Matthew A. Kolmann (Matt)
My Birthday: 08.VII.1986
Hometown: Naples, Florida
Current City: Toronto, Ontario
I'm a recent PhD graduate of the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology program at the University of Toronto, working with Dr. Nate Lovejoy, an expert on Neotropical fishes and comparative phylogenetics. I did my MSc at the Florida State Coastal & Marine Laboratory with Dr. R. Dean Grubbs and Dr. Greg Erickson, of FSU's Biological Sciences Department.
My post-doctoral research continues to explore the form-function paradigm in a diversity of fish systems - from filter-feeding herring and anchovies, insect-feeding freshwater stingrays, and on to toothy batoid monstrosities like sawfish. Stay tuned for more!
My PhD work used stingrays as a model system to understand questions regarding the mechanisms driving and sustaining biodiversity. I use molecular systematics and comparative anatomy to examine the reasons for evolutionary disparity, novelty, and convergence. I examined how prey materials shape the evolution and appearance of their predators, focusing on molluscivory in rays you're probably familiar with: eagle rays, bat rays, and cownose rays - as well as a family you're probably not as familiar with, the potamotrygonid freshwater rays of South America. These rays are the only known insect-feeding stingrays in the world and they actually chew like mammals to eat those aquatic insects! I examined how the evolution of these sorts of dietary specializations has shaped the evolution of freshwater rays - whether the appearance, tempo, and pattern of feeding adaptation in these animals has altered the evolutionary trajectory of the family as a whole (it does).
My Master's thesis work at Florida State University investigated the anatomy and biomechanical function of the feeding in stingrays, particularly the cownose ray, Rhinoptera bonasus. I investigated developmental changes in cownose ray feeding performance (bite force generation) in order to understand how these ray's ability to feed on commercially-important bivalves (oysters & scallops) changes as they grow from juveniles to adults.
I'm not sure I get a chance to do everything I'd like to do but so far I dabble in kayaking, hiking, photography, beer-brewing and cooking. Exotic animal husbandry is an offshoot of the hiking and kayaking - I've kept tropical marine fishes for most of my life, as well as numerous reptiles, birds, and your standard domesticated mammals. I'd really dig someday having an in-home carpentry set-up.
I'm interested in a broad range of topics spanning everything from basic ichthyology, phylogenetics of basal gnathostomes, biomechanics of musculoskeletal systems, and ecomorphology of fishes. I'm becoming newly interested in molecular evolution and what this discipline can tell us about gene tree divergence, hybridization, and the molecular evolution of ecologically-relevant structures like dental constituents, pigmentation, and venom. I would really like to apply my morphological and systematics talents to explain broad trends in current and ancient animal distributions (paleo- and bio- geography). Throw in a healthy obsession with herpetology, marine ecology, and fisheries biology and you'll realize how varied my background in biology really is.
" I find courage where I can, but I take my weapons from science."
- XKCD -