Jamie Pierson


James Pierson

James Pierson
Horn Point Laboratory


I am a biological oceanographer that focuses on zooplankton ecology and specifically the interactions between zooplankton, their predators and prey, and their habitat. Much of my work is done with copepods, tiny crustacean zooplankton that are probably the most numerous organism on earth. Copepods are found nearly anywhere on earth where we find water, from the bottom of the ocean to high mountain lakes. Their role in the food web is to graze on phytoplankton and small protists, and they provide food for fish, shellfish, and jellyfish. Their position in the middle of the food web is to mediate the flow of energy and material from the primary producers that harness the power of the sun, to the higher trophic levels like fish and shellfish that are economically important and ecological engineers. To gain a better understanding of how copepods affect the ecology of marine and coastal ecosystems, I combine field work, laboratory experiments, and numerical modeling to test specific hypotheses about copepod feeding, vertical migration, and response to stressors like toxins, deoxygenation, and climate change.

My students have worked on a variety of projects, including winter blooms of mixotrophic protists; the effect of deoxygenation on trophic interactions between zoolankton, fish, and jellyfish; the trophic dynamics of bioluminescent algae; and metagenomic analysis of zooplankton from field samples and in fish guts. 

In addition I am committed to broadening participation in geosciences, and in ocean science in particular. I am fortunate to work with a great team of colleagues from UMCES, Maryland Sea Grant, and Universidad Ana G. Mendez in Puerto Rico on the NSF funded Centro TORTUGA project, which is now part of the SEAS Islands Alliance.  

Meet the copepod Acartia tonsa

Video of Acartia tonsa, taken through the microscope.

Areas of Expertise

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Zooplankton Ecology
  • Trophic Dynamics
  • Copepods
  • Plankton Grazing
  • Broadening Participation


  • University of Washington, 2006, Ph.D., Oceanography
  • University of Washington, 2003, M.S., Oceanography
  • University of New Hampshire, 1996, B.S., Biology: Marine and Freshwater

Regularly Offered Courses

Graduate Program Foundation Areas