Jay Nelson, Ph.D.



Jay Nelson

Contact Info

Science Complex 3109


Ph.D., Zoology; minor Biochemistry.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. 12/88.
M.S., Zoology.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. 12/84.
B.S. with Distinction, Chemistry.
University of Washington. 6/81.
B.A., Zoology.
University of Washington. 6/81.

Areas of Expertise

Evolutionary physiology and physiological ecology of fishes


Broadly stated, my research interests are to understand how the environment controls life processes in fish and how fish can respond to environmental change, especially those enacted by human activities. Climate change and other anthropogenic factors are altering fish habitat across the globe. These include, but are not limited to, the warming of waters, ocean acidification, expansion of hypoxic and anoxic dead zones, changing freshwater hydrology and altered ocean currents. How fish respond physiologically and behaviorally to these changes will determine which fishes survive the opening of the newest geological age, the Anthropocene.  My work in this area started as an undergraduate at the University of Washington when I published my undergraduate research on the effects of acid rain on developing fish. My Ph. D. work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison focused on how fish from naturally acidic lakes thrived there; work still relevant today as concerns over global ocean acidification grow. My post-doctoral work in Germany and Canada concentrated on high carbon dioxide in the water and using fish exercise and metabolic performance as indicators of how well fish can potentially do in an environment. My current research at Towson is following three separate paths to continue to understand how fish fare in altered environments. One direction looks at hypoxia tolerance in striped bass white perch and European sea bass and whether the ability to tolerate hypoxia is determined by or trades off with other physiological characteristics. I am also very interested in how future changes in flow and temperature brought about by climate change will influence fish populations. I am currently examining this by investigating how small stream minnows in Maryland deal with progressive urbanization, but I have also studied the physiology of Arctic charr in Iceland that live in natural gradients of temperature and flow. I have an active research program that involves students and is international in both its scope and recognition. I have supervised over 55 undergraduate research students and 19 Master’s students and conducted research in 6 different countries and collaborated with scientists of 15 different nationalities. 

Recent Publications

Nelson, J. A., K. J. Rieger, D. Gruber, M. Cutler, B. Buckner and C. E. Oufiero (2021). Thermal tolerance of cyprinids along an urban-rural gradient: Plasticity, repeatability and effects of swimming and temperature shock. Journal of Thermal Biology 100 (2021) 103047.

Oufiero C. E., K. Kraskura*., R. Bennington# and J. A. Nelson (2021). Individual repeatability of locomotor kinematics and swimming performance in a gymnotiform swimmer. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 94(1):22–34.

Kraskura, K*. and J.A. Nelson (2020) Hypoxia tolerance and swimming metabolism of wild, juvenile striped bass (Morone saxatilis). Journal of Experimental Biology 223: 1-10. 

Nelson, J.A.   K. Kraskura* & G. K. Lipkey* (2019). Repeatability of hypoxia tolerance of individual juvenile striped bass Morone saxatilis and effects of social status. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 92(4):396–407. 

Kraskura, K*. and J.A. Nelson (2018). Hypoxia and sprint swimming performance of juvenile striped bass, Morone saxatilis. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 91(1) 682-690. 

Nelson, J.A. and Val, A. (2016). From the equator to the poles, a physiology section perspective on climate change. Fisheries, 41(7): 409-411.

Nelson, J.A. (2016). Oxygen Consumption Rate versus Rate of Energy Utilisation of Fishes: A comparison and brief history of the two measurements. J. of Fish Biol. 88:10–25. 

Nelson, J.A. & G. K. Lipkey* (2015). Hypoxia tolerance variance between swimming and resting striped bass Morone saxatilis. J. of Fish Biology, 87(2): 510-518. 

Nelson, J.A. (2015) Pickled fish anyone? The physiological ecology of fish from naturally acidic waters. Pp. 193-216. in: Extremophile Fishes - Ecology and Evolution of Teleosts in Extreme Environments. (R. Riesch, M. Tobler and M. Plath eds.) Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg.

Nelson, J.A., F. Atzori , K. R. Gastrich*. (2015). Repeatability and phenotypic plasticity of fish swimming performance across a gradient of urbanization. Environmental Biology of Fishes 98:1431-1447.

Nelson, J.A. 2013. Breaking wind to survive: Fish that breath air with their gastrointestinal tract. Journal of Fish Biology. 84: 554-576.

Vandamm, J.#, S. Marras, G. Claireaux, C. A. Handelsman* & J. A. Nelson. 2012. Acceleration performance of individual European sea bass, Dicentrarchus labrax measured with a sprint performance chamber: comparison with high-speed cinematography and correlates with ecological performance. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85: 704-717. 

