Ichthyologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists Career Video



Insider Info

dotSimply put, ichthyology is the study of fish.

Some folks would not consider a trip to Washington, D.C., complete without visiting the White House. For fish-loving folks, their Washington mecca is the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution.

Here resides the largest fish collection in the world, with approximately 500,000 lots (a lot consists of all the specimens of a species from the same time and place) and about 49 million specimens.

"I can only say that if you love fish, being outdoors, challenges -- physical, intellectual and emotional -- [and] working in collaboration with other people, this job gives you a reason to get up every morning of your life with a smile on your face!" says Nadia Aubin-Horth. She studied Atlantic salmon mortality and reproduction.

Most ichthyologists are employed in academic institutions. "There are relatively few scenarios for working ichthyologists -- natural history museums, a university setting or a government agency are the common ones," says Steven Norris, an ichthyologist at Miami University.

"There are some environmental consulting firms that might hire an ichthyologist for a contracted project, but I can't think of any pure ichthyologists who have done this."

dotWhen working in the field, ichthyologists may battle the elements as well as fatigue, sometimes working 16 to 18 hours a day. This schedule is in marked contrast to an academic position, where the hours may look more similar to a traditional 40- to 45-hour workweek.

The academic setting may bother those scientists with a deep love for pure research. They often feel frustrated by the time-intensive demands of teaching and committee obligations.

At a Glance

Study and research fish

  • Most ichthyologists work in academic settings
  • Fieldwork can require extensive time outdoors
  • You can begin with a biology or zoology major at the undergraduate level