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

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]

Twitter: @wryanjames

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]

Twitter: @jslesser7

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]

Twitter: @JMasonHarris

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]

Kristen Fellows

Lab Manager - Full C.V.

I received my B.S. in Environmental Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in 2014 and my M.S. in Marine Biosciences from the University of Delaware in 2019. My scientific background mainly consists of photobiology and ecophysiology. My Master's work used an anemone (Exaiptasia pallida) as a model organism for corals. I worked to examine the relationship between anemones/coral and their algal symbionts under thermal stress. Joining the Nelson Lab I have switched gears a bit to supervise the Ship Shoal project and a project in the Florida Coastal Everglades examining food-web dynamics.

Email: kristen.fellows[at]

Twitter: @KristenFellows_

Laura McDonald

Undergraduate Student

Laura is a Biology major with the class of 2020. She is driven and dedicated undergraduate research assistant and has worked in the lab for 3+ years. In 2019, she traveled to Mobile, AL to present her research on the energy storage of nekton species across a continuum of coastal Louisiana Habitats. 

Email: Laura.McDonald1[at]

Jess Courson

Undergraduate Student

New lab member! Jess is a Chemistry major with the class of 2021.

Email: Jessica.Courson1[at]

Jada Wilson

Undergraduate Student

New lab member! Jada is a Chemical Engineering major with the class of 2021. 

Email: Jada.Wilson2[at]

Emma Weiser

Undergraduate Student

New lab member! Emma is a Biology major with the class of 2021.

Email: Emma.Weiser1[at]

Former Lab Members 

David Behringer, M.S.

North Carolina WRC

Tori Furka

Undergraduate Student