About the Jim Smith Fund

Who Was Jim Smith?

Jim Smith was the Membership Chair for the Ohio Cichlid Association from 1991 to 2003.

Jim was not a big man, but because of his obvious physical and mental toughness, fronted by a calm, friendly demeanor, he was loved and respected by friends and co-workers, who referred to him as “The Buffalo”. We in the OCA often called him “Santa”, both because of his looks and because of his gentle and patient way with young children.

What is the Jim Smith Fund?

Following Jim’s passing, in July of 2003, the OCA board knew that something big had to be done to honor Jim’s memory. The lead was taken by OCA board member Dan Woodland. Later that year, the OCA announced the establishment of the Jim Smith Fund. The purpose of the fund is to support research, education and conservation efforts that focus on cichlids and catfish.

How can I support the Jim Smith Fund?

The OCA has fund-raising activities, such as auctions and raffles at meetings and events, to benefit the Jim Smith Fund. When you support these efforts, you help to fund cichlid and catfish research, education, and conservation projects, and carry on the good work that Jim Smith started many years ago. You can donate fish or aquarium goods at any event, or make a cash donation directly to the OCA. Any OCA Board Member can take your donation in person, or you can donate directly at paypal@ohiocichlid.com .

How can I apply for a Jim Smith Fund grant?

If you have a project in mind that that shares all or some of the goals of the Jim Smith Fund, email JSF Chair Lew Carbone at lewcarbone@gmail.com . You will be added to the list of invitees that will be notified when the next application period begins.

Because of your support, the Jim Smith Fund has been able to make these donations:

Ryan Greenway, a PhD candidate at Kansas State University, was awarded a $1,000 Jim Smith Fund grant at the 2017 Extravaganza. Ryan is studying the interrelatedness of, and possible hybridization between, 3 species of Thorichthys, living in 4 different areas of the Grijalva River Basin, in Mexico. He will be using the funds to pay for genetic testing. Anton Lamboj, a colleague of Ryan’s PhD advisor, Dr. Michael Tobler, accepts the award on his behalf.


Ad Konings recently discovered that the Tropheus duboisi “Maswa” is virtually extinct in Lake Tanganyika, due to over-collecting. In 2017, the Jim Smith Fund gave a $500 grant to the Stuart Grant Fund, earmarked for obtaining a large group of already captive “Maswa” adults. The intent is to begin a breeding program with the goal of eventually re-establishing a wild population in their original home range. Ad accepts the award, and will oversee the project.

OCA JSF 2016 SabajPerezPhoto.jpg

At the 2016 Extravaganza, Dr. Mark Sabaj Perez was awarded $2000 for a project involving the identification, labeling and imaging of a collection of specimens owned by the 19th Century ichthyologist Edward Drinker Cope. Most of the work will be done by advanced students at the Ichthyology Department of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, in Philadelpia, under the direction of Dr. Sabaj. The newly organized collection, along with the digital images, will be available for examination by all qualified researchers. Arwen DeWerth, daughter of OCA board member Marc DeWerth, accepts the award for Dr. Perez.

OCA JSF 2016 Photo Ron Coleman.jpg

In 2016, Dr. Ron Coleman, a Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences of California State University, Sacramento, received $500 for his continuing study of Hypsophrys nicaraguense, in Costa Rica. Dr. Coleman is represented by his friend Don Danko, an OCA charter member and board member.

Melanie Stiassny, of the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, received a $1200 grant from the Jim Smith Fund, at the 2015 Extravaganza. On her next expedition to the Congo River, she will use the money to fund attempts to collect live Teleogramma obamaorum, a species she recently described from a single preserved specimen. Accepting the award for Dr. Stiassny is her colleague, Ad Konings.

Sam Borstein, of The University of Tennessee, received a $2000 grant from the Jim Smith Fund at the 2015 Extravaganza. Sam is studying mbuna to find out how different species utilize the same areas of the algae cover in different ways. He will use the money to buy components for equipment that will use high-speed videography to record feeding mechanics while simultaneously measuring bite pressure. Phil Clary, a long-time friend of the Borstein family, accepts the award for Sam.

During the 20th anniversary of the Extravaganza 2014, the Jim Smith Fund was able to award to Ad Konings for the Tanganika breeding facilities.


In 2013, beacuse of the great donations, the Jim Smith Fund was able to award two amounts, one to Ed Burress and the other to Ron Coleman. Thanks for the donations and keep up the great work.  Cichlid fishes as models of ecological diversification »

During Extravaganza 2012, The Ohio Cichlid Association donated $1500 to Penn State University Professer Jay Stauffer. Dr. Stauffer is heading a project to videograph an astounding amount of cichlids in the wild in an attempt to document their habitat and behavior. When completed, this video library will be made available to researchers throughout the world. It is hoped that we can further research to increase the amount of knowledge about cichlid species and habitat so that this knowledge will exist well into the future. Shown L to R are: OCA President, Don Danko, Dr. Jay Stauffer, and OCA Vice-President, Dan Woodland.

At Extravaganza 2012, a second donation of $1000 was made to Ad Konings and Dr. Jay Stauffer to support their Lake Malawi Breeding Project. It is hoped that with support of The Jim Smith Memorial Fund, that some threatened species can be bred in protected areas to compensate for over-fishing and habitat loss. Shown L to R are: OCA President, Don Danko, Dr. Jay Stauffer, Ad Konings, and OCA Vice-President, Dan Woodland. Click here for more details on the Malawi Breeding Project »

In 2011, the Jim Smith Fund donated $2,500 to Jay Stauffer at Penn State Universtiy. Due to the support from the OCA and it's members Dr. Stauffer and his assistants were able to type and catelog over 3,200 collections of Cichilds amounting to over 52,000 specimens. Those cateloged specimens are now available to Cichlid researchers worldwide!! Shown L to R are: OCA Vice-President, Dan Woodland, Ad Konings, and OCA President, Don Danko. Click here for more details on the Penn State Project »

In 2010, the Jim Smith Fund was able to donate $1,000 to the Max Hayes High School Metal Workshop - The support from the Jim Smith Fund helped to make it possible for the program to build items for the Ronald McDonald House.

In 2009, the Jim Smith Fund was able to donate $1,000 to the Stewart M. Grant Conservation Fund under the stewardship of Ad Konings. This was the second donation from the Jim Smith Fund having already contributed $1,000 to the same cause in December 2008. The money will support local people in Malawi in their efforts of protecting cichlid populations in Lake Malawi against irresponsible and illegal overfishing through the creation and installation of Anti-Netting Devices (ANDs).

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