Email: nelson[at]

Tel: 337-482-6642

410 E St Mary Blvd
Lafayette, Louisiana 70503

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James A. Nelson

I am an interdisciplinary scientist most interested in the fish related components of marine ecosystems.  I use 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. 

Full C.V. 

Current Lab Members 

David Behringer

MS Student - Full C.V.

I use acoustic telemetry to understand how juvenile red drum use various habitats including saltmarsh, mangroves, and artificial reefs. I also use stable isotope analysis and stomach content analysis to determine how use of different habitats influences juvenile red drum diet. As Louisiana continues to lose land and habitat creation projects are implemented, it is important that we understand how fish use specific types of habitat so that we can make more informed restoration decisions. I received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Washington & Jefferson College and then spent three years working at the Marine Biological Laboratory on a project studying the effects of nutrient enrichment on saltmarshes prior to starting my master’s degree.


Email: david.behringer1[at]

W. Ryan James

PhD Student - Full C.V.

My research interests center around understanding ecosystem dynamics, and I am interested in understanding how habitats influence energy flow through the food web. By combining stable isotope analysis to study food web structure and dynamics with remote sensing, I hope to understand the drivers that influence species distributions and energy flow across different habitat types. I am also interested in how landscape change alter ecosystem functioning, and how restoration can mitigate these changes.  I received my BS in Biology from the University of Alabama and my MS from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Email: wrjames[at]

Justin S. Lesser 

PhD Student - Full C.V.

I received a B.S. in Neuroscience and B.A. in Biology from Brandeis University, and a Master of Science in Marine Biology from Northeastern University, through the Three Seas Program. I am interested in understanding the mechanisms of community assembly in coastal ecosystems. By monitoring community interactions and food web structure changes of new habitats over time, and recognizing the factors that influence the establishment and persistence of species (distance, nutrients, adjacent nursery habitat, latitude), I hope to understand how coastal communities establish and mature to a healthy architecture. I am also interested in using these same ideas to understand the factors that influence a community’s ability to resist invasion, as well as respond to disturbances. The goal of my research is to inform more effective monitoring and management protocols for natural and artificial restorations, and to better predict marine community responses to a changing environment.

Email: justin.lesser[at]

Mason Harris

MS Student - Full C.V.

I am interested in the role of habitat restoration for improved ecosystem functioning and how technology can improve our efforts. For my Master of Science, I will help develop a time and cost efficient system for evaluating restoration effectiveness using remote sensing and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Previously, I was fly fishing guide in the Florida Keys and a research technician for Florida International University. I received a B.A. in Natural Resources from Sewanee: University of the South in 2014 with an additional watershed sciences certificate. 

Email: jmharris1[at]

Skyler Flaska

PhD Student - Full C.V.

I received my B.S. in Biology from Tarleton State University and my M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from Texas State University. My research interests are very broad including nearly every aspect of ecology. However, my current research involves sampling water quality, plant cover and species richness, and soil parameters along with other environmental factors at a wastewater treatment plant’s assimilation wetland in order to study the effects of secondarily treated wastewater on a freshwater wetland habitat. The goal of this research is to objectively assess this type of wetland’s environmental impacts and functionality to better understand their feasibility and effective use. 

Email: skyler.flaska[at]

Former Lab Members