Dr. Jay A. Nelson -Professor of Biology
(PDF's of some of my papers available through links from the CV)
Office: Smith 257 Laboratory: Smith
Phone: 410-704-3945 Fax: 410-704-2405
If you came here from the Biology Department Web Page, that's not the world's best picture of me, but here I am enjoying a field trip on the Chesapeake Bay with a group of NSF funded Research Experience for Undergraduates students. See below for more about my teaching program, my research on the Chesapeake Bay and undergraduate research opporunities:
Undergraduate courses: These are sample web pages to give you a flavor of the course, enrolled students will get far more extensive web pages through the university's Blackboard site
web page Biology 455 & Field trip photos
I'm also involved with teaching a summer class in physiology for seniors and graduate students taught in 2009 in Brest, Brittany, France and in 2010 in Towson, Maryland. Check out:
to see a description of the course from the French side(look for the Bulletin Boards under "Archives" in "Summer school in Physiology" )
Check out: Marine Animal Adaptation Course: June 2009, Brest France to see information about the 2009 course from the American side along with many pictures from the France course.
In 2010, the course was taught at Towson University, but also included 8 Towson University Graduate & Undergraduate students on a trip to the Gulf coast to see the scientific effort directed at assessing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. See:
The main components of my research program involve using a fish's relative ability to swim to understand how suited it is to its environment and understanding how natural selection and acclimatization processes influence a fish's swimming ability. I also do some thermal biology, work on individual fish hypoxia tolerance and work on the biology of loricariid catfishes that breath air and are adapted to include wood in their diet.
My physiological ecology research currently focuses on these 4 tracks with their
Respective funding sources:
The major question of my European Sea Bass program is: Do laboratory measures of performance predict survival of Sea Bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) in a simulated natural environment?
- The intellectual merit of this team effort comes from its attempt to establish links between individual variance in locomotor performance, metabolic scope, hypoxia tolerance, individual physiological and biochemical characteristics, genetic relatedness and survival/growth in a simulated natural environment either with or without predation. Why is this research interesting:
- a) Fisheries management is in need of information that can link animal biology to capacity for production in the wild
- b) The ideas and techniques of modern evolutionary physiology should be applied to economically important fishes
This work takes place primarily in the lab of Dr. Guy Claireaux in Brest, France and at the mesocosm facility in L'Houmeau France. Here you see Guy trying to monopolize the beer supply in Barcelona. For more information about my European Sea Bass program, please click the following link:
Another main thrust of my research program has been aimed at understanding how natural variations in flow or variations in flow induced by urbanization influence the biology of a small stream cyprinid, the blacknose dace.
Here you see former undergraduate and graduate research students Kirk Gastrich and Portia Gotwalt seining dace from Gwynn's Falls, a suburban stream in Baltimore Co.
Recently, I have also been invesigating whether urbanization has influenced the thermal biology of this species. For more on my blacknose dace research please go to:
Blacknose dace Research
Currently in my lab, we also have projects aimed at understanding the impact of hypoxic zones (dead zones) in estuarine systems on fishes of the family Moronidae. This work began with European sea bass in the lab of Dr. Guy Claireaux in Brest, France, but continues in my lab with striped bass (rockfish). Using an individual approach that has been a hallmark of my research career, we are trying to find factors that contribute to an amazing level of intraspecific variance in hypoxia tolerance in both of these species. For more on my striped bass research program go to:
Striped bass (Rockfish) research
Finally, I've done some work on these interesting
nigrolineatus: type species of a genus of wood eating Loricariid
If you are interested in wood-eating fishes
or loricariids, please check out:
Click here for a synopsis of student activities in my lab,
both undergraduate & graduate:
If you are an undergraduate student, from Towson or elsewhere,
there are opportunities for you to earn money while working on
any of these interesting fish while gaining valuable research
experience. If this sounds interesting to you, please contact
Here I am out on the Chesapeake Bay, explaining ecosystem
dynamics to a group of students participating in Towson's NSF-funded
Summer Undergraduate Research in Biology (SURB):
If you would like to see some more pictures from REU field trips,
please visit my REU photo gallery:Reu
If you are interested in possibly pursuing
a Master's degree here at Towson while doing research related
to any of the above, please contact me personally or visit our
Student Web Page, where you will find out all sorts of stuff
of interest like financial aid programs, how to apply etc.
Want to get more involved in the physiological
ecology of fishes ? Probably the best organization for you to
belong to is the Physiology Section of the American Fisheries
The next meeting is in Edinburgh Scotland in the summer of 2014. (click on the link below for more information)
"International Congress on the Biology of Fishes"
E-MAIL: Click jnelson@.towson.edu
to send mail or comments.