Background And Education
Jeffrey T. Williams, Ichthyologist and Collections Manager of Fishes at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, manages the largest fish collection in the world and conducts research on the biodiversity, systematics, taxonomy and biogeography of fishes, and on the interrelationship between the tectonic history of the Indo-Pacific and the geographic distribution of fishes I have collected and studied marine fishes around the world and am an authority on the cryptic (hidden) fishes, particularly in the Pacific Ocean. He has led or participated on fish collecting expeditions to the Gulf of Mexico, western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Seychelles, Hawaiian Islands, Ryukyu Islands, Philippine Islands, Fiji Islands, Tonga Islands, New Caledonia, Loyalty Islands, Australia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Wallis & Futuna, French Polynesia and Palau. He has been with the NMNH since 1983, where he continues to focus his research on taxonomy of tropical marine fishes from remote and poorly surveyed areas around the world.
My research over the past 35 years has primarily focused on the biodiversity, systematics, taxonomy and zoogeography of marine fishes. The excitement of being a scientist in a field of science where new discoveries are common occurrences makes my work truly enjoyable. As a Collections Manager in the Division of Fishes at the National Museum of Natural History, my work often involves traveling to remote parts of the world to collect fish specimens for the national collections using SCUBA, submersible and other fishing methods. The fish collected on these expeditions help to document and add to our knowledge of marine fish biodiversity in the world's seas. I have collected fish from the Gulf of Mexico, western Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Seychelles, Hawaiian Islands, Ryukyu Islands, Philippine Islands, Fiji Islands, Tonga Islands, New Caledonia, Loyalty Islands, Australia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Wallis & Futuna, French Polynesia (Mururoa, Moorea, Rapa, Marquesas), and Palau. Each expedition has yielded discoveries of new species that had never been seen before. Most of my work has been in remote parts of the world, often involving days of travel simply to reach these areas. The primitive conditions in these remote areas make the work difficult, but the rewards are the many scientific discoveries that result. I often discover beautifully colored fish species that have never been seen before. Many of my published scientific articles are descriptions of new species I collected and photographed, along with keys to aid the identification of the cryptic shorefishes of the world.
Over the last 8 years I have been working with Mudjie Santos (BFAR-NFRDI) and Kent Carpenter (ODU) on a DNA barcoding project for the US FDA to obtain samples of as many different Philippine commercial market species of fishes as possible. The Project goal is to inventory and collect representative specimens of commercial and similar species from Philippine fish markets at a variety of locations throughout the country. Each specimen is photographed, a tissue sample is taken and preserved, the specimen is tagged with a unique identifying number, and the specimens are preserved and subsequently archived as reference vouchers at the NMNH/SI and the Philippine National Museum of Natural History with a unique link to the CO1 DNA barcode for food safety and biodiversity.