Dr. Luiz Rocha, Assistant Curator, Ichthyology, California Academy of Sciences. Join us to welcome new curator on the ichthyology team, Dr. Luiz Rocha. Dr. Rocha's research interests center on the evolution, biogeography, and ecology of coral reef fishes. His overarching goal is to understand what drives the extremely high biodiversity found in tropical reefs. He has embarked on numerous expeditions around the world, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Polynesia, Micronesia, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. His field work in Sao Tome was covered by National Geographic in 2008, and he appeared in a Science Channel documentary in 2009 discussing the effects of radiation at Bikini Atoll."
Rocha's research interests and experience are centered on the evolution, phylogeography (or the geographic distribution of genetic lineages), biogeography, systematics and community and behavioral ecology of coral reef fishes. He frequently tries to combine these fields, invoking ecology to help explain evolutionary patterns and using molecular tools to test biogeographic and systematic hypotheses. The overall objective of this interdisciplinary research is to test existing hypotheses (and propose new ones) about what generates and maintains the extremely high biodiversity in tropical coral reefs.
Current projects include the investigation of processes of speciation in Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes. He is surveying 30 species across a wide geographical range (from East Africa to Hawaii), searching for geographic and ecological patterns of genetic variation that help explain speciation. This research is jointly funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the National Science Foundation.
Future research interests include speciation in tropical marine and neotropical freshwater fishes, evolutionary ecology of mimicry in fishes, molecular evolution of adaptive coloration in fishes and taxonomy and ecology of deep reef fishes.
Luiz Rocha, Assistant Curator and Follett Chair of Ichthyology at the California Academy of Sciences, highlights the evolutionary advantage of the surgeon fish. The surgeon's genes allow them to mimic angelfish, entitling them to greater resources in the coral reef.