Bruce Collette’s interest in animals began during summers at a camp in the Adirondack Mountains. In high school on Long Island, he experimented with color change in frogs, and during vacations from his undergraduate days at Cornell University, he studied lizard behavior and morphology while visiting his parents in Cuba. Collette switched to fishes in graduate school at Cornell and received his PhD for a taxonomic study of a small group of freshwater fishes called darters that live along the Coastal Plain from Maine to Florida.
In 1960, Collette accepted a position as an ichthyologist at the National Systematics Laboratory in what is now the National Marine Fisheries Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, housed in the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He is currently a senior scientist in the Systematics Laboratory. Collette’s research focuses on the anatomy, systematics, evolution, and biogeography of tunas and their relatives, plus other fishes such as halfbeaks, needlefishes, and toadfishes. His research has entailed visiting major fish collections around the world, collecting expeditions on various vessels, and using SCUBA to collect and observe fishes. He was appointed as chair of the IUCN/SSC Tuna and Billfish Specialist Group for 2009–2012 and as Red List Authority Focal Point for tunas and billfishes. Results of his research have been published in over 250 papers in many scientific journals, and he has co-authored two regional fish guides, The Fishes of Bermuda and Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, and an ichthyology textbook, The Diversity of Fishes: Biology, Evolution, and Ecology, now in its second (2009) edition and the most widely used college-level ichthyology text in the world. Collette has taught ichthyology as a summer field course in Massachusetts, Bermuda, and Maine for many years.