John Friel

Dr. John P. Friel

Director, Alabama Museum of Natural History
Interim Chair, Department of Biological Sciences
Affiliated Staff, Department of Museum Research and Collections


  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Florida State University, 1995-1998
  • PhD, Duke University, 1995
  • BS, University of Central Florida, 1986


John Friel has worked in natural history museums for over 24 years. He has extensive experience in collections-based research, collections management, citizen-science programs, exhibit planning, fundraising, grant writing, and museum administration. He is currently the Director of the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Program Advisor & Internship Coordinator for the University of Alabama’s Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies.

Prior to joining the University of Alabama in 2015, he was the Curator of Fishes, Amphibians, and Reptiles at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, and a Senior Research Associate in the Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. While there he conducted field and collection-based research on South American and African freshwater fishes to help document the biodiversity of tropical river systems. His research specialties are catfishes of the families Aspredinidae (South American banjo catfishes) and Mochokidae (African squeakers and suckermouth catfishes).


Selected Publications

  • R.C. Schmidt, H.L. Bart Jr., P.H.N. Bragança; J.P. Friel, F. Pezold & D. Tweddle. 2023. Two new species of suckermouth catfishes (Mochokidae: Chiloglanis) from Upper Guinean Forest streams in West Africa. Ichthyology & Herpetology, 111(3): 376-389.
  • J.J. Day, E.M. Steell, T.R. Vigliotta, L.W. Withey, R. Bills, J.P. Friel, M. J. Genner, M.L.J. Stiassny. 2023. Exceptional levels of cryptic species discovery ameliorate inferences of the biogeography and diversification of an Afrotropical catfish clade. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 182.
  • B.B.Kashindye, B.K.Manda, J.P. Friel, A. Chakona & E. Vreven. 2021. Chiloglanis msirii, a new species of African suckermouth catfish (Teleostei: Mochokidae), from the Upper Congo basin. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 1158: 1-14.
  • J.P. Friel & T.P. Carvalho. 2018. Family Aspredinidae – Banjo Catfishes. In van der Sleen, P. and Albert, J.S. (eds.). Field Guide to the Fishes of the Amazon, Orinoco & Guianas. Princeton University Press, pp. 202–207.
  • R.C. Schmidt, H.L. Bart Jr., F. Pezold & J.P. Friel. 2017. A biodiversity hotspot heats up: nine new species of suckermouth catfishes (Mochokidae: Chiloglanis) from Upper Guinean Forest streams in West Africa. Copeia, 105(2):301-338.
  • J.J. Day, A. Fages, K.J. Brown, E.J. Vreven, M.L.J. Stiassny. R. Bills, J.P. Friel & L. Rüber. 2017. Multiple independent colonizations into the Congo Basin during the continental radiation of African Mastacembelus spiny-eels. Journal of Biogeography 44(6):1-11.
  • T.P. Carvalho, R.E. Reis & J.P. Friel. 2017. A new species of the banjo catfish genus Hoplomyzon Myers (Siluriformes: Aspredinidae) from Lake Maracaibo tributaries, Venezuela: Osteological description using high-resolution computed microtomography of a miniature species. Neotropical Ichthyology, 15(1): e160143.
  • T.P. Carvalho, J.G. Lundberg, J.N. Baskin, J.P. Friel & R.E. Reis. 2016. A new species of the blind and miniature genus Micromyzon Friel and Lundberg, 1996 (Silurifomes: Aspredinidae) from the Orinoco River: describing catfish diversity using high-resolution computed tomography. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 165: 37-53.
  • J.P. Friel & T.P. Carvalho. 2016. A new species of Amaralia Fowler (Siluriformes: Aspredinidae) from the Paraná-Paraguay River Basin.Zootaxa 4088(4): 531–546.
  • T.P. Carvalho, A.R. Cardoso, J.P. Friel & R.E. Reis.. 2015. Two new species of the banjo catfish Bunocephalus Kner (Siluriformes: Aspredinidae) from the upper rio São Francisco basin, Brazil. Neotropical Ichthyology, 13(3): 499-512.
  • C.H. Martin, J.S. Cutler, J.P. Friel, C.T. Dening, G. Coop & P.C. Wainwright. 2015. Complex histories of repeated gene flow in Cameroon crater lake cichlids cast doubt on one of the clearest examples of sympatric speciation. Evolution, 69(6):1406–1422.

Selected Websites (Biodiversity & Citizen Science Projects)

Selected Media Appearances