Stephen McCormickStephen McCormick

Adjunct Professor

Senior Scientist and Research Physiologist


Phone: 413 863-3804

Office: USGS, Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, Turners Falls, MA

Lab Website

Primary Interests

Environmental Physiology of Migratory Fishes

Physiological demands are especially important to anadromous fish because of their need to move between freshwater and seawater and to make long, often difficult, migrations. These demands can become critical when there are barriers to migration or other changes in river ecosystems.  The McCormick Laboratory is located 20 miles north of campus at the USGS Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center. We conduct research on physiological and endocrine changes that may limit fish populations, particularly those in need of conservation or restoration. We are particularly interested in how environmental change, both of ‘natural’ and ‘human’ origins, affects normal growth and development in anadromous fish. Physiological systems such as ion regulation, stress, energetics, growth and reproduction are critical for survival of migratory fish. Environmental factors such as climate change, salinity, temperature, stress, hatchery practices, dams and pollution may affect normal development of these complex systems. Because of threats to their survival in many rivers in the northeastern US, Atlantic salmon, American shad, blueback herring, alewife, brook trout, sturgeon and lamprey are the anadromous species of primary interest.

Current Projects

  • Identification, localization and endocrine regulation of gill ion transport proteins that secrete salts as anadromous fish move between freshwater and seawater.
  • Thermal physiology of salmonids, including brook trout, Atlantic salmon and Pacific salmon.
  • Hormonal control of osmoregulation in basal vertebrates, including sea lamprey and Atlantic sturgeon.
  • Mechanisms of photoperiodic signaling in fish.

Courses Taught

Migratory Fishes


Ph.D.:   Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole

Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in Biological Oceanography

September 1983

Dissertation: “Effects of size, age and photoperiod on hypoosmoregulation in brook trout, Salvelinus fontinalis.”


Undergraduate: Bates College, Lewiston, Maine

B.S., June 1977

Majors:  Biology and Economics

Selected Publications

Representative Recent Publications: 

Breves, J.P., Runiewicz, E.R., Richardson, S.G., Bradley, S.E., Hall, D.J., McCormick, S.D.  2024.  Transcriptional regulation of esophageal, intestinal, and branchial solute transporters by salinity, growth hormone, and cortisol in Atlantic salmon.  Journal of Experimental Zoology A 341: 107-117.

Norstog, J.L. and McCormick, S.D.  2023.  Landlocked populations have small but detectable differences in ionoregulatory physiology compared to anadromous sea lamprey, Petromyzon marinus. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 80: 1579–1594.

von Biela, V.R., Regish, A.M., Kimball, L., Stanek, A.E. Waters, S., Carey, M.P., Zimmerman, C.E., Gerken, J., Rinella, D. and McCormick, S.D. 2023. Differential heat shock protein responses in two species of Pacific salmon and their utility in identifying heat stress. Conservation Physiology, 11(1): coad092.

Ferreira-Martins, D., Walton, E., Karlstrom, R.O., Sheridan, M.A. and McCormick, S.D.  2023. The GH/IGF axis in the sea lamprey during metamorphosis and seawater acclimation.  Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 571: 111937.

Shaughnessy, C.A. and McCormick, S.D.  2023.  Juvenile sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) have a wide window of elevated salinity tolerance that is eventually limited during springtime warming. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 80: 105-114.

Velotta, J.P., McCormick, S.D., Whitehead, A., Durso, C.S. and Schultz, E.T.  2022.  Repeated Genetic Targets of Natural Selection Underlying Adaptation of Fishes to Changing Salinity. Integrative and Comparative Biology 62: 357-375.

Gong, N., Ferreira-Martins, D., Norstog, J.L., McCormick S.D. and Sheridan, M.A.  2022.  Discovery of prolactin-like in lamprey: role in osmoregulation and new insight into the evolution of the growth hormone/prolactin family.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119(40): e2212196119.

Guo, L.W., McCormick, S.D., Schultz, E.T. and Jordaan, A.  2022.  Identification of supraoptimal temperatures in juvenile blueback herring (Alosa aestivalis) using survival, growth rate and scaled energy reserves.  Conservation Physiology 10(1): coac022.

McCormick, S.D., E.T. Schultz, and C.J. Brauner. 2022. Osmoregulation and acid-base balance. Pages 275-308 in S. Midway, C. Hasler, and P. Chakrabarty, editors. Methods for Fish Biology, 2nd edition. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

Regish, A.M., Ardren, W.R., Staats, N.R., Bouchard, H., Withers, J.L., Castro-Santos, T. and McCormick, S.D.  2021.  Surface water with more natural temperatures promotes physiological and endocrine changes in landlocked Atlantic salmon smolts.  Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 78: 775–786.

Barany-Ruiz, A., Shaughnessy, C.A., Pelis, R.F., Fuentes, J., Mancera, J.M. and McCormick, S.D.  2021.  Tissue- and salinity-specific Na–Cl cotransporter (NCC) orthologues involved in the adaptive osmoregulation of sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus).  Scientific Reports 11:22698.

Shaughnessy, C.A. and McCormick, S.D.  2021.  11-Deoxycortisol is a stress responsive and gluconeogenic hormone in a jawless vertebrate, the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus). Journal of Experimental Biology 224: 241943.

McCormick, S.D., Taylor, M.L. and Regish, A.M.  2020.  Cortisol is an osmoregulatory and glucose-regulating hormone in Atlantic sturgeon, a basal ray-finned fish.  Journal of Experimental Biology 223, jeb220251.

McCormick, S.D., Regish, A.M., Ardren, W.R., Björnsson, B.Th. and Bernier, N.J.  2019.  The evolutionary consequences for seawater performance and its hormonal control when anadromous Atlantic salmon become landlocked.  Scientific Reports (2019) 9:968.  doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37608-1

McCormick, S.D. and Regish, A.M.  2018.  Effects of ocean acidification on salinity tolerance and seawater growth of Atlantic salmon Salmo salar smolts.  Journal of Fish Biology 93:560-566.  doi: 10.1111/jfb.13656