UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Jay Stauffer made his first trip to Lake Malawi in 1983, just before joining the faculty in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, he never dreamed that the trip would be the genesis of his career focus and that it would yield valuable partnerships for the University.
Next month, Stauffer — now a distinguished professor of ichthyology — will travel to the “African Great Lake” for the 50th time to describe fishes. Lake Malawi, he points out, long has been the focus of his attention because it is the third largest freshwater lake, by volume, in the world, and it contains the largest number of fish species of any lake on the planet.
While Stauffer is in southern Africa, he expects to finalize an agreement to transfer his 30,000-specimen Lake Malawi fish collection from Penn State to the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity in Grahamstown, South Africa.
The Lake Malawi fish species — just a quarter or so of Stauffer’s 1.2 million-specimen collection housed in a building at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, located about 9 miles southwest of the University Park campus — are mostly colorful cichlids. The rest of his collection are mainly fishes from North American waters, most from Pennsylvania and the rest of Appalachia.