When the National Geographic Channel's television series "Monster Fish" premieres its new season on July 8, the host of the show will have a new title added to his name.
Zeb Hogan, a Tempe native and 1991 graduate of Tempe High School, joined an elite class by recently being named a National Geographic Fellow - just one of 15 people worldwide to receive the honor for his passion and area of research which has taken him all over the world.
Hogan, who works as a conservation biologist and assistant research professor at the University of Nevada-Reno, leads expeditions for National Geographic's Megafishes Project and travels around the world to learn about and protect freshwater fish measuring more than six feet and weighing at least 200 pounds.
As a result of Hogan's work with the governments of Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, it has been illegal to capture the Mekong giant catfish in those countries since 2006.
Hogan, 37, said being named a National Geographic Fellow bolsters his relationship with an organization that has funded many of his projects.
"It's a great honor, for sure," Hogan said of being named a fellow. "At its most basic, the fellow position makes it easier for me and the National Geographic Society to work together on collaborative projects. It's also a recognition of the important work being done here at the University of Nevada-Reno. My main goal is to study and protect freshwater fish."
Hogan, who has an undergraduate degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D in ecology from the University of California-Davis, also has studied 18 of the 24 known megafish species, including the 23-foot-long Australian sawfish, 10-foot-long alligator gar and 14-foot-long endangered giant stingray.
"There's still a lot to learn about freshwater fish, and we need to make sure they are properly managed and protected," Hogan said.
As a kid growing up in Tempe near College and Broadway when his father worked as an economics professor at Arizona State University, Hogan said he always liked to be around water, especially in the summer. He later worked around fish as a volunteer at aquariums in Sabino Canyon near Tucson and along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and in Massachusetts.
For the last three years, Hogan's research has been featured on "Monster Fish" in which he has worked with about 100 other scientists covering six continents and encompassing 10 of the world's most diverse freshwater ecosystems to protect endangered species. There are at least a dozen different large freshwater fish around the world, and about 70 percent of them are endangered, Hogan said.
One of those species, a Colorado Pike Minnow, used to be in Arizona and could grow 6 feet long. But one that large hasn't been seen for decades since the construction of the dams throughout the state, Hogan said.
"We use a lot of water from the Colorado River, but at the same time it's important for us to watch what we do so we don't cause the extinction of more fish."
As a National Geographic Fellow, ecologist and photographer, Hogan will serve as an expert advisor to the National Geographic's freshwater and biodiversity programs, developing educational and outreach resources and writing and reviewing project proposals and grants.
Other fellows include a linguist who studies endangered languages, a tropical biologist, a chef committed to sustainable cuisine and a man who took a 17-year vow of silence to draw attention to biological degradation.
Alexander Moen, vice president of National Geographic's Explorer programs, said Hogan's experience and passion in his field has allowed him to reach a wide audience and effectively bring an effective message about his field to the forefront through scientific publications, on screen and National Geographic's online initiatives. Hogan being named a National Geographic Fellow is just a natural progression in his work.
"Zeb is one of our freshwater heroes," Moen said. "Zeb has an exceptional ability to identify with people of all ages and cultures and inspire them to care about freshwater fish that are facing an uncertain future. Large freshwater fish are threatened. One of the key objectives about being a fellow is about being able to reach out to a broader audience to help them better understand the fragility of the environment and the world and bring the information to the forefront without the gloom and doom, but with an element of hope and exploration. Zeb has a strong foundation as a scientist, but he's also an excellent storyteller."
Hogan said, "I feel like I have the best job in the world."