• Title Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Harvard University
  • Phone 617-358-4586
  • Area of Interest ichthyology; behavioral ecology and taxonomy of fishes
  • CV

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?

Selected Publications

  • Mosharo, K.K. and P.S. Lobel (2023). A comparison of underwater speakers for fish playback studies. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 154:2365–2382.
  • Sun, Z.X. and P.S. Lobel (2023). Pelagic larval duration of the Meso-American reef fish, Halichoeres socialis (Labridae). Environ Biol Fish 106:1971-1982.
  • Lobel L K and P S. Lobel, (2022 )  Using damselfish embryos (Abudefduf sordidus) to evaluate military contamination on coral reefs at Johnston Atoll, Pacific Ocean. Fishes 7:55.
  • A.N. Rice, S.C. Farina, A.J. Makowski, I.M. Kaatz, P.S. Lobel, W.E. Bemis, and A.H. Bass. (2022). Evolutionary Patterns in Sound Production across Fishes. Ichthyology & Herpetology 110:1-12.
  • Lobel, P.S., J. Garner, I. Kaatz, and A.A. Rice (2021). Sonic Cichlids in M. E. Abate, D. L. G. Noakes (eds.), The Behavior, Ecology and Evolution of Cichlid Fishes, Fish & Fisheries 40:443-502.
  • Lobel P. S., L.K. Lobel  and J. E. Randall (2020).  Johnston Atoll: Reef fish hybrid zone between Hawaii and the Equatorial Pacific. Diversity 12:83.
  • Lobel L.K., D.M. Drown, P.H. Barber, and P.S. Lobel (2019). A Genetic Assessment of Parentage in the Blackspot Sergeant Damselfish, Abudefduf sordidus (Pisces: Pomacentridae). Fishes 4:53.
  • Lindseth, A.V. and P.S. Lobel (2018). Underwater Soundscape Monitoring and Fish Bioacoustics: A Review. Fishes 3:36.

Courses Taught:

  • BI 500 Shark Biology and Conservation
  • BI 531 Ichthyology I

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