Part of my research involves TAXONOMY. The description and classification of different species. Biologists who are specialists in taxonomy are present for all organismal groups-from folks who work on protists and fungi to insects, parasitic worms, dinosaurs and the list goes on.
Sadly, the ranks of scientists who practice any kind of taxonomy is shrinking. Why? There are a multitude of reasons that have been offered...
-the need to work on research that secures larger funding sources
-the lack of universities that continue to teach organismal coursework
-the absence of perceived importance of taxonomic research
-changes in the basic pace and emphases of evolutionary research..
All of which go hand-in-hand with the so-called Great Biodiversity Crisis. Essentially the combination of a perceived "happening right now" extinction coinciding with a steady decline of workers who can describe and list how many species exist on Earth. A nice write up by my colleage Craig McClain from Deep-Sea News in Wired on this subject can be found here.
In my case-I am one of the few remaining, world specialists who work on starfish. The number of people who ID sea stars at my level can literally be counted on one hand.
In the time since I've started my professional career, I've described (as of Sept. 2011) over 2 dozen new species (plus some new genera), I have about 3 dozen publications and I oversee the World Asteroidea Database.
Most of these are present in the Goniasteridae-one of the most diverse groups in the Asteroidea and thankfully, a group that I know a thing or two about.....
What I hope to accomplish here is to give some substance to my accomplishments and a tangible sense (limited by the fact that they are pictures of course!) of what diversity remains to be found. And what sorts of animals have been described ONLY IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
And many more remain to be discovered..
Some various miscellany that you may notice.. So some answers to anticipated questions..
Yes. I do occasionally name species to honor people who have supported or contributed to echinoderm research.
No. I wouldn't name a species after myself. That's considered poor form within the profession...
Let's go see some starfish....
Circeaster sandrae from my 2006 paper in the French journal Zoosystema (28)4:917-954
This species occurs in the deep-seas around New Caledonia and is named after my colleague Dr. Sandra Brooke!
One of my newer papers describes a bunch of newer genera and species... This one is called
Sthenaster emmae which I described in 2010 in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society
This deep-sea beast was described from the Tropical Atlantic. Named for Dr. Emma Bullock, a meteoritical geologist in the NMNH Mineralogy Dept.
One of the more rarely-encountered species I've described-the very spiny
A North Pacific deep-sea coral-predator that is named for Dr. Dave Clague, a geologist working for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute! This species was featured in an MBARI video on coral-devouring sea stars...
Two Antarctic species! Both of these were named in a recent paper 2011 issue of Zoosystema 2759: 1-48
Chitonaster trangae named for Trang Nguyen at Oregon State University! A dedicated worker that previously worked for the US Antarctic Research Program!
And a new genus and species- Eratosaster jennae, named for Jen Hammock the administrator of the USARP program who now works for the Encyclopedia of Life..
From my 2008 paper....a new genus and species of pentagonasterine goniasterid from New Caledonia.... Akelbaster caledoniae Mah 2007!
From the same paper, a new genus and species of goniasterid from the Ryukyu Islands in Japan:
Ryukuaster onnae Mah 2007!
From that same paper of mine in 2007 is a new species from New Caledonia of the genus Eknomiaster-Eknomiaster beccae. Named for my colleague Becca Price at the University of Washington.
Look! Its got some fun pedicellariae surprises on the underside!
From a paper I wrote in 2003: a new genus and species of Oreasteridae from the subreef zone:
Astrosarkus idipii Mah 2003 from Palau, and surrounding areas....