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Howard Jelks

Research Fish Biologist

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Short Biography

Howard has diverse experience from wetland plants, aquatic invertebrates, fish, and wading birds.  He has studied these organisms from the estuaries of Apalachicola Bay, freshwater marshes of the Everglades, and streams of the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.  Although he specializes in fishes, he classifies himself as a general naturalist/ecologist.  How the dynamic environment structures biotic communities is his broad interest.  Imperiled freshwater fishes are his speciality, but nonindigenous and marine taxa are also studied.  For the past 16 years, he has been a leader of Okaloosa darter monitoring and recovery planning at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida.  He has developed skills in sampling design, database development, geographical information system and statistical analyses.

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Holt, D.E., H.L. Jelks, and F. Jordan. 2013. Movement and longevity of imperiled Okaloosa Darters. Copeia 2013(4): 653-659.

Tuten, T, J.D. Austin, M.A. Barrett, J.S. Hargrove, H.L. Jelks, K.G. Johnson, and E.J. Nagid. 2013. Florida’s Southern Tessellated Darter: a rare case of a common fish. American Fisheries Society Genetics Section Newsletter 26(4): 2-5.

Harborne, A.R., H.L. Jelks, W.F. Smith-Vaniz, and L.A. Rocha. 2012. Abiotic and biotic controls of cryptobenthic fish assemblages across a Caribbean seascape. Coral Reefs 31:977-990.

Hughey, M.C., D.C. Heins, H.L. Jelks, B.A. Ory, and F. Jordan. 2012 Variation in reproductive life history traits between two populations of Blackbanded Darters (Percina nigrofasciata). Copeia 2012(4):714-721.

Walker, S., A. Dausman, and D. Lavoie, eds., 2012. Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Science Assessment and Needs—A Product of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Science Coordination Team (H.L. Jelks, member). 72 p. [Link]

Nico L.G., P. Butt, G.R. Johnston, H.L. Jelks, M. Kail, and S.J. Walsh. 2012. Discovery of South American suckermouth armored catfishes (Loricariidae, Pterygoplichthys spp.) in the Santa Fe River drainage, Suwannee River basin, USA. BioInvasions Records 1: 179-200. [Link]


Austin, J.D., H.L. Jelks, B. Tate, A.R. Johnson, and F. Jordan.  2011.  Population genetic structure and conservation genetics of threatened Okaloosa darters (Etheostoma okaloosae).  Conservation Genetics 12:981-989.(Available as

Nico, L.G. and H.L. Jelks.  2011. The black carp in North America: An update. Pages 89-104 in D.C. Chapman & M.H. Hoff (editors). Invasive Asian Carps in North America. American Fisheries Society Symposium 74, Bethesda, MD.

Jelks H, B. Tate, and F. Jordan.  2011.  Weapons testing and endangered fish coexist in Florida.  Endangered Species Bulletin 36(1): 46-47. (Available as: )

Perry, C.T., M.A. Saltera, A.R. Harborne, S.F. Crowley, H.L. Jelks, and R.W. Wilson. 2011.  Fish as major carbonate mud producers and missing components of the tropical carbonate factory.  Proceedings National Academy of Science 108(10): 3865-3869. (Available as:

H.L. Jelks. 2010.  Springs - A Florida Treasure. page 22 in M.R. Tolbert (Editor, Author, Artist) Aquiferious. Fidelity Press, Orlando, Florida. 160 p. (Available at:

Walsh, S.J, H.L. Jelks, and N.M. Burkhead. 2009. The decline of North American freshwater fishes. ActionBioscience June 2009.

Nico, L.G., H.L. Jelks, and T. Tuten. 2009. Non-Native suckermouth armored catfishes in Florida: Description of nest burrows and burrow colonies with assessment of shoreline conditions. Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Bulletin 9: 1-30.

Dorazio, R.M., B. Mukherjee, L. Zhang, M. Ghosh, H.L. Jelks, and F. Jordan. 2008. Modeling unobserved sources of heterogeneity in animal abundance using a Dirichlet process prior. Biometrics 64: 635-644.

Champagne, C.E., J. D. Austin, H.L. Jelks, and F. Jordan.   2008.  Effects of fin clipping on survival and position-holding behavior of Brown Darters, Etheostoma edwini. Copeia 2008 (4): 916-919.

Jelks, H.L., S.J. Walsh, N.M. Burkhead, S. Contreras-Balderas, E. Díaz-Pardo, D.A. Hendrickson, J. Lyons, N.E. Mandrak, F. McCormick, J.S. Nelson, S.P. Platania, B.A. Porter, C.B. Renaud, J.J. Schmitter-Soto, E.B. Taylor, and M.L. Warren, Jr.  2008.  Conservation status of imperiled North American freshwater and diadromous fishes.  Fisheries 33(8):372-389.  (Available online as:

Jordan, F., H.L. Jelks, R.M. Dorazio, and S.A. Bortone.  2007. Comparison of visual survey and seining methods for sampling benthic stream fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 81:313-319.

Freeman, B., L.G. Nico, M. Osentoski, H.L. Jelks, and T.M. Collins. 2007. Molecular systematics of Serrasalmidae: Deciphering the identities of piranha species and unraveling their evolutionary histories. Zootaxa 1484: 1-38. (Available online as:

Smith-Vaniz, W. F., and H. L. Jelks.  2006. Australian trevallies of the genus Pseudocaranx (Teleostei: Carangidae), with description of a new species from Western Australia. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 63(1): 97-106.

Smith-Vaniz, W. F., H. L. Jelks, and L. A. Rocha.  2006. Relevance of cryptic fishes in biodiversity assessments: a case study at Buck Island Reef National Monument, St. Croix.  Bulletin of Marine Science 79:17-48.

