An ichthyologist is a scientist who specializes in studying fish, including rays and sharks. There are currently about 30,000 known fish species, making this group larger in terms of total number of species than all birds, reptiles, and mammals put together.
- About Ichthyology -
The study of fish, if not of ichthyology as such, has its origins in the ancient world, including the first formal taxonomy of fish published by Aristotle in the 300s B.C. During the Renaissance, a period which featured the rediscovery and re-application of a wide variety of ancient fields of study, especially those of Aristotle, Pierre Belon, Hippolyte Salviani and Guillaume Rondelet emerged as new experts in the field, classifying hundreds of newly identified species.
Since then, the field of ichthyology grew gradually but steadily, alongside interest in the living world by Victorian naturalists and others. The American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology counted less than one hundred members (North American ichthyologists) when it was founded a century ago, but today has 2400 members. Well-known ichthyologists include Herbert Axelrod and Maurice Kottelat,. The Emperor of Japan, Akihito, has also studied and published academically in ichthyology.
- Becoming an Ichthyologist -
Jobs in ichthyology-related fields usually require, at the very least, a background at the college or university level. Ichthyologists typically major in a life science at the college lever, either biology or zoology, although a range of training in biology, biochemistry, genetics, ecology, and statistics helps provide a solid foundation for further learning.
Students who hope to become full-fledged ichthyologists then continue their studies at the graduate and doctoral level, sometimes at schools with specialized departments of ichthyology, sometimes at universities who have ichthyologists working in broader departments of marine science, biology, or zoology. Schools with dedicated ichthyology graduate programs include the University of California, Harvard University, and Florida State University (a full list is provided here) in the United States, and the University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University, and St. John's University in Canada.
In the United States, academic ichthyologists are represented - and are often members of - the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. There are also a number of other professional organizations in the discipline, including the American Fisheries Society, the Ichthyological Society of Hong Kong, and the Neotropical Ichthyological Association. Academic publications in the discipline often appear in journals such as the Environmental Biology of Fishes, Copeia, and the Journal of Fish Biology.
- Sources and More Information -
American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology (ASIH). "Careers in Ichthyology."