Ichthyologist and Curator of Fishes

Dr. Lynne R. Parenti in a wet suit crouched down in clear, shallow water on a beach. Blue sky and green trees are behind.
Dr. Lynne R. Parenti in the field searching for coastal marine fishes in Coconut Island, Hawaii. Photo by Zeehan Jaafar, National University of Singapore.

Dr. Lynne Parenti is a fish curator at the National Museum of Natural History. She specializes in freshwater and coastal marine fishes of the Indo-Pacific. Lynne became interested in fishes as a kid. The house she grew up in in New York was adjacent to the Arthur Kill, the waterway that separates Staten Island from New Jersey. She saw her first killifishes, from the Dutch word kille, meaning waterway, while exploring salt marshes and decaying docks along the river. Lynne continued to explore salt marshes during her undergraduate education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and went on to get a Ph.D. in systematic biology in a joint program between the City University of New York and the American Museum of Natural History studying, of course, killifishes.

Lynne joined the Smithsonian in 1990. She was among the first women admitted into the Washington Biologists’ Field Club and is the first woman ichthyologist to serve as President of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. For more than thirty years, she has conducted research on the systematics and historical biogeography of freshwater and coastal fishes. She has led fish collecting expeditions to Papua New Guinea, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, China, Taiwan, Sulawesi, Hawaii, Tasmania, and New Zealand, as well as the neotropics. Lynne has been active in education and outreach at the museum, developing exhibits as well as sharing her expertise with docents, visitors and the public at large.