Navigation Menu+

Sara E. and Bruce B. Collette Postdoctoral Fellowship in Systematic Ichthyology


In 2017 an endowed postdoctoral fellowship was established through the generous donation of Bruce B. Collette to support postdoctoral research focused on collections-based systematic ichthyology at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).

With a career starting in 1960, Dr. Bruce Collette’s passion has been collections-based systematic studies of marine fishes.  There are three thing he loves most about NMNH: the collections, the library, and the people.  “It’s a very special place,” says Collette, who spent nearly 60 years in the NMNH community as an employee of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS – NOAA), a resident affiliated agency partner.

Dr. Collette and his wife Sara established this fellowship endowment at NMNH to help train the next generation of collections-based ichthyology researchers and provide an opportunity to share the NMNH with them. “What I love most about the Smithsonian is its magnificent collection, which has enabled me to spend the majority of my career looking at specimens.  I want the next generation of researchers to experience the collections, library and people of the NMNH.  I want to pass on the privilege of doing research here,” said Collette.


The purpose of the Collette Postdoctoral Fellowship is to support full-time, resident, independent research focused on the study of systematics, including comparative morphology, of fishes using the NMNH collections.  This is a two-year award.

Awardees are expected to be actively involved in the scholarly activities of the Division of Fishes in particular as well as collections-based systematic ichthyology both national and internationally.


Research in the Division of Fishes is directed primarily toward systematic revisions of species, genera, and families, and the interpretation of higher classification and biogeography. Staff research efforts are currently focused on the Caribbean and Indo-Pacific marine shore fishes, especially blennies and gobies; beloniform, scombroid, pleuronectiform fishes world-wide; larval fish studies, ontogeny and reproductive morphology; and Southeast Asia, South American and African freshwater fishes. Osteological, myological, and other studies are being conducted as a basis for understanding the phylogeny and higher classification among a broad range of taxa.

The Division of Fishes maintains the largest collection of fishes in the world with over 975,000 lots – specimens of the same species collected at the same time and place – totaling over 6 million individual specimens. The collection is arranged phylogenetically by family and then alphabetically by genus and species within each family. Over 35% of the collection has been computer catalogued and is accessible through an online searchable database.

Specimens include adult fish as well as egg, larval and juvenile stages. For some taxa, especially those that progress through varied morphologies, preserved representatives of the complete series of life stages are available. The majority of specimens are stored in ethanol but the collection also includes dry skeletons (5,064) and specially prepared (cleared and stained) articulated skeletons (5,330) stored in glycerin as well as histology slides and otoliths.

The collections include many rare and important fish species, including a Coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae. About 25,000 or 75% of the over 33,000 known fish species are represented in the collection, including 19,000 lots (about 94,500 specimens) of type specimens representing 8,890 nominal species; including 6,375 primary types making this the largest such collection in the world.

The fish collections include specimens from many historical expeditions, including marine fishes from the Wilkes Expedition (1838) and U.S. Bureau of Fisheries trawling expeditions conducted by the Blake, Albatross, Fish Hawk and other ships in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Smithsonian Biological Survey of the Canal Zone, as well as North American freshwater fishes collected during the Mississippi-Pacific Railroad and Mexican Boundary Surveys in the 1850s and by David Starr Jordan and his students and colleagues (1860 to 1920).

The collection has the world’s largest holdings of Indo-Pacific marine shore fishes and extensive coverage of Caribbean marine fishes as well as both North and South American freshwater fishes. In addition to the specimens, the collection includes illustrations and photographs (25,000 units) as well as radiographs (25,000) of fishes.

Specialized facilities including radiographic and light photography systems (both digital and film in each case), dark-room, digital imaging and histological facilities, and sound analysis equipment are available. These are supplemented by discipline specific libraries and archives of original illustrations, maps, and sound recordings.

The Fishes library has over 8,000 volumes, including 106 journal subscriptions on fish biology, and over 120,000 reprints of scientific literature on fish taxonomy and systematics.

Additional information can be found at:  


Postdoctoral.  Applicants should have a proven record of research accomplishment and knowledge of the systematics of one or more groups of fishes.  The fellowship may begin on or after 1 January 2022 and all formal requirements for a Ph.D. must be completed before the start of the tenure.

Fellowships are available to US and non-US citizens.

Priority will be given to proposals that: 1) involve research related to systematic ichthyology, 2) indicate a high standard of research productivity, creativity, and interactivity, and 3) demonstrate how they would use the fish collection resources at NMNH.

How it Works

The Collette Postdoctoral Fellowship is offered every other year. Applications for 2020 Are due by 1 September 2021

How to Apply

To apply, send as an e-mail attachment:

(1) Curriculum Vitae. Must include your education, expertise, achievements and honors, publications, and short description of research interests.

(2) Recent Publications (maximum of three PDFs)

(3) Proposal (abstract, research proposal (2-3 pages), timetable, and budget)

(4) Letters of Reference (two), submitted separately by the referees

You must identify a member of the NMNH Fish Division staff or affiliated staff (including retirees) to serve as your principal fellowship advisor.

All application materials should be submitted via e-mail attachment to in pdf format by 1 September 2021.  The subject of the message should be “Collette Postdoctoral Fellowship Application”

For questions regarding the fellowship, contact Lynne Parenti (

Proposal Summary

Each proposal must include:

  • Abstract: Abstract of the proposed research. Limited to 250 words.
  • Research Proposal: The full statement of your research for the two-year tenure. The proposal should address methodology, importance of work both in relation to the broader discipline and to your own scholarly goals, and justification for conducting this research at the Smithsonian utilizing the resources in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Fishes.  Limited to 3 double-spaced pages, including figures, 11 point type.
  • Timetable: Complete timetable with milestones and travel date estimates so as to accomplish the research objectives according to the planned tenure.
  • Budget and Justification: Budget and justification for equipment, supplies, research-related travel costs, and other support required to conduct the research (excluding stipend and relocation costs). Applicants are strongly encouraged to include travel to scientific meetings and opportunities to advocate for collections-based research. Applicants are encouraged to discuss potential research costs with NMNH staff before submitting your application.  If required funds exceed the maximum annual research allowance of $4,000, please explain the source of the additional funds.
  • Bibliography: Bibliography of literature relevant to your proposed research, as needed. Limited to two pages.
  • References: The name and email address of the two persons familiar with your work who will be sending separately a Letter of Reference. Referees are encouraged to submit their letter in time to be included as part of the application review, which usually starts within a few days after the application deadline. We recommend that applicants provide a copy of your proposal to your referees. Each applicant is responsible for ensuring that all letters of reference are submitted by the deadline.


The fellowship provides stipend, research/travel allowance, health insurance allowance, and a one-time relocation allowance.

Projected Two-year Award Package

$50,400/year – Stipend

$4,000/year – Research/Travel Allowance

$4,000/year – Health Insurance Allowance

$1000 – Relocation Allowance

$117,800 total for two-year award




LUNDT, William.  2018.  Louisiana State University.

The evolutionary history of flying fishes and allies.

Primary advisor. Baldwin, Carole C.

.  2019.  Universidade de Sao Paulo.

Phylogeny of Scombriformes (Teleostei: Percomorphacea) based on an integrative morphological and molecular analysis: impacts on the limits and interrelationships of Pelagiaria

Primary advisor.  Johnson, David.