Simon Pearish

Simon Pearish

  • Associate Professor


Simon Pearish studies the behavior of fishes and uses ecological thinking to look for solutions to the eutrophication of our lakes and streams. He completed his undergraduate degrees in biology and psychology at Indiana University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana.

Pearish studies the evolution and ecology of personality. His research animals-of-choice are small fishes of the family Gasterosteidae, especially three-spined sticklebacks and, in Vermont, brook sticklebacks. Sticklebacks are small fish that are distributed in marine and freshwater habitats throughout the northern hemisphere. The ancient colonization of freshwater habitats by three-spined sticklebacks remains one of evolutionary biology’s best “natural experiments.” Brook sticklebacks are abundant in the Dog River and surrounding wetlands that run through the Norwich campus. When the weather allows, Pearish and his students spend their days wading in beaver ponds or snorkeling in the Dog River in search of the answer to why personality exists and how it shapes the way animals live.

Since moving to Vermont, Pearish has joined the coalition of researchers, conservation workers, and concerned citizens that are looking for solutions to improve the water quality of our lakes and streams. At the center of his work in this realm are so-called treatment wetlands. Whether constructed in natural areas, in an urban setting, or in the form of an island floating in the middle of a lake, treatment wetlands promise to improve water quality, while providing natural beauty and improved habitat for wildlife.

In the classroom, Pearish promotes experiential learning of science and uses educational technology to increase student engagement and interaction. His students actually do science the way researchers do. He doesn’t believe that students should wait until they are seeking post-graduate degrees to engage in original research. That’s why you often find his students setting up experiments in labs, in the greenhouse, and in the rich natural areas that surround the Norwich campus. He is also a strong proponent of technology-enhanced learning. For example, he uses real-time student response systems that allow him to make larger classes seem much more intimate and interactive. He is a self-proclaimed Moodle expert and loves to experiment with new ways to facilitate interaction between students via this course management platform.

Pearish loves the energy students bring to research and encourages anyone interested in working on one of his projects to contact him via email.