For a guy who travels to remote villages and jungles around the world, getting him to stand still long enough to give a presentation might seem a daunting task. But with Zeb Hogan, a researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno, he is just as much at home on the lecture hall stage as he is boating up the headwaters of the Amazon or diving in the frigid waters of Mongolian rivers and lakes.
Hogan, an aquatic biologist in the College of Science and host of the Nat Geo WILD "Monster Fish" show, has been traveling the globe for 10 years to find the biggest freshwater fish on the planet. In the last Discover Science Lecture Series presentation of the school year at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 7, he will talk about his adventures, travels and work to find, study and protect behemoth fish - fish that are more than 6 feet long or weigh more than 200 pounds.
This event is free and open to the public. School-aged children are encouraged to attend. The first 100 children will receive a free copy of one of Hogan's Monster Fish books, geared for young adult readers 4th grade and up. There will also be a book signing following the lecture.
"People are really interested in these big fish, but some of my most animated audiences are the children," Hogan said. "They ask the most fun questions, and really surprise me with what they are curious about. It will be a sciencey talk for adults, but kid-friendly."
The National Geographic Society has supported Hogan's work since 2002, including the Monster Fish project for the past 10 years. His research is documented in his "Monster Fish" show and in the new featured exhibition, Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants, on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. through Oct. 12, 2015.
The results of the decade-long scientific adventure by Hogan show an amazing array of super-sized megafish, ecologically important and dwindling in numbers, and many at risk of extinction. Hogan's 10-year study takes him to some of the most remote and wild rivers on earth. It is the most comprehensive investigation ever conducted on this diverse group of aquatic giants, ranging over six continents, tapping into the expertise of hundreds of local scientists and fishermen.
"Giant freshwater fish are every bit as important to the health of their ecosystems as the top predators of land and sea. These freshwater species deserve the same attention we give to tigers and whales," he said.
Monster fish represent only one quarter of one percent of all species of freshwater fish, but include some of the strangest creatures on Earth, including monkey-eating catfish and an eel capable of delivering shocks of more than 600 volts. A few of these fish live longer than humans, attaining ages of 90, 100 or even 150 years of age. Evolutionarily speaking, giant fish families like sturgeon, stingrays, and gar pre-date dinosaurs, existing in much the same form for 200 million years.
Now in its fifth year, the annual Discover Science Lecture Series brings renowned scientists from around the country to share their knowledge with the community.
"Science encompasses a wonderfully diverse collection of explorations into the unknown," Jeff Thompson, dean of the College of Science, said. "We want our community to experience the extent of the science universe as the best scientists on the planet come to campus for our Discover Science Lecture Series.
"To have Zeb present his work as part of the Discover Science Lecture Series is especially rewarding, as the community can see the wonderful research he does around the world, and hear about his conservation efforts to protect the big fish from extinction. His work with National Geographic enabled us to partner with them for the exhibition in Washington, D.C. and to promote Zeb's work around the country as the exhibition travels to other museums over the next five years. He truly is the leading scientist in this field."
Hogan holds an undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and a Ph.D. in ecology. He spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher focusing on the ecology and conservation of the world's largest trout. He was a Fulbright scholar at the Environmental Risk Assessment Program at Thailand's Chiang Mai University and served as a World Wildlife Fund freshwater fellow. He was selected as a National Geographic Explorer in 2004 and named a National Geographic Society Fellow in 2011, joining the ranks of one of the world's most respected and exclusive programs.
As a National Geographic Fellow, Hogan serves as an expert consultant to the organization's freshwater and biodiversity programs, developing educational and outreach resources, writing and reviewing project proposals and grants and recommending public policy.
Hogan also serves as Councilor for Fish for the United Nations Convention of Migratory Species. As Councilor for Fish he is responsible for coordinating the scientific review of fish listing proposals for endangered species. He also chairs the CMS Taxonomic Working Group on Fish, which played a part in the listing last year of 22 species of sharks, rays and eel.
The Monster Fish lecture is 7 p.m. in the Redfield Auditorium in the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center on the University campus. Admission is free.