Area: Natural History
Ph.D., Biology, Queen’s University, 1971
Rick Winterbottom is a Curator Emeritus of Ichthyology at the ROM and is a cross-appointed Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto.
Rick’s life-long interest in fishes began at an early age as a juvenile fisherman on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia. It progressed from there to spearfishing, and ultimately to a professional career in evolutionary biology and ichthyology. After an undergraduate degree from the University of Cape Town, he completed a Ph.D. in Biology at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario followed by post-doctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. A three-year tenure as Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Rhodes University, South Africa followed, with the subsequent appointment as a Curator of Fishes at the ROM in 1978.
Rick’s fish research has largely been in generating hypotheses of interrelationships of various groups (especially Indo-Pacific coral reef and mangrove fishes), and then applying them to increase our understanding of the course of evolution and biogeography. The resulting insights have led to empirically defended ideas of the evolution of different feeding strategies, the sequences of morphological changes, the characters associated with differential timings of developmental trajectories, the historical assemblages of marine faunas, and the bioenergetic cycles of coral reefs. These ideas are then applied to developing strategies for the most effective ways to protect coral reefs from over-exploitation and destruction (conservation management).
To provide materials for this wide-ranging research program, he has undertaken about 20 field expeditions to coral reefs ranging from north-eastern South Africa and the Comoro Islands to the Society Islands, and from Vietnam to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. This fieldwork involves extensive use of scuba gear to depths of about 50 metres.
His cross-appointment at the University of Toronto has allowed him the opportunity to train numerous graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, as well as contributing to the department's undergraduate program.
Less than 10% of the planet’s estimated 100 million species have been identified and described.