Make your home page

UIndy student and professor travel to Vietnam to discover new fish species

UIndy student & professor travel to Vietnam to discover new fish species

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A University of Indianapolis professor and student may have discovered a new species of blind cavefish.

Dean Wiseman, a professor of biology, and Jackson Hoover, an honors student and athlete at UIndy, joined Daybreak to discuss their recent trip to Vietnam.

“We’ve been doing exploration and survey in this cave system in central Vietnam for a few years now. And, a couple of years ago we noticed some population of cavefish. And so we thought, ‘Oh, this is really interesting.’ When we dug a little bit deeper, we realized that there were no reports on this particular population,” Wiseman said.

The team felt strongly about understanding the world-famous Hang Son Doong cave systems, not only where they go, but also the life that’s there as well. When they dug deeper they discovered fish in pools within the caves.

“We realized that this could be a potential new species. And so our goal on this trip was to measure, photograph, and take DNA samples in order to establish whether this is a new species or perhaps an extension of some species that are 15 to 20 miles away,” Wisman said.

It is too early to know the answers of their findings. However, the trip served as an extraordinary educational opportunity for Hoover and was his capstone project through the University of Indianapolis Honors Program.

“It was awesome. I’ve actually been out of the country one other time through the honors college, but this was a completely different experience. It was actually a four-hour hike through the jungle just to get to where we were camping. So it was such an amazing experience and I just learned so much while I was there,” Hoover said.

Wiseman has been to cCentral Vietnam five times and says the area is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is conservation work underway to safely and responsibly transform the area into a sustainable tourist economy from a subsistence level of poverty.

“We feel strongly about documenting the species as best we can. But it’s also an economic opportunity for the people there. The area in Vietnam where this is has traditionally lived under a subsistence level economy and with the discovery of these caves and this amazing resource – now people are interested in visiting. So we’re trying to help convert to a sustainable type of economy where the jungles and the caves are preserved and the water is kept clean. So that future generations and people can continue to enjoy this lovely resource,” Wiseman said.

Hoover hopes to return to the cave and continue research in the future. While doing this work he helped UIndy place 9th at the DII Wrestling National Championships. He plans to take the MCAT next week in preparation for medical school in the fall of 2025.

Watch the full interview to hear more about the experience and conservation efforts.

Hanna Mordoh with Jackson Hoover (middle) and Dean Wiseman. (WISH Photo)