Joseph Schieser Nelson

Joseph Schieser Nelson, ichthyologist, educator, administrator, (born at San Francisco, Calif 12 April 1937; died at Edmonton, Alta 9 August 2011). Joe Nelson was the youngest of three boys and shortly after his birth, the family moved from California to Allenby near Copper Mountain, BC.


Joseph Schieser Nelson

Joseph Schieser Nelson, ichthyologist, educator, administrator, (born at San Francisco, Calif 12 April 1937; died at Edmonton, Alta 9 August 2011). Joe Nelson was the youngest of three boys and shortly after his birth, the family moved from California to Allenby near Copper Mountain, BC. Joe Nelson became interested in biology early on in his life. In 1960, he received a BSc degree in Zoology from the University of British Columbia (UBC), obtained his MSc (1962) at the University of Alberta (U of A) and returned to UBC to earn his PhD in 1965.

After completing his PhD, Nelson accepted a position of research associate at the Indiana Aquatic Research Unit, Indiana University in Bloomington. In 1967, he became the assistant director of the Indiana University Biological Stations. In 1968, he moved to Edmonton with a position as assistant professor with the Department of Zoology at the U of A. He worked most of his professional career as a faculty member in that department (later called the Department of Biological Sciences) retiring as a professor emeritus in 2002. Dr Nelson served as curator of the fish collection of the University of Alberta Museum of Zoology, and as associate chair and acting chair of the department. He also served as the associate dean of Students Services, Faculty of Science.

In the 1970s, Nelson was the head of a number of provincial and national biological societies. From 1981-1985 he was a member of the Fisheries and Oceans Research Advisory Council and from 1981-2007 served on the COMMITTEE ON THE STATUS OF ENDANGERED WILDLIFE IN CANADA (COSEWIC), primarily on its Freshwater Fishes Specialist Subcommittee.

During his career as an ichthyologist, Joe Nelson published over 120 scholarly articles in various peer-reviewed journals but he is best remembered as the author of Fishes of the World (four editions: 1976, 1984, 1994 and 2006) and as the co-author (with Martin Paetz) of The Fishes of Alberta (two editions: 1970 and 1992). He was on the editorial board of Fish and Fisheries, and was associated with the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. He also served as chair of the joint American Fisheries Society (AFS)-American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) Committee on Names of Fishes from 1991-2010. This committee published the authoritative sixth edition of Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States, Canada and Mexico (2004). Nelson named 20 species and one genus of FISHES. Four species of fishes were named after him to recognize his contribution in systematic ichthyology (see FISH CLASSIFICATION).

In recognition of his contributions to the field of ichthyology, Joe Nelson was awarded the Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and the William E. Ricker Resource Conservation Award in 2011 by AFS; the Robert H. Gibbs Jr Memorial Award in 2002 and the Robert K. Johnson Award in 2010 by ASIH; the Artedi Lecturer Diploma by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2008; and the Fry Medal by the Canadian Society of Zoologists in 2010. In 2013, to honour Dr Joe Nelson, ASIH established the Joseph S. Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award in Ichthyology to recognize a member of the society for an outstanding body of work in any area of ichthyology.