COSAM News Articles 2020 March COSAM Undergraduate Research to be published in Biological Journal

COSAM Undergraduate Research to be published in Biological Journal

Published: 03/31/2020

By: Carla Nelson

The Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) offers undergraduate students opportunities for success through research. Recent COSAM undergraduate student Holden Paz will soon have his research featured in the “Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.”

Dating back to 1998, Biological Sciences Professor Dr. Jonathan Armbruster began expeditions to remote areas of Guyana in South America. Only two species of pencil catfish were known from the region, but Dr. Armbruster returned with many fish that he believed to be new, undescribed species. Holden, along with graduate student Malorie Hayes, used genetics to determine if these were new species and how they were related to other catfish in the region.

“It turns out, there were not two species of pencil catfish in the highlands of Guyana – there were six!,” Malorie explained. “Pencil catfish of the very speciose genus Trichomycterus had not been examined before in the Guiana Highlands because only three specimens had been collected before AUMNH personnel began their collections. Our results were very exciting,”

Holden presented the research, titled “A Hotspot Atop: Rivers of the Guyana Highlands Hold High Diversity of Endemic Pencil Catfish (Teleostei: Ostariophysi: Siluriformes),” at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in the summer of 2018 and received a Fund for Excellence Undergraduate Research Award for his contributions.

Originally from Birmingham, Holden recently graduated with a degree in biomedical sciences. He was planning to pursue a career in the medical field, but has instead continued his education by pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry.

“I know this is going to teach me to code and think about problems in a way that I haven’t before,” Holden explained. “I think mental flexibility is what this is going to give me.”

Holden said his time spent in Dr. Armbruster’s lab was his first experience with research. He said he enjoyed presenting at the conference and the experience the research has offered.

“It was a great first experience,” he said. “I’m very grateful to Dr. Armbruster for giving me the experience that he did and allowing me to go to the conference and present. I’m very grateful for everything he did.”

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