Dr Tom Trnski


Head of Natural Science and Curator of Fishes

Auckland Museum

Tom Trnski grew up at a beachside suburb in Melbourne and spent his summers exploring the local rockpools. Once he learnt how to snorkel his interest in marine life expanded and continues to this day. He now studies fishes of the southwest Pacific region, and he is a specialist on the larval stages of fishes – the stage between hatching from their egg to settlement into juvenile habitat – including their identification and ecology. He spent over 20 years at the Australian Museum, Sydney, before moving to the Auckland Museum in 2007. Tom has published books and scientific papers describing fish larvae and their fascinating life history. He has also led and participated in many surveys of fishes throughout the Pacific, from Indonesia, the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea to French Polynesia. Current projects include the recent survey of the Three Kings Islands, and as a contributing author to the Fishes of New Zealand project that will be a published guide to over 1,300 species.

What do you hope to achieve on this expedition to the Kermadecs?

I will be focusing on new species discoveries and collecting the very rare species that tend to be small and cryptic. This will add to our knowledge of the biodiversity of the islands, and also support active research in dispersal of species between islands, and the connectivity of the Kermadecs to other islands in the southwest Pacific region.

What skills are you bringing to the team?

My role is to coordinate the expedition and be the facilitator for scientific collecting. I have developed these skills after participating in and leading a number of remote area surveys, including to remote oceanic islands.

When you’re not on an expedition what does a “day at work” look like for you?

I have a dual role as a manager of the natural sciences team of curators and collection managers at the Auckland Museum, and a smaller fraction of my time is to undertake research activities. In my management role I attend many meetings as representative of the natural sciences team and I support the museum’s research and collection activities. In my research role I maintain contact with my collaborators, contribute research results to publications, answer professional and public enquiries relating to marine biology, and contribute to the development of exhibitions and public programs at the museum. The most interesting aspect of my work is the wide range of activities that I undertake in any one day, the diversity of people I communicate with, and the unexpected events and requests that frequently occur.