Zoologist at Smithsonian with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service

Dr. Mike Vecchione showing how the beaks of a giant squid work together to chop off pieces of food. Photo by Jennifer Renteria, Smithsonian.
Dr. Mike Vecchione showing how the beaks of a giant squid work together to chop off pieces of food. Photo by Jennifer Renteria, Smithsonian.

The son of a naval officer, Mike Vecchione grew up along all of the coasts of the US, where he collected shells, fished, and otherwise interacted with the ocean. At age 16, he shipped out on a schooner as a cabin boy, which reinforced his interest in the ocean. He ended up majoring in Biology at the University of Miami. During college he joined ROTC and served in the army for four and a half years. He then returned to graduate school and earned a PhD in Biological Oceanography at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, studying swimming molluscs. His research became more focused on cephalopods (squids, octopods, and their relatives) while he was on the faculty at McNeese State University.

Mike came to the Smithsonian in 1986 as a Zoologist in the National Marine Fisheries Service National Systematics Laboratory (NMFS/NSL), located at the National Museum of Natural History. His research on the natural history of cephalopods has uncovered the evolutionary relationships, life histories, and behaviors of many species, including those that live in the deep sea. Mike has described many new cephalopod species from his work aboard deep-sea exploration vessels and from analyzing video from submersibles. Mike was Director of the National Systematics Laboratory from 1997-2015. He continues working to sort out the evolutionary relationships of cephalopods. What Mike loves most about his career is working at sea and discovering new things about these fascinating animals in the ocean.