Vern Parish Fund

Vern Parish Fund


The Vern Parish Fund was established in memory of Vern Parish, one of ALA's early stalwart members and a great friend and benefactor to many aquarists during his lifetime.

The VPF Committee is a permanent committee of ALA whose purpose is to seek voluntary, tax deductible donations to the VPF, invest the donations and once per year to solicit and select one or more grant recipients whose research and future potential contributions will add to the knowledge about and/or assist in the conservation of livebearing fishes. Such applicants can be agencies or college-student researchers working with livebearing fishes. The grantee will receive a cash grant toward their research expenses.

The Vern Parish Award not only helps to subsidize and to encourage conservation and student research of livebearing fishes but also gives status and visibility to the American Livebearer Association as a legitimate member of and contributor to the hobby and ichthyological communities.

Applications are being accepted for the award. The award recipient will be announced at the ALA Annual Convention. Application information is included below.

Who Was Vern Parish?

Vernon L. Parish (1917-1996)


Vern Parish Vern was born and raised in the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Vern spent his lifetime in the care, propagation, education, maintenance and preservation of aquarium fish. He held an extra special interest in livebearing fish. As his wife Jean commented at their Golden Wedding Anniversary, Vern had fish when they first met and when they married "the fish came along with the man".

He retired after 39 years of employment at Allison aircraft engines, and he and Jean also ran a commercial fish store for a brief period of time. Vern and Jean have three sons, eight grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.

Vern's interests included all fish, but he specialized in the livebearers. He was very active and very well known in the aquarium hobby both at the local and national level. Vern earned several awards from the Indianapolis Aquarium Society including special recognition with a well deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. He was very strong believer in Species Maintenance and was the main force behind the inception of the SMP for the American Livebearer Association, and he ran this program for several years. Vern was inducted as a Fellow of the ALA in 1987.

Besides fish, Vern's other interests included nature, plants, and gardening. He spent a significant amount of time as a volunteer at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Indianapolis.

Vern is remembered as a kind, gentle, generous man who always had time to talk about nature with everyone regardless of their level of experience or knowledge. According to Jean, Vern's most exciting times were his three trips to South America, where he enjoyed all fish, animals, and plants. He truly loved all God's earth and studied all he could about it.

It was always a special treat to visit Vern and Jean. Their beautifully landscaped yard was always in top condition, a break for lunch was common, and Vern usually had at least one free bag of fish from his unique fish house and/or something from his greenhouse for you to take home.

Pat Hartman
Published: 2006-05-25

Donations to the Vern Parish Fund

The American Livebearer Association has established an endowment fund known simply as the Vern Parish Fund to support education in the field of livebearing fish. The ALA is actively soliciting and accepting donations to this fund. This fund will be maintained independent from the ALA general treasury. The ALA draws on the interest of this fund and provides cash grants to graduate level research students actively engaged in the study of livebearing fish. The amount and the recipient of these stipends will be determined by the Board of Directors of the ALA. Since 2008 the minimum award has been $1,000.

As of January 1, 2008, the American Livebearer Association, Inc. has been recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a charitable nonprofit entity with 501(c )(3) status. Contributions to the ALA are deductible under section 170 of the Code. This means that any contribution to the ALA is deductible on your Form 1040 Schedule A. The ALA is also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers, or gifts under Section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Code.

All contributions to the ALA will be used by the Vern Parish Fund for scholarships and grants for ichthyological research to further the knowledge of livebearing fishes. All donors will receive a receipt as proof of their contribution for income tax purposes.

If you would like to make a contribution, you can donate via PayPal by making a payment at our "Donate to the ALA" at .  Just choose the amount you'd like to donate and note that the donation is for the Langhammer Fund for Conservation. A receipt for income tax purposes will be sent to you.

You can also send a check or money order to:

American Livebearer Association, Inc.
c/o Matt Anderson, Treasurer
2339 Country Club Drive
Mason City IA   50401

Remember, all contributions to the ALA are deductible on your Schedule A as a contribution just like any other contributions you may make to your church, the Salvation Army, etc.

Thanking you in advance,
ALA Vern Parish Fund


VPF Application 2023

The American Livebearer Association is pleased to invite proposals to the Vern Parish Fund (VPF). VPF is open to students enrolled in M.S. and Ph.D. programs anywhere in the world. It recognizes outstanding graduate student research on any aspect of the biology of livebearing fishes.

Applications to VPF must be written in English and should include 1) a title page with project title and contact information; 2) a research/project statement, including a summary of past achievements and a proposal for upcoming goals, not to exceed three pages; 3) a short budget with justification; 4) the applicant’s curriculum vitae (academic applicants) or relevant resume. Items 1 through 4 should be submitted as a single PDF file through the following website:

Student applications will also require a letter of nomination from the direct faculty advisor. Letters of nomination will be solicited directly from the advisor by ALA upon submission of the proposal. The deadline for applications for the 2023 ALA awards is March 31.

Award Evaluation Criteria
The VPF and LFC Committees consist of two co-chairs and a panel of academic advisers. The advisory panel members are ichthyologists with strong involvement in research with livebearing fishes and include some previous ALA award recipients. Each VPF or LFC application will be reviewed by two members of this advisory panel. Their recommendations will be presented to the ALA Board of Directors who will make the final decisions.

