was an Assistant Professor of Biology at Harvard University and taught there for five years. Her PhD is from the University of London and she spent three years of postdoctoral research in the Netherlands before joining the faculty at Harvard University. Melanie has conducted extensive research throughout the World's tropical waters studying the evolution, behavior, and conservation of fishes. Freshwater fishes are among the most threatened of all the planet's creatures and many are becoming extinct even before they can be discovered.

A small fish with silver-colored scales with a large blue marking behind the gill area.

Melanie's research aims at a synthesis of systematics, biogeography, and fish biology with strategies that integrate these into conservation planning. Increasingly, work centers on issues of competition for freshwater resources and its impact on aquatic biodiversity loss. On the comparative anatomical side, processes and mechanisms of morphological transformation in ontogeny and phylogeny are an ongoing research interest.

In addition to her extensive research program, Melanie has played an active role in making the public aware of the biodiversity and conservation crisis. She has been involved with numerous public outreach programs at the museum, served as a spokesperson for conservation in several media (e.g., Bill Moyers Report on "Earth on Edge"), and recently was the Lead Curator for the AMNH's new Hall of Ocean Life. Furthermore, Melanie is a scientific advisor to various scientific and conservation organization such as the World Resources Institute, and the International Foundation for Science. She is a member of the National Council of the World Wildlife Fund, the Advisory Council of Conservation International's Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) of IUCN-The World Conservation Union. She has served as an assigning Editor for the journal Conservation Biology and is a regular reviewer for numerous scientific journals and conservation publications.

Held flat in the palm of a human hand, two small fish, one silver with a black stripe extending from its eye along the length of its body to its yellow tail.

Melanie's current projects include an NSF-supported exploration of the freshwater fishes and mussels of the Congo in collaboration with scientists from the AMNH and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Her past collections and these upcoming collection from the Congo has provided the raw materials for may of her ongoing and future research projects