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Baldwin, Carole

Chair of Vertebrate Zoology, Research Zoologist and Curator of Fishes New World Shorefishes

Ocean exploration, with the goal of contributing to our understanding of diversity and evolution of tropical marine fishes.

Geographic Focus

Professional Biography

  • My research specialty is ocean exploration, with the goal of contributing to our understanding of diversity, evolution, and eco-evolution of tropical marine fishes. I continue to lead the Smithsonian’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP), which I established in 2011 to explore and monitor biodiversity of Caribbean deep reefs. Deep reefs, which occur below depths accessible with conventional scuba gear, are diverse marine ecosystems that have largely been overlooked by science. DROP is exploring biodiversity at depths of 50-300 m through manned submersible diving. As part of DROP, I have led submersible expeditions to Bonaire, Curacao, Dominica, and St. Eustatius. In addition to resulting in the discovery of dozens of new deep-reef fish species, those expeditions resulted in data that enabled my colleagues and me to identify, name, and describe a new ocean zone--the Rariphotic--which bridges the gap between tropical mesophotic depths and the deep sea. DROP is also exploring invertebrate biodiversity on a shallow-to-deep-reef profile using autonomous reef monitoring structures (ARMS) and compiling the first long-term data set on temperatures on a shallow (15 m) to deep (250 m) reef slope. I continue my integrative morphological and molecular systematic research of tropical marine fishes and I am part of a multi-institutional NSF-funded study to investigate the evolutionary relationships of all fishes that never left the water.

Public Biography

  • Dr. Carole Baldwin is Curator of Fishes and Chair of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and director of the museum’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). Her face will be familiar to any of you who have seen the 3-D IMAX film, Galapagos, for which she was a scientific advisor and on-air talent. Baldwin’s current research is focused on diversity and eco-evolution of Caribbean reef fishes through integrative genetic and morphological investigation. This work has recently involved submersible diving to 1,000 ft. in the southern Caribbean as part of DROP, a marine research initiative that Baldwin initiated in 2011 to explore and monitor long-term changes in poorly studied tropical deep-reef ecosystems. To date, DROP sub diving has resulted in the discovery of over 7 new genera and 60 new species of fishes and invertebrates and the identification of a previously unrecognized deep-reef zone below the mesophotic, which Baldwin and colleagues named the rariphotic. Dr. Baldwin is senior author of One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish -- The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook (Smithsonian Books, 2003), and a curator of the Smithsonian’s popular Sant Ocean Hall. In 2003 Carole was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame, in 2006 she received the Ronald E. Carrier Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from James Madison University (JMU), in 2014 she was inducted as an alumni member into the JMU chapter of Phi Beta Kapa, and in 2016 she received the Secretary’s Research Prize at the Smithsonian. She was the 2017 President of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH).