ND-ECI Seminar: Jim Elser


Location: B01 McCourtney Hall


Title: Biological stoichiometry: A journey from UNDERC to RNA

Jim Elser, Bierman Professor of Ecology of the University of Montana and Director of Flathead Lake Biological Station

Biological stoichiometry is the study of the balance of multiple chemical elements in living systems.  This seminar will encompass the development of my contributions this way of thinking from their first days at UNDERC where we discovered that food web structure can modulate the identity of the nutrient, nitrogen or phosphorus, that limits phytoplankton growth.  In the ensuing decades we came to understand this mysterious observation at the level of ribosomal RNA gene organization and to build the theory of biological stoichiometry.

James Elser is Bierman Professor of Ecology of the University of Montana and since March 2016 has been Director of UM’s Flathead Lake Biological Station at Yellow Bay.  He also holds a part-time research faculty position in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.  Trained as a limnologist, Dr Elser is best known for his role in developing and testing the theory of ecological stoichiometry, the study of the balance of energy and multiple chemical elements in ecological systems.  

Currently, Dr Elser's research focuses most intensively on Flathead Lake as well as mountain lakes of western Montana and western China. Specific studies involve observational and experimental studies at various scales, including laboratory cultures, short-term field experiments and sustained whole-ecosystem manipulations.  Previous field sites have included the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, Canada; lakes of the Arctic and of Patagonia; lakes, forests, and grasslands of the upper Midwest; and desert springs in Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert. 

In recognition of his research accomplishments, in 2019 Dr Elser was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.  He has also been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as well as a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In 2012 Elser received the G.E. Hutchinson Award of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), the world's largest scientific association dedicated to aquatic sciences.


Originally published at environmentalchange.nd.edu.