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Marine Biologist Earns Award From Research Peers

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Kathryn A. Dickson, professor of biological science, has received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists (AIFRB).

Dickson has been involved in the organization since 2001 and was given the award for her service as secretary and member of the organization’s board from 2009 to 2014. She also has served in numerous leadership roles with AIFRB’s Southern California and Baja California, Mexico, District. 

“My involvement has expanded my knowledge of, and facilitated, professional contacts in fisheries biology, developed my leadership skills, and most importantly, benefitted CSUF students by providing opportunities to meet and network with fisheries biologists,” she said.

Her affiliation with the organization has helped her advance her research on endothermy in fishes — the unusual ability to maintain body temperature significantly above the water temperature.

Dickson has authored many papers, some w‪ith her research students as co-authors. Among the recent faculty-student endeavors was a Journal of Experimental Biology article on how opah, or moonfish, can elevate the temperature of its eye and brain well above that of the water temperature. Last spring, Dickson served as a reviewer of a new paper by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers, who described a novel system in the gills of opah that makes it the only fish to warm its heart.

Current research in her laboratory is on the California grunion — the subject of the BURST FORTH summer research experience for freshmen — and the development of the swimming muscle that is the source of body heat for tunas. Dickson and her students will present their results at the Jan. 3-7 meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Portland, Oregon.

Her students have received AIFRB travel awards and jobs. Two former graduate students are working at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla as a result of contacts initiated at local AIFRB meetings. Dickson and her students also have conducted research on juvenile tunas in Panama and participated in NOAA research cruises to collect data and obtain tissue samples from sharks.

The scholar came to CSUF in 1988 and served as chair of the Biological Science from July 2010 to August 2015. She earned her doctorate in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Connecticut College.