Marine biologist claims lionfish study by sixth grader was lifted from his research

July 24, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Antennata Lionfish, picture taken in Zoo Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria. Credit: Christian Mehlführer/Wikipedia

Zack Jud, a PhD graduate of Florida International University and current marine biologist, has caused a small ruckus in the marine biology community by posting comments on his Facebook Page, suggesting that the work done by thirteen year old Lauren Arrington was actually based on work he'd already done. Arrington, a sixth grade student in Jupiter Florida, and daughter of a professional biologist gained Internet notoriety this past week after news of experiments she conducted on lionfish went viral. Her experiments, which were used as a project in a science fair, demonstrated that lionfish can live in less saline water than had been previously thought. Jud contends that Arrington's experiments were based on his work, and that he should be getting the credit for the results.

Adding to the story was reporting by several news outlets that described Arrington's research as providing evidence of the invasive lionfish living in Florida estuaries. Both Arrington and her father have denied she ever made such a claim. Instead, they say, her research showed that could live farther upstream in an estuary than others had known about. Complicating things is news that prior to the project, Arrington, her father and Jud were all friends. The father, Albrey, was even listed as a writer on a paper that listed Jud as the lead. Albrey was also, according to Jud, the best friend of Jud's supervisor when he was still in grad school.

Jud's complaint appears to center around the attention Arrington has received by the press—the accolades heaped on Arrington, he claims, should have been shared with him and his name should have appeared alongside hers in news reports. It was his original research after all, he contends, that led to the research done by Arrington. Jud also insinuates that the omission of his name in news stories was intentional, a move by the Arrington's to focus the attention on Lauren. The Arrington's have denied any such attempts and insist that mentions of Jud by either of them to the press were ignored in favor of a more popular storyline.

Some in the science community have sided with Jud, apologizing for publishing stories about Arrington's work without mention of Jud's previous work—others have looked to discredit Jud, by suggesting that Arrington should have been credited on some of his earlier work as she helped him with some projects when he was still in grad school.

At this point it seems clear that the story became perhaps, a little bigger than it should have due to the age of Ms. Arrington and the cuteness of her school science project, leading to a lapse in editorial judgment by some members of the press, unfounded claims in some instances and hurt feelings by one marine biologist.

Explore further: Sixth-grader proves invasive species of ocean fish can thrive in low saline water

Related Stories

TechCrunch founder starts venture capital fund

September 2, 2011

(AP) -- Michael Arrington, founder of popular tech blog TechCrunch, is starting a venture capital firm with an initial $20 million to invest in the same kinds of startups that TechCrunch often covers.

New TechCrunch editor named after founder flap

September 12, 2011

AOL named a new editor for popular US technology blog TechCrunch on Monday after 10 days of uncertainty and controversy over the fate of the founder of the site, Michael Arrington.

AOL to buy tech blog TechCrunch

September 28, 2010

(AP) -- AOL Inc. said Tuesday that it will buy technology blog TechCrunch and its sister sites for an undisclosed amount in a bid to expand its news production.

Tech blog TechCrunch in tussle with parent AOL

September 6, 2011

Less than a year after its acquisition by AOL, leading technology blog TechCrunch is involved in a tussle with its new parent company over journalism ethics and editorial independence.

Recommended for you

The astonishing efficiency of life

November 17, 2017

All life on earth performs computations – and all computations require energy. From single-celled amoeba to multicellular organisms like humans, one of the most basic biological computations common across life is translation: ...

Unexpected finding solves 40-year old cytoskeleton mystery

November 17, 2017

Scientists have been searching for it for decades: the enzyme that cuts the amino acid tyrosine off an important part of the cell's skeleton. Researchers of the Netherlands Cancer Institute have now identified this mystery ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (8) Jul 24, 2014
In my personal experience the "news" never gets it 100% correct. Every single time my wife has been interviewed for an article in our local paper or local television there has been at least one "fact" reported incorrectly. Incompetence, intentional, or a bit of both? It just shows that nothing reported by the news media should ever be taken as "Fact". Odds are something reported in the story is 100% WRONG.
1.5 / 5 (8) Jul 24, 2014
Well your name is in the paper now Mr. dumb-ass who is mean to little girls. These fish can live further into freshwater streams than anyone realized before? WOW!!! I hope you get all the attention your deserve! Dick.
5 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2014
Revenge is a dish best served cold. In this case, I suggest a lionfish ceviche to all the participants in this argument.


1 Pound Lionfish Filets – Cubed
1 White Onion – Diced
2 Medium Red Tomatoes – Seeded and Diced
Jalapeños – Seeded & Minced (to taste)
Cilantro – Chopped (to taste)
Salt & Pepper
2 Cups of Lime Juice

Prepare the lionfish ceviche as usual: Combine lionfish, onions, cilantro and jalapeño. Cover with lime juice and let it chill for 1/2 hour to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2014
Actually Arrington and his daughter did say she made the original discovery in the rivers. Go back and read her NPR interview.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 24, 2014
This story illustrates the truth of what Wallace Sayre told The Wall Street Journal in 1973:

"Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."
5 / 5 (4) Jul 25, 2014
To be fair, it would be kind of obnoxious if you'd been doing a bunch of work and all the credit was given to your best friend's kid. There is no real way to say, "hey wait a second, that's MY STUFF!" without looking like a giant a-hole, while at the same time, who wants their actual day-to-day hard work to be treated like the stuff a kid in a science fair does? If that isn't demeaning, I'm not sure what is.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.