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UL Lafayette biologist among 2019 class of early-career research fellows

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A University of Louisiana at Lafayette biologist has received an Early-Career Research Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Dr. James Nelson, an assistant professor of biology, is among 20 recipients of the fellowship awarded by the academies’ Gulf Research Program. “It is an incredible honor,” he said.

Nelson said the fellowship will enable him to continue examining how human-made changes, such as river diversions, will affect animals that live along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.

He completed a Ph.D. in chemical oceanography at Florida State University in 2011, and joined the UL Lafayette Department of Biology faculty in 2015.

To qualify for the fellowship, applicants must have earned doctoral degrees within the past decade and be on track to earn tenure at their respective institutions. Fellows receive $76,000 and opportunities for mentorship from senior faculty, according to a Sept. 3 press release that announced recipients.

The release continued: “The support allows (fellows) to take risks on research ideas, pursue unique collaborations, and build a network of colleagues who share their interest in improving offshore energy system safety and the resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems.”

Nearly 70 fellowships have been awarded since the program’s founding in 2015. In addition to UL Lafayette’s Nelson, 2019 fellows include faculty at the universities of Florida, Maryland and Kansas, and Texas A&M, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Rice and Stanford universities.

The Gulf Research Program was founded as part of legal settlements following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The program seeks to improve offshore safety, protect human health and safeguard the environment.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides independent analysis that informs public policy decisions in the disciplines of science, technology and medicine. It was established in 1863.

Photo credit: Dr. James Nelson is an assistant professor of biology. He’s seen here exploring a wetland near Broussard, La., in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Dr. James Nelson)