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March 25, 2010
By Mike Wolterbeek
University of Nevada, Reno researcher Zeb Hogan has some fish stories to tell, stories about big fish – no, monster-size freshwater fish – that he travels the world to find, study and protect.
Hogan, world renowned as a National Geographic Explorer and Councilor for Fish with the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species, will tell his fish tales in a free lecture “Megafish: Freshwater Giants” on Fri., April 2 at the University’s Joe Crowley Student Union theatre. There is a reception at 6:30 p.m., and the presentation about his travels and research for the Megafish Project begins at 7 p.m.
The Megafish Project spans six continents. It focuses on the dwindling populations of megafish – freshwater fish that can grow to more than 200 pounds and more than 6 feet long.
"There are probably about two dozen species that qualify as freshwater megafishes in the world, and roughly70 percent of those are in danger of extinction," he said. Hogan, an assistant research professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, said the closest to extinction is the Chinese paddlefish.
Other species he studies are the elusive and highly endangered sawfish in Australia that can grow to 23 feet long, giant freshwater stingray in Thailand that are 14 feet long, as well as catfish, carp, taiman, sturgeon and the 10-foot long alligator gar.
As project leader, Hogan worked with nearly 100 scientists in over a dozen countries with expeditions to study the most diverse freshwater systems in the world. Some of those include the Mekong River in southeastern Asia where he has spent 10 years studying the giant catfish, the Yangtze River in China, the Nile in East Africa, the Amazon in South America as well as rivers in Spain, Australia and Mongolia.
In the United States he’s studied huge fish in the Mississippi River, the Trinity River in Texas and the Kootenai River, among others. Next week he will be filming for a documentary about the Mississippi paddlefish, which is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Hogan and his big fish will also be the subject of a new television series, "Monster Fish with Zeb Hogan," on the new Nat Geo Wild Channel that debuts this week. The series, announced in Variety magazine along with the launch of the new National Geographic Channel offering, will feature seven episodes. The project has been featured in a National Geographic Channel television series for the past two years and recently was featured on the “Hooked” National Geographic Channel program.
“I’m delighted to share my research and the work to protect these fish,” Hogan said. “These are some of the largest, most unique, and most endangered fish on Earth. It’s important to raise awareness about these giants and the freshwater habitats where they live – I think it’s a subject that people in Nevada, with our own challenges to preserve freshwater fish and their habitats, can really appreciate”.”
The event is sponsored by Trout Unlimited (Great Basin Chapter), California Trout, The Wildlife Society (student chapter), and the University of Nevada, Reno's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science.