What ancient fish can tell us about our ecosystems – and ourselves!
Solomon David ( MS, 08 PhD, 12 )
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Nicolls State University
Leading the electrofishing at SNRE’s new student orientation at the UM Biostation
Take time to socialize with SNREds across research tracks; interdisciplinary efforts aren’t only for the classroom. Regardless of your discipline, take a course that gets you out to the field, into waders, and on the water.
The primitive gar fish has been in existence since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. A slowly evolving species and a repository of ancient genetic materials, it has much to tell us about our environment and even human evolution.
Solomon David’s fascination with gar began in early childhood when he was leafing through an old “Ranger Rick” magazine and came upon a picture of a giant fish that looked like an alligator with fins instead of legs and reminded him of a swimming dinosaur. This served as the inspiration that led him to a career as a fish ecologist at institutions including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Shedd Aquarium, and the U.S. Geological Survey. There, he studied native and invasive species in the rivers, streams, and wetlands of the Great Lakes region, habitats that are home to enduring creatures such as the gar, subsequently uncovering important information for Great Lakes conservation efforts as a whole.
“Fish are great indicators of overall ecosystem health and can provide us with environmental checkpoints,” he said. “They give us insight into the overall habitat and water quality, and whether restoration efforts are having an impact.”
While swearing his allegiance to the Wolverines, David’s last position saw him as part of a Michigan State University project that uses the spotted gar as a model organism in biomedical research to better understand the development of human diseases.
“From an ancient lineage of fishes, the genetic make-up of the gar is actually closer to humans than that of the current popular model fish, the zebrafish,” David said. “Gars can essentially bridge the gap between humans and zebrafish, leading to overall better understanding of development.”
David currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Nicholls State University.