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

Jackie Valladares

Research Technician - Full C.V.


I received my B.S. in Environmental Biology from the University of Delaware in 2018. Since then I have worked for Americorp as an Invasive Plant Technician, a Naturalist for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Regulation at the Aquatic Resources Education Center, and a tutor for students 1st-12th grade.  I am joining the Nelson Lab as a research technician and I am excited to explore some new facets of research including working in the Broussard Assimilation Wetland and helping out on the Ship Shoal project to help me further explore which niches really pique my interests as a scientist.

Email: Jacqueline.Valladares[at]louisiana.edu


Alex Thomas

Lab Manager - Full C.V.


After completing my B.S. in Marine Science from the University of Delaware in 2018, I began working for the State of Delaware as a Wetlands Field Technician. I then worked for Americorp; first as a trail builder in Upstate New York and then as an Oyster Aquaculture Technician on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  As a new member of the Nelson Lab, I am looking forward to expanding my skill set as a research scientist and manager and more fully develop my knowledge of wetland ecology.



Justin S. Lesser 

PhD Student - Full C.V.


My research focuses on trophic niches and energy flow in food webs. My work is relevant for all types of habitats but has recently focused on seagrass and saltmarsh ecosystems. As a grad student at the Plum Island Ecosystems LTER site, I study how landscape features influence the movement of energy from the marsh surface to the creek by an abundant fish consumer, the mummichog. I also study how environmental and physical drivers of ecosystem productivity influence energy flow and food web efficiency through time and across the estuary. I am very interested in cross-habitat, consumer-mediated flows of energy, either by prey migrations to other habitats or by predators coupling habitats in space, participating in multiple food webs by moving between them. I received my B.S. in Neuroscience and B.A. in Biology from Brandeis University, and a M.S. in Marine Biology from Northeastern University, through the Three Seas Program.

Email: justin.lesser[at]louisiana.edu

Twitter: @jslesser7

Emelie Foster

MS Student - Full C.V.


My research interest primarily focus on understanding how anthropogenic disturbances are affecting coastal populations. During my time here in the Nelson Lab, I plan to use stable isotopes to better understand how trophic systems in the Gulf of Mexico are responding to the alteration of habitat structure, caused by sand dredging. I've recently earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In the future, I hope to become a part of the link that connects science with the community.

Email: emelie.foster1[at]louisiana.edu

Twitter: @FosterEmelie

Olivia Floyd

MS Student - Full C.V.

Olivia Floyd.jpg

I first became associated with the Nelson lab as a summer REU with the Marine Biological Laboratory studying fish ecology and salt marsh food web dynamics at the Plum Island LTER site. I have since earned a B.S. in Environmental Science from Western Washington University and will transition into biogeochemistry for my M.S. I plan to study the impacts of sand dredging on microphytobenthic communities with the BOEM Ship Shoal project. My generalized interests include the economic implications of ecosystem damage and failure for the human industry in addition to the applications of ecosystem science beyond the scope of strictly academic research.

Email: ofloyd[at]LUMCON.edu

Jess Courson

Undergraduate Student


Jess is a Chemistry major with the class of 2021.

Email: Jessica.Courson1[at]louisiana.edu

Jada Wilson

Undergraduate Student


Jada is a Chemical Engineering major with the class of 2021. 

Email: Jada.Wilson2[at]louisiana.edu

Emma Weiser

Undergraduate Student


Emma is a Biology major with the class of 2021.

Email: Emma.Weiser1[at]louisiana.edu

Former Lab Members 
Graduate Students

Skyler Flaska, M.S.


Mason Harris, M.S.

Environmental Scientist, Wetland & Stream Restoration


David Behringer, M.S.

North Carolina WRC

W. Ryan James, PhD

Post-doc at FIU


Laura McDonald

Undergraduate Student


Tori Furka

Undergraduate Student 

Staff Members

Kristen Fellows, M.S.

Former Lab Manager

Currently a Research Investigator with DuPont