Like any dedicated researcher, John Waldman—an aquatic conservation biologist who teaches in the Queens College School of Earth and Environmental Sciences—believes in getting up close and personal with his subjects. Pictured here in Florida, Waldman has taught at the college since 2004 and is the author of five books on the state of New York City's waters and the challenges faced by local marine life.
Whether he’s sounding the alarm over sightings of an invasive fish species in Flushing Meadows, such as the ferocious snakehead from Asia or describing how climate change is altering migration patterns of native fish, John Waldman (Biology) is invariably among a handful of experts people turn to when they want to know what’s happening in New York City’s waters.
An aquatic conservation biologist, Waldman came to Queens College in 2004 following a 20-year career as a scientist at the Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research, where he worked primarily on gaining a better understanding of New York Harbor and the Hudson River Estuary—a system with myriad environmental challenges.
A prolific writer with a gift for engaging prose, Waldman has penned five books (he edited another) and written articles for both scientific journals and the popular press on issues related to the ecology of waters in and around New York. His award-winning 1999 book, Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor, chronicled the ecological history of New York Harbor (from pristine, to fouled-to-the point-of-near-death, to slowly recovering) and has become an essential resource for anyone interested in the city’s aquatic heritage. His most recent book, Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and Their Great Fish Migrations, was lauded by former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt as “an informative and fascinating history of the migratory salmon, shad, herring, and other runs that once swarmed the rivers and estuaries of the Atlantic coast. Most important, this book explains what we can do to restore these fisheries to their former abundance. A great read and important blueprint for action.”
Waldman’s primary research interests are the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of temperate North American fishes, especially the diadromous forms that migrate between fresh and salt water. In recent years, he has been involved in projects ranging from the local (Bronx River fish passage, the environmental resilience of Jamaica Bay), to the regional (migrations and stock identification of Atlantic coast striped bass), to the national and international (conservation and restoration of sturgeons and shads, the fish of Mongolia). As a teacher and mentor, he has inspired a generation of students to pursue careers in similar and related fields.
Waldman readily acknowledges that his abiding interest in the vitality of New York City’s waters sprang from his boyhood in the Bronx, where he spent countless hours playing in Long Island Sound. To this day, he continues to live not far from its waters with his family in Sea Cliff on Long Island.
In October 2013 Waldman put together the conference Quintessential Queens: Celebrating America’s Fourth Largest City. For highlights, visit: http://vimeo.com/album/2743640
Favorite reading: Moby Dick, anything by Thoreau, the New Yorker
Favorite film: Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev
Favorite song: Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Waters of March”