James J. Elser

University of Montana

Primary Section: 63, Environmental Sciences and Ecology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2019)


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. Elser's work has encompassed 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. 

Research Interests

Currently, Dr Elser's research focuses most intensively on Flathead Lake as well as mountain lakes of western Montana and western China. He continues to work to advance the theory of biological stoichiometry by study of the coupling, and decoupling, among growth rate, biochemical composition, and C:N:P stoichiometry.  Elser also is intensively engaged in work on phosphors sustainability challenges as director of the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance at Arizona State University.

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