Collections Manager of Invertebrate Zoology

Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology

As Collections Manager of the Invertebrate Zoology Collections, Chrissy Piotrowski is responsible for the care and maintenance of a large and taxonomically diverse set of research collections, facilitating its use for scientific research and exhibit. She oversees collection-related activities and documentation including acquisitions, curation, taxonomic determinations, loans and exhibit of specimens, research visits, inquiries, and maintenance of an online searchable database of digital specimen records. She also manages invertebrate lab staff and volunteers on various projects to enhance and maintain the CASIZ Collections and its associated data to better serve current and future generations of scientific researchers.

Chrissy specializes in Polychaeta, a highly diverse class of segmented marine bristleworms comprised of approximately 14,000 known species. These remarkable animals exhibit highly variable morphologies and life histories and serve as integral components of nearly all marine habitats, providing crucial ecosystem services as predators, prey, water filterers, reef-builders, and nutrient cyclers. With a primary focus on the particularly diverse marine scaleworms, she employs morphological and genetic data to study evolutionary relationships among populations of polychaete worms to better document accurate faunal diversity. She has participated in numerous research expeditions from local California waters to the central Pacific, Southeast Asia, Europe, and most recently the Philippine Islands, an exceptionally rich region of undocumented biodiversity.

Chrissy has been with the California Academy of Sciences since 2000, the year her interest in polychaete taxonomy was piqued by work on a benthic survey of San Francisco Bay. Her efforts to document worm fauna of the Bay culminated in co-authorship of a field guide for SF Bay benthic marine animals. She has since broadened her interests to include general invertebrate taxonomy, cryptic marine species, and marine introductions. Recent survey work in the Indo Pacific resulted in the description of several new polychaete species and inspired collaborative work on a published list of species described from the region. Her current aim is to create genetically useful morphological specimen collections for use in the study of polychaete faunal diversity, with a focus on exploration of allopatric populations of reportedly “cosmopolitan” species.

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Invertebrate Zoology and Geology