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Paul Cziko

Paul Cziko

About Me

Curriculum vitae


2017 to Present - Research Assistant Professor, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon
2016 - Instructor, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Oregon

Research Interests

Surviving in a freezing ocean

Click the logo to learn more about my current project.

Click the logo to learn more about my current project.

I am the project leader for the McMurdo Oceanographic Observatory (MOO) project–a live-streaming underwater oceanographic observatory beneath the sea ice of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. The project supports my scientific research projects and provides a public window into a special under-ice realm. 

My primary interests revolve around the ecology, evolution and physiology of polar fishes, especially the Antarctic notothenioids. My research on these unique organisms includes their freezing-avoidance mechanisms conferred by the evolution of antifreeze proteins, their ecology, life history, development and various other adaptations that enable their survival in frigid seawater. To understand the environmental context in which these fishes evolved, I also investigate the oceanographic processes in Antarctica, especially in McMurdo Sound that cause the formation of underwater ice (anchor- and platelet ice) and drive the gain and loss of ice crystals inside these fishes' bodies.

Unveiling the evolutionary history of an important family of proteins
My Ph.D. dissertation research, advised by Dr. Joe W. Thornton, included studies related to the evolution of steroid hormone receptor proteins (the protein family that includes the receptors for estrogen, testosterone and progesterone in humans). I use genomic, phylogenetic and functional analyses, on extant and reconstructed ancestral steroid receptor proteins, to trace the evolutionary history and functional diversification of this important gene family from its origin in one of the first true animals over 600 million years ago.


2014 - Ph.D. Evolutionary Biology. Graduate Program of the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon, Eugene, USA.  

2004 - B.S. – Biology Honors with Highest Distinction, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA.

2004 - B.S. – Biochemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA.

Field Work

Team Leader/Principal Investigator: 2017, 2018 (2-3 months each) at McMurdo Station Antarctica, managing the McMurdo Oceanographic Observatory (MOO) and related research under project B-195-M. More info at the MOO site.

Field Station: 2002, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015 (2-7 months each) Antarctica, including McMurdo and Palmer stations (US), New Harbor Camp (US) and Scott Base (New Zealand). Diversity, evolution and physiology of Antarctic fishes, freezing avoidance, larval fish biology, invertebrate ecology, oceanography. Researcher, scuba diver, and lead field scientist (2012). With P.I.s Dr. Arthur L. DeVries, Dr. Chris Cheng (U. IL), Dr. Clive Evans (NZ), and Dr. Sam Bowser (NY Dept. of Health).

Research vessel: 2008 (3 months) Antarctic Peninsula and Palmer Station, Antarctica. Diversity, physiology and ecology of Antarctic fishes and invertebrates. P.I.s Dr. Arthur L. DeVries and Dr. Chris Cheng. Aboard the R/V L.M. Gould, USAP.

Research vessel: 2007, 2008, 2009 (2 weeks each) Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico: Physiology, Evolution and Ecology of deep sea larval invertebrates. With P.I.s Dr. Craig Young (OR. Institute of Marine Biology) and Dr. Michelle Wood (U. OR). Aboard the R/V Walton Smith and R/V Seward Johnson with the Johnson Sea-Link II submersible.

Research vessel: 2005 (3 weeks) Norway to northeast Greenland: Diversity of Biological antifreezes in Arctic fishes. TUNU II expedition in northeast Greenland fjord systems with Dr. Arthur L. DeVries (U. of IL). Aboard the R/V Jan Mayen.

Scientific SCUBA diving: Completed more than 100 research dives beneath Antarctic sea ice. 


C.-H. Christina Cheng - Dept. of Animal Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Arthur L. DeVries - Dept. of Animal Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Konrad Meister - Environmentally Relevant Interfaces at the Max-Planck Institute for Polymer Research

Lisa Munger - Oceanwide Science Institute and the University of Oregon, USA

Clive W. Evans - School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Joe W. Thornton (Ph.D. advisor) - Human Genetics/Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, IL, USA

Samuel S. Bowser - Wadsworth Center, NY State Department of Health, USA


Current funding

  • "Habitat Severity and Internal Ice in Antarctic Notothenioid Fishes". U.S. National Science Foundation Polar Programs Grant to Paul A. Cziko (PI) and Arthur L. DeVries (Co-PI).

I received the following fellowships and scholarships to support my Ph.D. research:

  • U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) - Graduate Research Fellowship

  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) - Grant-in-Aid of Research

  • American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) - Lerner Gray Fund for Marine Research

  • Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) - Neil Richmond Memorial Scholarship

  • NSF IGERT in Evolution and Development @ U. of OR - Associate Fellow

My research has also been funded under various grants:

  • U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Polar Programs grants to Arthur L. DeVries and C.-H. Christina Cheng (U. of IL), and Sam Bowser (NY Dept. of Health).

  • U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to Joe W. Thornton (U. of OR, U. of Chicago)

  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) funding to Joe W. Thornton, (U. of OR)


I received the Department of Biology (U. of OR) Teaching Award my first year in Graduate school and the Helen E. Hess award for outstanding undergraduate research in biology at U. of IL.

Contributed Academic Peer Reviews

Journal (Year): The Biological Bulletin (2010), Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry (Part A) (2014), Polar Biology (2009, 2012-2017), PeerJ (2014).


In addition to my collaborators, much of the research I have conducted and the adventures I have had would have been impossible without help and support from the following people: Among many others, thanks to Jamie Bridgham, Geeta Eick and other Thornton Lab members (U. of OR), Sam Bowser, Elliot DeVries, Barbara Evans, Lauren Fields, Kevin Hoefling, Ben Hunt, Luke Hunt, Charlie Knight, Jonathan Leitch, Konrad Meister, Katie Murphy, Bryan Palmintier, Kim Praebel, Rob Robbins, Steve Rupp, Ray Tien, Craig Young, Michelle Wood, the station staff of McMurdo Station (U.S. Antarctic Program) and Scott Base (Antarctica New Zealand), my parents and my loving partner Piper Paulish.