History of the Fish Collection

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
University of Arizona

The University of Arizona Fish Collection was established by Dr. Donald A. Thomson in 1965 when he and his students initiated a program of study in the Gulf of California. By 1968, their numerous collections from the Gulf had been augmented by a series of collections from the Tropical Eastern Pacific as far south as northern Peru.

Donald A. Thomson

In 1968, Lloyd T. Findley became assistant curator, reorganized the collection and established the standard curatorial methods which largely remain in use today. A dramatic growth spurt followed during the early 1970s. This included a series of quantitative collections of tide pool fishes from the northern Gulf of California (Thomson and Lehner, 1976) and quantitative collections from island and mainland reefs throughout the Gulf using the research vessel La Sirena (Thomson and Gilligan, 1983). These and other efforts to inventory the fishes of the Gulf of California culminated in 1979 with the publication of Reef Fishes of the Sea of Cortez by Thomson, Findley and illustrator/artist Alex Kerstitch.

Station Pool near Puerto Peņasco, Sonora, Mexico
La Sirena in the Gulf of California

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the position of Assistant Curator was held by a variety of University of Arizona graduate students including Lloyd Findley, Matt Gilligan, Christine Flanagan, Phil Hastings, and Fernando Zapata. In the early 1990s, this position, then held by Dana DeKoven, was given academic professional status and its responsibilities were expanded to include the University of Arizona Invertebrate Collection. The current Assistant Curator, Phil Hastings, accepted the position in 1995.

Thomson and Findley
Thomson and Hastings

Since its inception, the Fish Collection has served as an important focal point for the University of Arizona Marine Biology Program headed by Thomson. During the 1970s, a significant portion of the sorting and identification of specimens was accomplished during evening "Fish Sorts." Steadfast participants were formally recognized by the Golden Puffer Award.

Growth of the collection has slowed since 1980, but recently the historically significant collections of freshwater fishes from Arizona and northern Mexico made by Dr. Charles H. Lowe and his students were added. These include about 300 collections of fishes made mostly between 1950 and 1970.

Gila ditaenia -- Sonoran Chub

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