The advisory panel will consider the following criteria when evaluating the applications for scientific merit:

  1. Significance. Does this project address an important problem? If the aims of the application are achieved, how will scientific knowledge or conservation practice be advanced? What will be the effect of these studies on the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
  2. Approach. Does the applicant include a reasonable research statement? Is the project feasible in the timeframe? Is the budget appropriate?
  3. Background. Does the applicant have experience in this area? Did the applicant already make progress in this area?
  4. Environment/Sponsor. For research projects, does the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are expertise and environment suitable for fish husbandry plans? Are stakeholder relationships and institutional approvals in place for successful execution of the projects? Do the proposed studies benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, or access to unique study populations, or employ useful collaborative arrangements? For students, does the sponsor have the expertise to train the student and help the student complete the project?


Vern Parish Fund Recipients

1997 Shane A. Webb - University of Michigan (Dr. Gerald R. Smith) ALA Convention Presentation: "Systematics and Evolution of Goodeid fishes"
Thesis: Phylogenetic Analysis of the Goodeidae

1998 Ryan Earley - University of Louisville (Dr. Lee A. Dugatkin)
Thesis: The Effects of Group Fusion on the Dynamics of Hierarchy Formation in Xiphophorus helleri

1999 Gil Rosenthal - University of Texas at Austin (Dr. Clark Hubbs)
ALA Convention Presentation: The behavioral ecology of visual signaling in the Rio Panuco basin swordtails.
Thesis: Intra- and Interspecific Sexual Trait Variation in Xiphophorus of the Rio Panuco Basin

2000 Jens Seckinger - University of Konstanz, Germany (Dr. Axel Meyer)
Thesis: Phylogeny of the Family Poeciliidae and the Evolution of Life History Traits

2001 Hobbyists Aqua Lab Conservation Project at the University of Morelia, Mexico Fish Ark Ivan Dibble

2002 Ronit Lavie - California State University - Northridge (Dr. Cheryl C. Hogue)
Thesis: Parasite-mediated Sexual Selection and the Effects of Turbidity on Xiphophorus helleri

2003 Pablo Weaver – University of Colorado (Dr. Alexander Cruz)
Thesis: Inferring Colonization and Speciation Through a Phylogenetic Analysis of Hispaniolan Poecilia Species

2004 Melissa Noontz - University of Nebraska - Lincoln (Dr. Alexandra Basolo)
Thesis: Impacts of Predation on Montezuma Swordtail Reproductive Behavior

(1) Meribeth Huizinga, Colorado State University (Dr. Cameron Ghalambor)
Thesis: A test of intraspecific competition using a trophic polymorphous fish species, Ilyodon furcidens
(2) Christiane I. Meyer, Princeton University (Dr. Daniel Rubenstein)
Thesis: Evolutionary maintenance of variation in body size in Xiphophorus helleri

2006 Michael Tobler, University of Oklahoma (Dr. Ingo Schlupp)
Thesis: Darkness and Hydrogen Sulfide: Adaptations of Extremeophile Poeciliids form Southern Mexico - a study of the "blind cave" form of Poecilia mexicana.

(1) Pamela Willis University of Texas at Austin (Dr. Michael J. Ryan)
Thesis: Condition-dependent Hybridization in Swordtail and Platy Fishes ($1,000.00)
(2) Additionally the ALA Board of Directors and Vern Parish Fund Committee decided to present a Conservation Grant in the amount of $500 USD to Omar Dominguez Dominguez in recognition of his work with the Mexican Goodeids.

(1) Dr. Gil Rosenthal Texas A & M, Field Support for Mexican University Students at the CICHAZ Research station in Calnali, Hidalgo, Mexico. ($1,000.00)
(2)Dr. Arcadio Valdes Gonzalez, Nuevo Leon State University, MEXICO (Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León) Renovation of Livebearer Breeding Facility ($500.00)

2009 Laura Alberici da Barbiano, University of Texas, San Marcos, Department of Biology (Dr. Caitlin Gabor)
Thesis: Phylogeography and behavioral ecology of a gynogenetic species.($1,000.00)

2010 Rachel Martin, Sam Houston State University, Department of Biology (Dr. Raelynn Deaton) ($1,000.00)

2011 Sunny K. Scobell, Texas A&M Universtiy, The Effect of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill on Pipefish and Seahorse Populations.($1,500.00)

2012 Courtney Passow, Oklahoma State University, Elucidating the Genomic Basis of Toxicant Tolerance in Poecilia mexicana.($1,500.00)

2013 Molly Schumer, Prnceton University, An investigation of hybrid speciation in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus nezahualcoyoyotl. ($2,000.00)

2104 Danielle Alba, Oklahoma State University, Uncovering the effects of food stoichiometry on growth, conditions, and evolution in Poecilia mexicana. ($1,500.00)

2015 Andrea Roth-Monzon, Brigham Young University, Character Displacement in Four Livebearing Species of the Genus Poeciliopsis. ($1,500.00)

2016 Ryan Greenway, Kansas State University, Mechanisms of Reproduction Isolation Driving Ecological Speciation between Three Independent Population Pairs Along the Same Environmental Gradient.($1,000.00)

2017 Daniel L. Powell, Texas A&M University, The Genetic Architecture of Species Specific Olfactory Signals in Two Northern Swordtail Fish.($1,000.00)

2018 Samantha Levell, Dept. of Evolution, Ecology and Orgnanismal Biology, University of California – Riverside, Intergenomic Conflict: Understanding Maternal Investment & Reproductive Isolation in Poeciliids. ($1,000.00)

2019 Alexandra G. Duffy, Brigham Young University, Investigating sensory adaptations across divergent selective environments in Brachyrhaphis. ($2,000.00)

2020 Kerry McGowan, Washington State University, Gene expression in sulfur poecilids ($2,000.00)