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James Nelson

2004 B.S. (Biology) Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

2011 Ph.D. (Chemical Oceanography) Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

I am an interdisciplinary scientist that uses a combination of field surveys, experimental approaches, stable isotope analysis, and mathematical modeling to quantify the functional role of marine organisms in mediating energy flow, biogeochemical cycles, and community structure in coastal and estuarine ecosystems. Although higher trophic level organisms are acknowledged as important in structuring communities and moving energy in ecosystems, the mechanisms and magnitude of their impact is still poorly understood. Recent work suggests a need to more closely examine the ability of animals to significantly impact the flow of materials within and between communities and ecosystems. While nutrient limitation sets the maximum potential ecosystem productivity, the realized productivity is mediated by organisms responding to both biotic (e.g., species interactions) and abiotic (e.g., hydrologic regimes) forces. To address these questions, I study the response of coastal marine organisms and food webs to changes in both biotic and abiotic processes that are either the direct result of human actions or consequences of climate change, with a particular interest in how the movement of fishes influences trophic connectivity at multiple spatial scales.
    My background in both biology and biogeochemistry allows me to translate how community level interactions influence ecosystem structure and function. Because Carbon, Nitrogen, Sulfur, and Hydrogen are innate components of all biological material, their stable isotopes can be used as tracers and thermodynamic bookkeeping devices to answer important questions about processes at the organismal, community, and ecosystem scale. My current research is focused on three primary themes: (1) biotic interactions and their controls on trophic transfers, (2) biomass subsidies among coastal ecosystems, and (3) how humans cause change to the flows of materials in food webs.

I encourage students interested in working in my lab to contact me directly.
For additional information please go to my lab website 
Follow me on twitter @jnelsonPhD

Selected Publications

Nelson, J. A.; Garritt H.; Deegan, L. Physical controls on estuarine food webs and implications of climate change. Marine Ecology Progress Series- In Revision

Stallings CD, Nelson JA, Rozar KL, Adams CS, Wall KR, Switzer TS, Winner BL, Hollander DJ. 2015. Effects of preservation methods of muscle tissue from upper-trophic level reef fishes on stable isotope values (δ13C and δ15N) PeerJ3:e874

Stallings C.D.; Mickle, A., Nelson J.A.; McManus, M.; Koenig, C. 2015. Faunal communities and habitat characteristics of the Big Bend seagrass meadows, 2009-2010 Ecology Vol. 96, No. 1 : 304-304

Wilson, R.M.; Nelson, J.; Balmer, B.C.; Wells, R.C.; Nowacek, D.P.; and Chanton 2013. Stable isotope variation in the northern Gulf of Mexico constrains bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) foraging ranges Marine Biology 160:2967-2980

Nelson, J. A., C. D. Stallings, W. Landing, and J. Chanton. 2013. Biomass transfer subsidizes nitrogen to offshore food webs, Ecosystems 16:1130-1138

Nelson, J. A., R. M. Wilson, F. C. Coleman, C. C. Koenig, D. DeVries, C. Gardner, and J. Chanton. 2011. Flux by fin: fish mediated carbon and nutrient flux in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Biology 159:365-372.

Nelson, J. A., C. W. Hanson, C. C. Koenig, and J. Chanton. 2011. Influence of diet on stable carbon isotope composition in otoliths of juvenile red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus. Aquatic Biology 13:89-95.

Nelson, J. A., J. P. Chanton, F. C. Coleman, and C. C. Koenig. 2010. Patterns of stable carbon isotope turnover in gag, Mycteroperca microlepis, an economically important marine piscivore determined with a non-lethal surgical biopsy procedure. Environmental Biology of Fishes 90:243-252.