We have an exciting line up of extremely talented, knowledgeable and dedicated aquarium speakers headlining the 2024 NEC Convention. More speaker details, speaker bios, topic areas, and presentation titles will be released over time!


Keynote Presentation:

Keynote Speaker - Dr. Omar Domínguez-Domínguez - Senior Researcher at Universidad Mihocana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Morelia, Mexico

Dr. Domínguez has played a critical role in the successful conservation and reintroduction of several aquatic species in Mexico. Among his achievements are the successful re-introduction of zoogoneticus tequila (tequila splitfin) back into the wild. The current re-introduction of Skiffia francesae (golden skiffia), and the ongoing conservation of the last remaining population of Ambystoma mexicanum (axolotl). He will give his first hand account of the successes, failures and challenges in protecting wild species from extinction.


Killifish Speaker - Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce has been keeping fish for as long as he can remember. He has earned degrees in Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography.  He has worked in a retail aquarium store and in two public aquaria. He currently maintains approximately 900 gallons in 90 aquaria in his fish room.  Since his largest aquarium is 65 gallons, most of his fish are small.  Although he keeps and enjoys all kinds of fish, killifish, wild-type livebearers and characins are of particular interest right now.

In addition to fish keeping, Richard enjoys photography, especially photographing fish and macro photography.  He has won awards in both the American Killifish Association and NEC photo contests, and now chairs the annual NEC photo contest.  He has spoken at many aquarium societies in the Northeast and Midwest and enjoys meeting other aquarists and visiting their fish rooms.

Richard has been an active member of the Tropical Fish Society of Rhode Island for about 18 years and is currently President and Breeders Award Program Chair. He is an active member of the American Killifish Association, serving as its Chairman in 2013 and 2014.  He is also Past President of the Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies. Finally he is the President of the Southern New England Killifish Association (SNEKA).


Cichlid Speaker - Dr. Wolfgang Staeck

Since his school days he has been interested in fish and thus has gained first-hand practical experience in keeping and breeding many species in the aquarium. His main interest is the behaviour of cichlid fishes.

After his graduation in zoology and botany he worked for several years as a research assistant and got his PhD. Later he was a trainer of student teachers.

Since the early 1970s he has travelled widely not only in Africa and Madagascar, but also in Central and South America to study aquarium fish in their natural habitats. He visited both Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi for more than half a dozen times and knows almost all countries in South America.

On his numerous journeys he discovered many new species. As results of his field work, he collected ecological data and documented the natural living conditions of many cichlid species for the first time by underwater photos. In addition, he published the scientific description of more than three dozen new fish species.

Between 1997 and 2010 he was president of the German Cichlid association. He is known to the hobbyists by both his lectures and the publication of more than a dozen books and numerous articles in German and international magazines.


Catfish Speaker - Dr. Eric Thomas

Eric started keeping fish around 1970, at about 8 years old. With his older brother Bill, Eric kept and bred mouth-brooding cichlids (Geophagus and several Lake Malawi mbuna including Labeotropheus trewavasae, Maylandia zebra and Melanochromis auratus), along with Steatocraneus casuarius… and convict cichlids (who doesn’t start with convicts?). Eric and Bill were members of the now-defunct TriCity Aquarium Society of Southern California. In college, Eric studied captive husbandry of vertebrates; with his mentor Professor Rudolfo Ruibal at UC Riverside, in 1978 Eric was the first person to breed the Budgett's frog Lepidobatrachus laevis in captivity. In Dr. Ruibal’s lab, Eric learned about and began studying skin glands and their function. Eric went on to earn a Ph.D. under Dr. Paul Licht at UC Berkeley, studying reproductive endocrinology and the influence of sex hormones on frog skin glands.

Currently, Eric is an associate professor of Biology, co-chair and director of graduate studies for the Biological Sciences Department at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Eric’s research is split between reproductive pheromone production Hymenochirus frogs and self-poisoning in Corydoras catfishes, and recently he’s started studying Microglanis bumblebee catfishes in Peru.

