Research Areas

All Catfish Species Inventory (2003-2009, and continuing) - One of the first funded Planetary Biodiversity Inventory grants by NSF, ACSI had over 450 participants from all over the world. In the first decade of the 21st century, ACSI helped to increase the number of species of catfishes described by 24%. Also included were photographs of most of the type specimens. Researchers at Auburn predominantly worked on loricariids (suckermouth armored catfishes), ariids (sea catfishes), and bagrids (bumblebee catfishes). Fieldwork at Auburn included trips to Bangladesh, Colombia, Guyana, Indonesia, Panama, Peru, Papua New Guinea, Venezuela Principal Investigators on the grant were Lawrence Page, Jonathan Armbruster, Carl Ferraris, John Friel, John Lundberg, and Mark Sabaj PĂ©rez.

This work continues as we continue to describe new species of catfishes as well as examine the phylogenetic relationships of loricariid catfishes. In addition, we recently received funding from the Coypu Foundation to examine fishes in the upper Ireng River of Guyana (Amazon Basin).

All Cypriniformes Species Inventory (2010 - present) - Following on the heals of ACSI is ACSI II on minnows, suckers, loaches, and their relatives. Launched in 2010, ACSI II seeks to increase the cybertaxonomy element of ACSI with a new photo upload site at Auburn that will include data for geometric morphometrics. Auburn has lead fieldwork in Africa for this project, but has also participated in fieldwork in Asia and North America. At Auburn, we will be working with various North American groups as well as the taxonomically intractable 'Barbus' of Africa. Principal Investigators on the grant are Lawrence Page, Jonathan Armbruster, and Richard Mayden.

In addition to taxonomic and phylogenetic work on the Cypriniformes, we are also conducting various studies on the evolutionary ecology of Cypriniformes of North America and Africa, and exploring the evolution of miniaturization.


Cavefish Taxonomy (2012-present) - Cavefishes are blind, depigmented fishes. The Southern Cavefish (Typhlichthys subterraneus) was once believed to have a range that consisted of caves in the eastern highlands and the Ozarks of North America; however, there are multiple genetic lineages, and we are discovering that we can identify most of these lineages morphologically. We are currently working on diagnosing species as well as studying the health of populations in Alabama. Funded through two grants from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.


Aquatic Species Response to Drought (2017-2018) - Alabama Experienced a harsh drought in the summer and fall of 2016. The most strong effected areas were also some of the most biodiverse temperate aquatic habitats in the world. Thankfully, the extensive fieldwork in the region by Auburn Univerisity Museum of Natural History staff resulted in tremendous pre-drought information. In 2017, we received an NSF RAPID grant to study the effects of the drought in order to determine what species were best able to recolonize their streams. We are using a combination of traditional and electrofishing sampling for fishes and invertebrates and incorporating environmental DNA (eDNA) for endangered herps to detemine the effects of the drought. Principal Investigators are Brian Helms, Jonathan Armbruster, Jim Godwin, David Werneke, and Michael Barbour.