Erling Holm

A man wearing a white lab coat

Erling Holm

Assistant Curator

Exhibitions & Galleries: Life in Crisis: Schad Gallery of Biodiversity, Patrick and Barbara Keenan Family Gallery of Hands-on Biodiversity

Phone: 416.586.5760


B.Sc., Biology, University of Toronto, 1973

Erling Holm is an Assistant Curator of Ichthyology in the Department of Natural History.

Born in 1950 in Denmark, Erling immigrated to Toronto with his parents and three siblings in 1958. While studying at the University of Toronto, Erling spent his summers surveying lakes and streams for the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). After graduating in 1973, Erling continued contract work for the MNR, identifying small fish samples for Ontario's Lake and Stream Inventory Program. In October 1977, he joined the staff in the Department of Ichthyology & Herpetology at the ROM as a Curatorial Assistant under Dr. E.J. Crossman. His responsibilities included managing the rapidly growing ichthyology collection and conducting fieldwork and research.

As collection manager, Erling is involved in acquiring, preserving, identifying, cataloguing and documenting collections of fishes. He provides information and data on collection holdings and facilitates loans, exchanges and gifts of ROM specimens and tissues. He maintains the ROM ichthyology database, which is available for searching at several websites: Global Biodiversity Information Facility, the Canadian Biodiversity Information Facility, Vertnet, and Fishnet2.

Erling’s other activities are focused on the conservation and taxonomy of fishes. He is a recognized authority on the identification of Ontario fishes and frequently assists organizations and individuals with fish identification. He developed the ROM’s popular Fish Identification Workshops, which have attracted over 800 fisheries professionals over the past 10 years. These workshops are given every year during the last two weeks of April and the first week of May. Erling has developed computer identification guides and is presently revising the identification keys to Scott and Crossman’s (1973) Freshwater Fishes of Canada. Erling's has also developed a computer minnow key, which is available free. One of his major contributions has been the compilation of The ROM Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Ontario, with Nicholas Mandrak and Mary Burridge. Erling has also worked on the extensive collections of Indo-Pacific marine fishes that were collected by Richard Winterbottom and comprise about a third of the ROM’s fish collection.

In the area of conservation, Erling’s field work, publications, and professional service have focused on Ontario’s fishes at risk. He has authored 13 status reports on fishes written for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and served on COSEWIC’s Freshwater Fishes Specialist Subcommittee as well as on recovery teams such as the Redside Dace Recovery Team. He also developed a Species at Risk Workshop, which he teaches every year with Jason Barnucz of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Erling has conducted several field trips to South America, a continent with the highest freshwater fish diversity, which is still poorly surveyed and where many species remain to be described. As a result of his fieldwork and the continuing fieldwork of ROM’s fish curator Hernán López-Fernández, the ROM’s collections of freshwater fishes (both specimens and tissues) from Guyana is one of the largest in the world. Much of it is out on loan to students and ichthyologists. In honour of Erling’s contribution of specimens for South Amercian taxonomic research, a small Peruvian characin, (Creagrutus holmi Vari and Harold, 2001), which he collected in the Andes, was named after him.

When Erling is not working on fishes, he enjoys hiking, cycling, yoga, cooking, fish photography, and spending time with his wife, Deborah and his three grown children Emma, Peter and Lili.

Research Projects

The Ontario Bioblitz brings together experts, citizen scientists and the general public to inventory all species in a particular area.