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NOAA Fisheries Personnel Default Profile

Andrew Dittman, Ph.D.

Research Fish Biologist
Environmental Physiology Program
Office: (206) 860-3392
Email: andy.dittman@noaa.gov

Andrew Dittman, Ph.D.

Research Fish Biologist


Andrew Dittman has been studying the olfactory physiology and behavior of fishes, particularly salmonids, for over 15 years. Andrew received a B.A. in Biochemistry from Dartmouth College in 1982. His graduate studies focused on the behavioral and biochemical mechanisms of olfactory imprinting and homing by Pacific salmon and I received a joint Ph.D. degree with Dr. Tom Quinn (Fisheries) and Dr. Daniel Storm (Pharmacology) from the University of Washington in 1994. As a post-doctoral fellow in Dr Penny Swanson's laboratory at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (1994-1997), he studied salmonid reproductive endocrinology and the endocrine control of migratory behavior. He received a Burroughs-Wellcome Life Sciences Research Fellowship in 1997 to study the molecular physiology of fish olfaction with Dr John Ngai in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Andrew joined the Behavioral Ecology Team and Integrative Fish Biology Program at the Center in 2000.

Current Research

Andrew's research is directed at understanding the role of olfaction in the ecology and life history of fishes. Fish have an acute sense of smell and almost every aspect of their lives is influenced by olfaction (e.g., feeding, reproduction, migration, and predator avoidance). He uses an integrative approach, spanning from molecular biology and electrophysiology to field-based behavior. Research focuses on identifying the neuronal pathways involved in recognizing biologically relevant odors and understanding the importance of these odors in the life history and ecology of different fish species. Because the olfactory system plays a critical role at all life stages, manipulation of the olfactory system and olfactory cues may provide simple and effective tools for managing fish populations. A major focus of research is olfactory imprinting and homing in Pacific salmon. Prior to their seaward migration, juvenile salmon learn (imprint to) specific odors associated with their natal stream and then later use these retained odor memories to guide their homing migration as adults. Current projects include development of molecular assays for imprinting, experiments to determine the timing of imprinting and appropriate juvenile rearing and release strategies to minimize straying and field studies examining the spatial scales of homing and the efficacy of hatchery acclimation facilities.