Assistant Curator of Ichthyology
Area: Natural History, Biodiversity
Exhibitions & Galleries: Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Hands-on Biodiversity Gallery, Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity, Hands On Nature (Travelling Exhibition)
B.Sc., Fisheries and Wildlife, University of Guelph, 1980
Mary Burridge is an Assistant Curator of Ichthyology in the Department of Natural History. She teaches the Ontario Fish Identification Workshop and is a contributing editor to ROM magazine.
Spending her childhood summers in Muskoka, Mary grew up with a love of the great outdoors, especially water. Since canoeing, sailing, swimming and fishing were her passions as a child, it was a natural progression to delve into the depths, and she became a SCUBA diver at a young age, passing her open water dive in the dark, cold waters of Lake Ontario. Having a relative and mentor with an enviable career at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, she followed in his footsteps and began a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Fisheries at the University of Guelph. Being the only female in a class of 25 students, she quickly learned some necessary survival strategies (like holding her own at a bar).
While she was a student, Mary worked the summers with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) assisting in a project to reintroduce Lake Whitefish into Lake Simcoe. After her graduation, she continued working for the OMNR until her career evolved from managing resources to conducting research on resources. In 1981, her good fortune led to a research assistant position at the ROM with Dr. E.J. Crossman. For four years, she struggled on short term contracts, and then gratefully accepted a position as Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Ichthyology and Herpetology.
Mary has contributed to a wide range of projects during her career at the ROM. From naming and describing new species of fishes, to diving on picturesque coral reefs in the Philippines and Vietnam (a far cry from Lake Ontario), her research endeavours have led to a dozen publications on freshwater Southeast Asian and marine Indo-Pacific species.
Because of her interest in education, Mary became a team member in the development of the popular Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Hands-on Biodiversity Gallery, the travelling exhibit Hands On Nature, and the ROM's newest gallery, the Schad Gallery of Biodiversity .
She has organized many March Break, Christmas Holiday and Wildlife Week public programs for the life science disciplines including “Night Life,” and “ROM’s Believe it or Not.” Mary visits schools, libraries, seniors' homes and summer camps extolling the virtues of the natural world.
She also works with the large collection of fishes at the ROM and manages the frozen fish tissue collection, which is becoming increasingly important for molecular research. Mary is a co-author of the fourth book in the ROM field guide series, The ROM Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Ontario, which has just been published.