Faculty Profiles

Phillip Lobel

Phillip S. Lobel

Professor of Biology

PhD, Harvard University, 1979
Areas of interest: ichthyology; behavioral ecology and taxonomy of fishes
(617) 358-4586

Current Research

I am interested in fundamental concepts of fish biology and in applying this knowledge to scientific issues and to societal concerns of fisheries management and conservation. My scientific work has focused on field studies of fish behavior and ecology. I have worked in a variety of habitats worldwide where fishes are a significant component of the fauna. In recent years, I have applied my scientific expertise to contemporary problems in conservation biology and environmental protection. From 1983 to 2003, my main study site was Johnston Atoll, Central Pacific Ocean conducting research as part of the US Army marine ecological monitoring program evaluating operation of the Johnston Atoll Chemical Weapons Disposal System. Since 2003, I have been working primarily in Belize, Central America on fish bioacoustics and discovery of new species.

My research has concentrated on five topics::

  1. Reproductive behavior and timing relative to physical oceanographic variables

  2. Predator-prey relationships with emphasis on herbivores and their role in coral reef ecology, including the phenomenon of ciguatera

  3. Species identification and biogeography including descriptions of new species of fishes from coral reefs and an African freshwater lake

  4. Environmental impact of natural catastrophes and man-made habitat alterations

  5. Fish bioacoustics

My current research focus is on fish bioacoustics. Past research has generally concentrated on the identification of sound-producing fishes. Although many fishes produce distinct sounds while courting or calling mates, the prior lack of technology for data acquisition and signal analysis has stifled research. I developed new methods and equipment for recording fishes in the wild. The goals have been to develop instrumentation, deployment strategy and analytical procedures for A) locating spawning populations, and B) quantifying the temporal-spatial patterns of fish reproduction. The temporal patterns of fish reproduction at known sites can be recorded using hydrophones and radio-telemetry to shore or with underwater recorders. Spatial coverage is possible using multiple systems. The success and general applicability of a method for passive acoustic detection of fish reproduction ultimately depends on identifying species with specific mating sounds. The interesting biological question is, do different fishes make different sounds and can the fish distinguish these different sounds?

Courses Taught

  • BI 531 Ichthyology I
  • BI 532 Ichthyology II

Selected Publications

  • Lobel PS (2011). A review of the hamlets (Serraanidae, Hypoplectrus) with description of two new species. Zootaxa 3096: 1–17.
  • Lobel PS. (2011). Transport of reef lizardfish larvae by an ocean eddy in Hawaiian waters. Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans. 52 (2011) 119– 130.
  • Richlin ML, Lobel PS. (2011). Effect of depth, habitat and water motion on the abundance and distribution of ciguatera dinoflagellates at Johnston Atoll, Pacific Ocean. Marine Ecology Progress Series: 421: 51–66
  • Heyman W, Carr L, Lobel PS. (2010). Diver disturbance to reef fish spawning aggregations: It is better to be disturbed than to be dead. Marine Ecology Progress Series: 419: 201–210.
  • Lobel PS, Kaatz I, Rice AA. (2010). Acoustical behavior of reef Fishes. Chapter 10 in K. Cole (ed), Reproduction and sexuality in marine fishes: patterns and processes. Univ Calf Press. 432 pages,
  • Kerr Lobel L, Lobel PS. (2009). Contaminants in Fishes from Johnston Atoll. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, July 2008.
  • Randall J.E,Lobel PS. (2009). A literature review of the sponge-dwelling gobiid fishes of the genus Elacatinus from the western Atlantic, with description of two new Caribbean species. Zootaxa 2133: 1-19
  • Lobel PS, Lobel LK (2008). Biology and Geology of Johnston and Wake Atolls, Pacific Ocean. Chapter 17 in Coral Reefs of the USA, Series: Coral Reefs of the World, Vol. 1 Riegl, Bernhard M; Dodge, Richard E. (Eds) Springer.

    For further information see websites: http://www.auas-nogi.org/bio_lobel_phillip.html and
    Phillip Lobel - Google Scholar Citations