Williamson# Nicole E., Joseph J. Cech Jr. and Jay A. Nelson. 2012. Flow preferences of individual blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus); Influence of swimming ability and environmental history. Environmental Biology of Fishes 95: 407-414.

Nelson J.A. and Chabot D. (2011) General Energy Metabolism. In: Farrell A.P., (ed.), Encyclopedia of Fish Physiology: From Genome to Environment, volume 3, pp. 1566–1572. San Diego: Academic Press. 

Nelson J.A. (2011) Energetics: An Introduction. In: Farrell A.P., (ed.), Encyclopedia of Fish Physiology: From Genome to Environment, volume 3, pp. 1563–1565. San Diego: Acad. Press. 

NELSON, J. A. AND A. M. DEHN*. (2011). The GI tract in air breathing. Pp. 395-433 In: Fish Physiology (v. 30): The Multifunctional Gut of Fish. (A. P. Farrell, C. J. Brauner, and M. Grossell eds.) Elsevier, London.

Handelsman*, C. A. ,  J. A. Nelson and G. Claireaux. 2010. Sprint capacity and ecological performance of cultured and wild European sea bass in coastal tidal ponds. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 83(3): 435-445.

Marras,S., G. Claireaux, D. J. McKenzie and J.A. Nelson. 2010. Individual variation and repeatability in aerobic and anaerobic swimming performance of European sea bass, Dicentrarchus labrax. Journal of Experimental Biology. 213:26-32.

Nelson, Jay A., Portia S. Gotwalt*, Christopher A. Simonetti# and Joel W. Snodgrass. 2008. Environmental correlates, plasticity and repeatability of differences in performance among blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus) populations across a gradient of urbanization. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81(1): 25-42

Claireaux, G. C. Handelsman*, E. Standen and J. A. Nelson.  2007. Thermal and temporal stability of swimming performances in the European sea bass. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 80(2):186-196.

Nonogaki*, H.,  J.A Nelson. & W.P. Patterson 2007. Dietary histories of herbivorous loricariid catfishes: evidence from 13C values of otoliths. Environmental Biol. of Fishes. 78 (1): 13-21.

Nelson, J. A., F. S. A. Rios*, J. R. Sanches, M. N. Fernandes and F. T. Rantin, 2007. Environmental influences on the respiratory physiology and gut chemistry of a facultatively air-breathing, tropical herbivorous fish Hypostomus regani (Ihering, 1905). pp 191-218 in Fish Respiration and the Environment. Science Publisher Inc. Editors: M. N. Fernandes, F. T. Rantin, M. Glass & B.G. Kapoor: ISBN 978-1-57808-357-2; July 2007; c.386 pages.

Nelson, J.A. and G. Claireaux. 2005. Inter-individual variance of sprint swimming performance, swimming metabolism and endurance in a cohort of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 134:1274-1284.

Nelson, J.A.  P. S. Gotwalt* and J.W. Snodgrass. 2003. Current Velocity Structures Swimming Performance of  Blacknose Dace. Can. J. of Fish. Aquat. Sci. 60(3): 301-308

Nelson, J.A. 2002. Metabolism of three species of herbivorous Loricariid catfishes: influence of size and diet. J. of Fish Biology.61:1586-1599.

Nelson, J.A., P. S. Gotwalt* , D.W. Webber and S. Reidy*. 2002. Beyond Ucrit: Matching swimming performance tests to the physiological ecology of the animal, including a fish “drag strip". Comparative Biochemistry & Physiology. 133/2 pp 289-302

1Martinez*, M., Guderley, H., Nelson, J.A., Webber, D., Dutil, J.D., 2002. Once a fast cod, always a fast cod: maintenance of performance hierarchies despite changing food availability in cod (Gadus morhua) Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 75: 90-100. 

Reidy*, S., S.R. Kerr and J. A. Nelson. 2000. Aerobic and anaerobic swimming performance of individual Atlantic cod. Journal of Experimental Biology. 203: 347-357.

Curriculum Vitae

Courses Taught

  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I & II: Biol 221/222; anytime

  • Animal Physiology: BIOL 325; anytime

  • Humans Science & the Chesapeake Bay: Biol. 333; Fall semesters of even years

  • Marine Biology: BIOL 347: Even spring semesters

  • Fish Biology: Biol 455/555; Spring semesters of even years

  • Advanced Physiology: Biol 470/570; Fall semsters

  • Mechanisms of Animal Physiology: BIOL. 604; anytime

  • Graduate seminar: Biol. 797; anytime