Meet USCB's Fish Whisperer

Typography

DR. ERIC MONTIE TEACHES ANIMAL PHYSIOLOGY, NEUROBIOLOGY AND ICHTHYOLOGY AT USCB’S HILTON HEAD GATEWAY CAMPUS.

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His research interests involve marine biology, neurobiology and ecotoxicology. His research program focuses on brain architecture, hearing of fish and marine mammals, and acoustic communication of aquatic vertebrates. The more applied part of his research program focuses on studies that investigate how stressors, such as man-made chemicals, harmful algal blooms, noise pollution, and climate change may impact the brain, hearing, and acoustic communication.

His research has involved work on zebrafish, goldfish, and rats, as well as spotted sea trout, red drum, flounder, California sea lions, harp seals, hooded seals, grey seals, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pygmy killer whales and right whales. Montie’s work has direct importance to the regional economy of South Carolina and the Lowcountry. One of the most important fisheries in this region is spotted sea trout, red drum and black drum. A common characteristic of these fish is that the males make sound to attract females during the mating process, much the same way that frogs make croaking sounds to attract mates. “We have novel technology to identify the location of large schools of fish and where they are breeding based on sound. We are using this technology to better understand what habitat is essential for these species of fish to reproduce in this area,” Montie said. “Sound production in male fish is mainly associated with courtship behavior, and these sounds are species specific. Thus, a ‘loud’ tidal creek means more courtship behavior, which could mean more fish reproduction, and more fish for the Lowcountry economy.”

After receiving a B.S. degree in Zoology at the University of Rhode Island in 1993, Dr. Montie embarked upon post-baccalaureate studies in Biochemistry at Harvard University. He received an M.S. degree in Environmental Toxicology at Clemson University in 1999, then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass. One of the nation’s premier marine science graduate programs, the MIT-WHOI Joint Program brings together the resources of two world-class research and teaching institutions. He has been a member of the USCB faculty since January 2011.