At home, Eric’s interests are keeping and breeding catfish, primarily Corydoras, Loricariids, Auchenipterids, and most recently keeping Microglanis. Between home and work, Eric runs up to 27 aquaria and currently has over 40 species of catfish. Socially, Eric operates a YouTube Channel (Bekateen) and FaceBook page (Bekateen’s FishRoom) for sharing his knowledge and experiences with fellow fish keepers; he is also a moderator on PlanetCatfish.com. For seven years Eric served as the program coordinator for the Sacramento Aquarium Society.


Rainbowfish Speaker - Gary Lange

Gary has been keeping fish since he was 10 and has been associated with the organized hobby for the last 42 years.  He is a member of the Missouri Aquarium Society (MASI) and has held various positions in the club.  He is a grand master breeder in MASI, and has won "Best Fish In Show" on four different occasions, twice with rainbowfish.

In 2005 he took the rainbowfish collectors dream trip – collecting in West Papua.  He’s now made a total of eight trips to West Papua.  He brought back rainbowfish that have never been seen in the hobby including Chilatherina alleni and Melanotaenia vanheurni.  With these trips he’s collected and brought back at least 15 different undescribed species of rainbowfish.  Along with his collecting partner, Johannes Graf, and now Wim Heemskerk, they are currently working on naming them.  He is currently running over 90 aquariums (~2,500 gallons, 9,500 liters) and keeping over 60 species and locations of rainbowfish and blue-eyes.


Freshwater Puffer Speaker - Rebecca Goldring

Rebecca is a lifelong aquarium hobbyist. Fascinated with fish at an early age, but often discouraged and misunderstood, she eventually settled into being the weird kid. This aquatic obsession led to early employment opportunities at The Aquarium Center and Roraima Tropicals, outside of Baltimore, Maryland, as well as some freelance work writing for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine. To this day, her favorite pastimes include keeping fish, looking at fish, fishing for fish, reading about fish, and writing about fish. She also thoroughly enjoys telling people where they can take their opinions about how much more time she'd have to clean if she didn't have so many fish.

Rebecca currently maintains about 30 aquariums ranging in size from 5 to 300 gallons and keeps a variety of freshwater fish, aquatic plants, and invertebrates, as well as a few outdoor ponds. She’s bred a wide variety of fish, including South American Bumblebee Cats, Checkerboard Cichlids, and many species of tetras. Current “fish goals” (STILL) include spawning some very uncooperative Gnathochromis permaxillarisCorydoras pantanalensis, and Tetraodon schoutedeni. You can find her on Instagram at girlsgotfisshues.


Shrimp Speakers - Grant Eder and Shelby-Kaye

Grant Eder and Shelby-Kaye, owner and operators of The Garden Of Eder, have 400+ aquariums in their home along with 70 ponds outside that house some of their crazy aquatic life. Specializing in dwarf freshwater shrimp with over 140 different varieties, 90+ aquariums for fish, 15 turtles, and 2 dogs. They have 2 children who also participate in the madness! Together with their years of experience they have found an effective and efficient way to keep their tanks not just healthy but looking good.


Conservation Speaker - Scott Dowd
Scott is a  conservation biologist and Executive Director of Project Piaba. He received his M.Sc. from the University of Stirling in 2003; his thesis was entitled “Observations on the cardinal tetra fishery with an emphasis on the measurement of stress.” For more than 30 years, Scott has been actively involved in conservation of the cardinal tetra fishery in the mid-Rio Negro region of the Amazon, working along the entire industry chain of Amazonian fishermen, exporters, importers, retail stores, and hobbyists. He continues to be a strong proponent of the trade in environmentally friendly aquarium fish worldwide. Scott has established and serves as Global Chair for the Home Aquarium Fish Sub-group within the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Freshwater Fishes Specialty Group (IUCN FFSG). Scott has been a freshwater biologist at the New England Aquarium for 33 years.

Speakers are all confirmed but subject to change.