I was born in Germany and grew up in the Bahamas. My parents, being both biologists, had a strong appreciation for nature. Thanks to them, I was exposed to the ocean and learned about marine life at a very young age; exploring the local reefs and collecting and keeping aquarium fishes. I continued to maintain aquariums for student research projects and in my dorm room throughout high school and college.
My senior year in college I spent several weeks at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Marine Biology, where I toured the aquaculture lab and discovered fish larvae. I was hooked. I specialized in my newfound interest in graduate school with a degree in aquaculture.
Meanwhile, I started keeping pygmy angelfishes in my saltwater tank at home. The Centropyge were the perfect aquarium fish; being small, beautiful and full of interesting behavioral quirks, and so they became the focus of my graduate thesis.
Following graduate school, I set up my own hatchery and taught myself how to raise clownfishes, dottybacks, bennies, gobies and grammas. I also kept a few Centropyge pairs and dabbled with the eggs whenever I could. Bit by bit, I developed a rearing process for the Centropyge genus. After rearing my first batch of angelfishes, I saw a chance to farm angelfishes and opened Reef Culture Technologies. Over the the next decade, RCT produced a number of rare, higher-valued pygmy angelfish species to fund its aquaculture research. Most of this research has been published.
Wanting to apply what I had learned to more fish species, I started the Larval Fish Project (LFP). The project uses eggs collected from the ocean, which allows me to work on larval species without having to spawn them at my small hatchery. The process also allows me to document the various morphologies, pigmentations patterns and behaviors that makes culturing the larvae so thrilling.
Somewhere along the way, my passion for fish led me to become an underwater photographer. Photography allows me to capture the ocean’s natural beauty as well as show the negative impacts that we have. The oceans need people to care and powerful photographs help them do this.
I started out breeding marine ornamental fishes fired up to mass produce new reef fish species and to eliminate wild fish collection. But experience has made me more realistic. Most collected marine ornamentals are still too difficult and costly to mass produce, much less to farm at a profit. Less in search of the “holy grail”, I now culture fish mainly out of interest, fascinated by fish larvae and eager to learn how to keep them alive. I spend months at a time in my small hatchery, documenting larval stages and chipping away at culture bottlenecks to improve my techniques. I am excited to keep making progress, especially with new species. Experimental culture of a new marine aquarium fish not only lays the groundwork for production. It also creates incentive for others to culture new species. Knowing that something can be done is often half the battle.