Curator Emerita Dr. Christine Thacker joined the Natural History Museum in 1998 after receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She also holds an M.A. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, both in Zoology. Dr. Thacker’s research concerns the evolution, systematics, and biogeography of gobies and cardinalfishes. She established the evolutionary relationships of this diverse radiation, yielding new family and lineage level classifications for the group, and uses this framework to explore the evolution of mutualism, species diversification, and global biogeography.
With generous grants from the W. M. Keck Foundation, the R. M. Parsons Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, she established NHM's program in Molecular Systematics and Evolution, including a multi-purpose molecular lab and undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowships. The six postdoctoral fellows funded under this program performed research and fieldwork on marine and freshwater fishes, marine gastropods and bivalves, and amphibians. She has done extensive scuba diving fieldwork in the Caribbean, Eastern Pacific, and tropical Central and Western Pacific oceans.
At NHM, she supervised the Ichthyology collection and performed curatorial upgrades throughout, in particular among the gobies and cardinalfishes. She oversaw the mitigation of a fungus infection in the skeleton collection (with NSF support), resulting in the rehousing of all the skeleton holdings in both Ichthyology and Herpetology. She established the NHM fishes frozen tissue collection, revamped and expanded the teaching collection, and upgraded the extensive collections of large fish specimens, including the Megamouth and Oarfish displays.
During her time at NHM she also held an Adjunct Faculty appointment at USC, where she served on graduate committees, taught Evolution at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, and served on USC’s diving control board. She was the lead curator on the Mobile Museum’s Ocean Experience serving schoolchildren throughout Los Angeles with both a mobile exhibit truck and onsite programming. She also wrote, directed, and hosted NHM’s YouTube science series, the Curiosity Show. She is currently a Research Associate at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.