As a person whose background is in marketing and communications, I strive to leave my mark in the world of science by using visual media to get people excited about the natural world. I often use microphotography to capture small study animals and their details either as stills or on film to showcase my work. I also enjoy wildlife photography and videography and I create content that is often featured in the social media platforms of different scientific organizations (VIMS, The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, etc).
My work at VIMS is centered around morphology and systematics of fishes, which means that I am looking at their body features (bones, muscles, etc) and trying to define their evolutionary relationships. I am passionate about this work because I get to work with real specimens and use techniques that are often visually striking (see some of the images below).
Current projectsBillfishes and fishes with a bill
I am investigating the evolution and development of the billfishes (the group of fishes that includes Marlins, Sailfish and Swordfish). These animals are fascinating because, among other things, they have an elongated rostrum (a bill), they are very fast swimmers, are really fast growers, and some can reach enormous sizes—like the Atlantic Blue Marlin (Makaira nigricans) in the following photo.
As part of this project, I will also be looking at the larval stages of these fishes to study their development (the field of biology that studies the development of organisms is called ontogeny, by the way). It is amazing to think that a fish as large as the one in the photo starts as a larva a few millimeters in length (see the following photo of a cleared and stained Swordfish larva). Studying the ontogeny of these animals can give us clues as to some of their evolutionary relationships. Another component of this project would be to look at fossils related to these remarkable creatures. I am especially looking forward to this because I love fossils!
Lastly, there are other fishes that have elongated rostra (like needlefishes and cornetfishes) and there may be surprising connections between these diverse groups of fishes whose commonality is the rostral feature. I will be using techniques such as clearing and staining (see below), CT scanning, and specimen dissections to try to find more about why some of these fishes evolved such morphological characters, and how they differ from one another.
Baby fishes are fascinating, they are tiny, and derpy, and they—most of the time—look nothing like their adult parents. As it happens, VIMS has a long legacy of larval fishes research which makes it the perfect place to get more acquainted with these amazing animals. So, after pestering some of my colleagues who are actively researching them, I am helping them to sort and document some larval specimens.
Because these specimens are so tiny, you use a stereo microscope to look and sort through the samples. I am using my own Leica scope, with a phototube attached to a my Nikon mirrorless to take images - and sometimes videos. I hope you are as captivated by these specimens as I am :)
Fishes, fossils, conservation, sustainability, field science, science communications and marketing, diving, photography, birdwatching.