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Since his teenage years, Native American scientist David Close, (a member of the Cayuse Nation tribe of the Pacific Northwest), has been intrigued by fish and their importance as a foodstock for Native tribes. Originally, he had no idea of becoming a scientist since he felt contented as a youth just to work in community fisheries along the rivers of his Native community. But the more he worked in such environments, he recalls, “I got the impression that I could become a biologist.”
Why He’s Important: While pursuing fisheries science research at the University of British Columbia in Victoria, Canada, David received international attention two years ago when he discovered a stress hormone in the Pacific lamprey (an eel-like fish) that may help in the conservation of this species whose population has seriously declined. The lamprey, one of the oldest living vertebrates, dates back 500 million years, and the Pacific Lamprey in particular is culturally important to the Native tribes of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. David’s identification of the lamprey stress hormone, scientists believe, may also provide insight into the evolutionary development of stress hormones in humans and other vertebrates. While other cultures have historically viewed lampreys as an aquatic pest, tribes on the Columbia River value the fish not only for food but also for its medicinal attributes and its importance to aquatic ecology.
Current Activities: David is Distinguished Science Professor of Aboriginal Fisheries at the University of British Columbia in Victoria, Canada, and a professor in the university’s Department of Zoology. In addition, he directs the Aboriginal Fisheries Research Unit at the university.
Education: He received his Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University; his Master’s of Science in Fisheries Science from Oregon State University, and his Bachelor’s of Science in Fishery Resources from the University of Idaho.
In His Own Words: “I initially thought having a bachelor’s degree would be sufficient, but then I realized that if I was to contribute in a more meaningful way to my field, I would need more education, and I knew I needed to go to the best places to get it.”