Nico, L.G. and H.L. Jelks. 2006. Non-Native Armored Catfishes in Florida: Description of Nest Burrows and Burrow Colonies with Preliminary Assessment of Shoreline Conditions. Report to U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS. 29 pp.

Dorazio, R.M., H.L. Jelks, and F. Jordan. 2005. Improving removal-based estimates of abundance by sampling a population of spatially distinct subpopulations.  Biometrics 61:1093-1101.

Baber, M. J., K.J. Babbitt, F. Jordan, H.L. Jelks, and W.M. Kitchens.  2005.  Relationships among habitat type, hydrology, predator composition, and distribution of larval anurans in the Florida Everglades. pages 154-160 in W.E, Meshaka, Jr. and K.J. Babbitt (eds) Amphibians and Reptiles:  status and conservation in Florida.  Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, Florida.

Nico, L.G., J.D. Williams, and H.L. Jelks.  2005.  Black carp:  Biological synopsis and risk assessment of an introduced fish.  American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 32, Bethesda, Maryland.  337 pp.

Smith-Vaniz, W.F., H.L. Jelks, and J.E. Randall.  2002. The gulf surgeonfish, Acanthurus randalli, a junior synonym of the ocean surgeon, Acanthurus bahianus (Teleostei: Acanthuridae).  Gulf of Mexico Science 22 (2):15-20

Burkhead, N.M. and H.L. Jelks. 2001.  The effects of suspended sediment on the reproductive success of a crevice-spawning minnow, the Tricolor Shiner (Cyprinella trichroistia).  Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 130:959-968.

Burkhead, N.M. and H.L. Jelks. 2000.  Essay 1.  Diversity, levels of imperilment, and cryptic fishes in the southeastern United States. Pp. 30 - 32, in Abell, R.A., D.M. Olson, E. Dinerstein, P.T. Hurley, J.T. Diggs, W. Eichbaum, S. Walters, W. Wettengel, T. Allnutt, C.J. Loucks, and P. Hedao. Freshwater ecoregions of North America: a conservation assessment. Island Press, Covelo, CA.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  1998.  Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae) Recovery Plan (Revised).  Atlanta, Georgia.  42 p.  Jelks, H.L., and S. Alam authors.

Jordan, F., H.L. Jelks, and W.M. Kitchens. 1997.  Habitat structure and plant community composition in a northern Everglades wetland landscape.  Wetlands 17:275-283

Burkhead, N.M., H.L. Jelks, F. Jordan, D.C. Weaver, and J.D. Williams.  1994.  The comparative ecology of Okaloosa and brown darters in Boggy and Rocky Bayou stream systems, Choctawhatchee Bay, Florida.  Final Report to Eglin Air Force Base.  90 p.

Jordan, F., H.L. Jelks, and W.M. Kitchens.  1994.  Habitat use by the fishing spider, Dolomedes triton in a northern everglades wetland.  Wetlands 14:239-242

Jelks, H.L., F. Jordan, and W.M. Kitchens.  1992.  Response of wading birds and aquatic macrofauna to hydrological conditions and vegetative structure of Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Work Order 32 Final Report.  133 p.

Maffei, M.D., and H.L. Jelks.  1991.  The first successful nesting of wood storks on Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.  Florida Field Naturalist 19(1):12-14

Collopy, M.W., and H.L. Jelks.  1987.  Distribution of foraging wading birds in relation to the physical and biological characteristics of freshwater wetlands in southwest Florida.  Report to Nongame Wildlife Program of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.  104 p.


My Science Topics

Science Topic
Natural Resourcesfishery resources
Natural Resourcesinland fisheries
Natural Resourcesmarine fisheries
Natural Resourcesnatural resource management
Natural Resourceswater resources
Ecology and Environmentaquatic ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentbenthic ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentbiodiversity
Ecology and Environmentbiogeography
Ecology and Environmentecological competition
Ecology and Environmentecological processes
Ecology and Environmentecosystems
Ecology and Environmentfreshwater ecosystems
Ecology and Environmenthabitats
Ecology and Environmentisland ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentwetlands
Plants and Animalsanimals
Plants and Animalsaquatic vegetation
Plants and Animalscapturing and trapping
Plants and Animalsendangered species
Plants and Animalsextinction and extirpation
Plants and Animalsgenetic diversity
Plants and Animalsinvasive species
Plants and Animalsinvertebrates
Plants and Animalsplants
Plants and Animalsspecies diversity
Plants and Animalsvegetation
Plants and Animalsvertebrates
Water Resourcessediment transport
Water Resourcesstreamflow
Water Resourceswater quality

My USGS Science Strategy Areas

Understanding Ecosystems & Predicting Ecosystems Change

Climate Variability & Change

Aquatic Diversity Conservation

Image of Current Focus for Aquatic Diversity Conservation

The principal focus of my research is to increase our scientific understanding of the status of freshwater biological resources in North America and the factors that contribute to that condition.  Additional efforts are in marine biodiversity assessments and nonindigenous species interactions.  Special emphasis is on the southeastern United States, although some efforts are national and global in scale.







Imperiled Freshwater Organisms of North America

Image of Imperiled Freshwater Organisms of North America

This website provides access to maps and lists of imperiled freshwater organisms of North America as determined by the American Fisheries Society (AFS) Endangered Species Committee (ESC). At this website, one can view lists of animals by freshwater ecoregion, by state or province boundary, and plot distributions of these same creatures by ecoregions or political boundaries.

Contact Information

Howard Jelks
7920 NW 71St Street
Gainesville, FL 32653
352-378-4956 - Fax
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