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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

Background And Education

Education And Training

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.

Awards And Honors

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).

International Audience Summary Of Expertise

  • In deep waters off the coast of Curacao in the southern Caribbean, Smithsonian marine biologist Carole Baldwin leads the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). This is a Smithsonian effort to explore life on poorly studied tropical deep reefs and monitor changes in these ecosystems over time.

    Carole is a well-respected authority on marine biology, especially tropical-marine fishes. Her face will be familiar to any of you who have seen the Smithsonian 3-D IMAX film, Galapagos, for which she was a scientific advisor and on-air talent. She grew up in coastal South Carolina and studied at James Madison University, the College of Charleston and the College of William and Mary.

    She has published over 70 scientific articles, and her work includes the discovery of dozens of new fish species from Belize, Curacao, Tobago, Saba Bank, Australia, Cook Islands, El Salvador and Galápagos. 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, and in 2014 she was inducted as an alumni member into the James Madison University chapter of Phi Beta Kapa. She is currently in the Director’s Circle of the National Aquarium, a member of the Board of Governors of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, a Council Member for the Biological Society of Washington, and a sectional editor for the scientific journal Zookeys.

    When Carole is not leading the DROP initiative, she devotes time to sharing her experiences as a marine biologist with students and the general public. She has devoted much time to sharing her experiences as a marine biologist with students and the general public and is a positive role model for women and girls considering careers in science. Carole is senior author of One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish -- The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook (Smithsonian Books, 2003), a marine conservation project featuring educational information and recipes from professional chefs for U.S. seafood species fished or farmed in an environmentally sound manner. More recently, she served as a curator of the Smithsonian’s popular Sant Ocean Hall. She is based at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where she has worked as a Research Zoologist (Curator of Fishes) since 2001.

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Research And Grants

Publications

Selected Publications

Affiliation

Contact

Location

Mailing Address

  • Smithsonian Institution

    PO Box 37012, MRC 159

    Washington, DC  20013-7012

    USA

Mailing Address

  • Smithsonian Institution

    PO Box 37012, MRC 159

    Washington, DC  20013-7012

    USA

Shipping Address

  • Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    10th and Constitution Ave, NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0159