Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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D. Ross Robertson

  Ross Robertson was born in 1946, in Sydney Australia. Very shortly thereafter his family moved to Madang, on the northeast coast of what is now Papua and New Guinea. Living in a house on the waterfront of a beautiful harbor with an abundance of reefs naturally stimulated an early interest in reef fishes. That interest persisted through to form the basis of his doctoral dissertation work on the evolution of a sex-changing wrasse on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. After receiving his PhD in 1974 a postdoctoral fellowship from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization allowed him to work at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. In 1975 he joined STRI’s scientific staff, and since then has worked on various aspects of the ecology, reproductive and population biology, demography, evolution, biogeography and taxonomy of tropical reef fishes at sites scattered throughout the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. He is the coauthor (with Gerry Allen of the Western Australian Museum) of two print editions of Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific, the 1994 english edition and the 1998 spanish edition (Peces del Pacifico Oriental Tropical ). Since he and Gerry Allen began fieldwork for that book in 1990 he has traveled extensively throughout the eastern Pacific and Greater Caribbean documenting their fishes. That led to the publication of website and mobile-app versions of those books and equivalent digital versions of Fishes: Greater Caribbean and Peces: Gran Caribe. He has published over 200 scientific papers. He retired in 2020 but continues, as an emerius scientist, to enjoy working on neotropical shore fishes. He lives in Panama with his Panamanian wife and family. His other pursuits include an appreciation of remote tropical islands, an undiminished enjoyment of diving and the employment of underwater photography for scientific use, collecting palms, swimming and biking.

James L. Van Tassell

  James L. Van Tassell was born in 1945 in New York. He received his doctorate in systematics and evolutionary biology from the City University of New York’s program at the American Museum of Natural History in 1998. During his tenure as a high school teacher; at H. F. Carey High School in Franklin Square, NY; he developed courses in Ecology, Marine biology, a science research program for gifted students, and an Ecology Club which was recognized by the United Nations as one of the top ten youth organizations in the world. Evenings and vacation periods were occupied by his research on the fishes of the Canary Islands. His studies of the shore fish populations and the effect of tourism on the marine environment lead to the establishment of the first underwater preserve in Spain. Since 1984 he has focused his attention on the systematics of gobiid fishes in the Americas and eastern Atlantic; developed a web site on the systematics, biogeography, and breeding of gobiid fishes; and published over 20 scientific papers. He has worked in the Canary Islands for the past 26 years and traveled extensively to other areas in the east Pacific, Central America, Caribbean, and coastal zones in the US. His other pursuits include SCUBA diving and photography for scientific purposes, hiking, canoeing, and camping.

Ernesto A. Peña E.

  Ernesto A. Peña Escobar was born in 1964, at San Salvador, El Salvador. His father stimulated an early interest in the sea and sealife. He moved to Panama in 1983, were he took a BSC in Biology, graduating in 1990. Between 1992-93 he participate in a University of Panama project : A biological inventory of the Panama Canal. He has worked at STRI since 1993. He lives in Panama and enjoys fishing and camping.

Juan M. Posada

  Juan M. Posada was born in 1959 in Caracas, Venezuela, as a son of Spanish immigrants (from Asturias). He graduated as a biologist from the Central University of Venezuela (1984), and received a PhD in Biological Oceanography from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus (1996). His first professional steps were with the Los Roques Scientific Foundation as resident biologist at the Marine Biological Station Dos Mosquises (1986-1989). He worked for 14 years as a teacher and researcher in the Department of Organismal Biology at Simon Bolivar University, and currently is a Science Officer for the MarViva Foundation (Panama). His professional interests have always been linked to the biology of marine fishes and the management of artisanal fisheries. He is proud of the 24 students who have completed their undergraduate or graduate studies under his guidance, and has published 22 articles in peer reviewed journals and another 57 in conference proceedings, book chapters and technical reports. During the past 7 years he has developed an interest in the mass communication of scientific knowledge through the production of documentaries, newspaper articles and the creation of electronic information pages. He is married and has two children. He likes good food, traveling with the family and taking care of his friends, despite the time and distance.

