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Carpenter is Co-Author of New Guide to Atlantic Coastal Fishes

Carpenter with his new book

When Val Kells, one of the nation's top marine science illustrators, decided a few years ago to produce a book cataloging the fishes in the coastal waters of the eastern United States, she found a co-author in Old Dominion University marine biologist Kent Carpenter, who is an expert in species assessment.

Their just-released "A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes from Maine to Texas" is the first comprehensive guide to the marine and brackish water fishes of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to be published in nearly a quarter century, and the first ever to be completely illustrated in full color. The book, which includes illustrations and written descriptions of more than 1,000 fishes, was published by The Johns Hopkins University Press (http://fieldguidetofishes.com/).

The sturdy and compact paperback edition costs $25 and is being billed as a guide to keep handy in a tacklebox, backpack or at the console of a boat. Pre-release reviewers suggest that it will be snapped up by fishermen, divers, students, scientists and naturalists.

Carpenter said Kells is an avid fisherwoman and that her hobby probably figured in the book's origins. But he added that academics are also eager to get the book. "I've already gotten an e-mail from another ichthyologist who said he was ordering some of the books for his labs. I have to believe that many teachers will want this book as a marine field guide."

Kells lives in Charlottesville, Va., and one of the reviewers of her original book proposal recommended that she recruit Carpenter to be the project's marine species expert. "It was a big job that went on for years," Carpenter said. "We wanted it to be comprehensive, and it is. She insists on drawing from photographs, not from someone else's illustration, and pulling together those photographs was a chore. But we got it done, and she is excellent at interpreting photographs."

A university-trained marine science illustrator, Kells contributed drawings to the recently published "Sea Turtles - A Complete Guide to Their biology, Behavior, and Conservation," and is working on the illustrations for "Field Guide to Fishes of Chesapeake Bay." She also does artwork for educational and interpretive displays at public aquariums, museums and nature centers. Her work has been displayed at the North Carolina Aquarium, Texas State Aquarium, Long Beach Aquarium and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Carpenter is the author of numerous scientific articles on fishes and he wrote and edited multivolume identification guides for fisheries as a project of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. His current work concentrates on evolution of fishes and marine conservation. He is director of the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), which is headquartered at ODU and supported by Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The ODU professor of biological sciences produced FAO identification guides of marine species, first as an author, then for five years as the manager of the FAO Species Identification and Data Programme in Rome. After joining ODU in 1996, he continued to manage production of these guides as funded research through the ODU Research Foundation.

Carpenter is also known internationally for his work in waters near the Philippines, where he has documented the existence of a region that has the richest shore-fish biodiversity in the world.

This article was posted on: January 19, 2011

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