Rodolfo Claro

  Rodolfo Claro was born in an small town of Matanzas province, Cuba, in 1939. In 1956 his family moved to Havana city, were he developed his interest in the marine environment. In 1964 he had the opportunity to work and study at the recently created Institute of Oceanology, and in 1967 received a fellowship from the Moscow University M.V. Lomonosov, to finish a specialization in Ichthyology, at the Biological Faculty. Later his research work on the ecology and life cycle of commercial snapper fishes, formed the basis for his doctoral dissertation in 1976. Beginning in 1971 he developed an ichthyological team of researchers in Havana who, for more than 20 years, carry out detailed studies on the taxonomy, reproduction, behaviour, growth, trophic biology, physiology and fisheries biology of the most important fish species of the Cuban shelf. The results, published in many national and foreign journals, are summarized in the book Ecology of the marine fishes of Cuba, edited by Smithsonian Institution Press in 2001. For more than 45 years Rodolfo Claro has participated in various scientific activities related with conservation of coastal and marine environment in Cuba and worked at several reef systems in the Caribbean sea. Most recently he edited a multi-author monograph on the Marine Biodiversity of Cuba, a detailed study of the Biology and Management of Snappers in the Western Atlantic, and a database on the fishes of Cuba.

Carole C. Baldwin

  Carole Baldwin was born in 1959, in coastal South Carolina, where she developed an early love for the ocean. In 1976 she attended James Madison University. There she discovered a passion for biology that ultimately narrowed to a focus on marine biology. In the master’s degree program at the College of Charleston, she met fish morphologist G. David Johnson and began studying diversity and morphology of marine fishes, including their often-spectacular planktonic larvae. After completing her doctoral degree at the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Carole began working in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where she became a curator in 2001. Her research has focused primarily on ontogeny, phylogeny, and Caribbean species diversity, the last of which has recently included submersible-mediated deep-reef exploration as part of the Smithsonian’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), which she co-founded in 2011. Carole has published more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers, is co-author of One Fish Two Fish Crawfish Bluefish—The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook, and she was scientific advisor for and featured in the IMAX documentary Galapagos 3D. She is the 2017 President of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) and 2017-2018 President of the Biological Society of Washington.

Benjamin Victor

  Benjamin Victor was born in 1957 in South Africa and then went to university in the USA, first at Cornell University, where he got interested in ichthyology, and then received his PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1986, working on population biology and larval recruitment of Caribbean reef fishes in the San Blas Islands of Panama (where he worked alongside a young Ross Robertson). Subsequently, he continued his education, getting an MD from the University of California at Irvine in 1992, an internship at Stanford University, and a pathology residency at UC Irvine, while also pursuing research on reef fishes, visiting Galapagos and Baja California. More recently, he has focused on mitochondrial DNA sequencing of reef fishes and pioneered the application of molecular taxonomy to reef fishes in the Caribbean and the development of the DNA "barcoding" project of Fish-Bol, centered at the University of Guelph, Canada. Presently a board-certified pathologist and working as a laboratory director in southern California, he has been collaborating with the legendary Jack Randall on fish taxonomy and specializing mostly on labrids, gobies, and blennies, describing about 68 new reef fish species to date; 17 of which are new species for the Greater Caribbean (mostly gobies and blennies). He spends most of his free time messing around with boats and dogs.

Luke M. Tornabene

  Luke M. Tornabene was in 1985 in Long Island, New York. He came interested in systematics of fishes of the Greater Caribbean while pursuing a Bachelor’s in Biology at Hofstra University. At Hofstra he worked with James Van Tassell on the systematics of several groups of gobies from the Western Atlantic and Tropical Eastern Pacific, and participated on several research expeditions to collect data for the Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean project. Luke continued his research on systematics of Caribbean fishes at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, where he received his Masters and PhD under Frank Pezold. In 2015, he moved to Washington, DC for a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where he was co-advised by Carole Baldwin and Ross Robertson. His research focused on the evolutionary origins and taxonomic composition of deep-reef fishes from the Caribbean. In 2016, Luke accepted a faculty position at the University of Washington, where he is currently an assistant professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and Curator of Fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. His current research interests include the systematics of gobies, evolutionary ecology of deep-reef fishes, and phylogenomics. Luke currently lives in Seattle, WA.

Carlos & Allison Estape

  Carlos & Allison Estape are passionate about diving, underwater photography, fish ID and marine research. Allison became a certified diver at the age of fifteen, Carlos at eighteen (late bloomer) and both have logged thousands of dives around the world. They are underwater photographers whose images have been featured in scientific publications, books, magazines, aquariums, museums, hotels, private collections and used as templates for tattoos! They are proud to be contributors to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Fishes: Greater Caribbean website and app. They are citizen scientists who co-authored The fishes of Alligator Reef and environs in the Florida Keys: a half-century update, and work with and marine scientists in the Tropical Western Atlantic. They are featured speakers and teachers on fish behavior and ID who created to help others learn how to identify fish. Carlos was born in Cuba in 1960 and moved to Miami as a child. Allison was born in 1965 in the USA and grew up in Panama and Alabama.