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Nicholas Fisher

Distinguished Professor

Director, Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research



- State University of New York at Stony Brook

Research Topics:

Marine phytoplankton physiology and ecology, biogeo-chemistry of metals, marine pollution

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  • Bio/Research


    My laboratory’s research focuses on the interactions of metals and metalloids with marine organisms. This work is aimed at evaluating the bioavailability and fate of metals, including important long-lived radionuclides associated with nuclear wastes, in marine organisms. Our research examines various processes regulating the uptake and trophic transfer of these contaminants in marine food webs.

    Some of this work has explored the nature of binding of metals to diverse types of particles and the influence these have on the extent to which the metals are in a biologically available form. The effects of chemical and phase (particulate, dissolved, colloidal) partitioning of metals on their bioaccumulation in marine food webs are assessed. Particle types considered include abiotic particles such as suspended sediments (e.g., iron oxides with and without organic coatings, clay particles, calcite crystals) and living particles (e.g., phytoplankton cells, bacterioplankton). As well, research has focused on the adsorption/desorption of metals to biogenic detrital matter and the influence this material can have on the vertical flux and geochemical cycling of metals in diverse oceanic regimes, including open ocean and continental shelf waters. Many of these activities are conducted in coordination with Stony Brook University’s   Center for Environmental Molecular Science (CEMS).

    We have also been active in quantifying the transfer of metals from one trophic level to another in marine food chains and have developed a bioenergetic-based kinetic model to assess the bioaccumulation, including specific uptake pathways, of metals in marine organisms. These studies have considered diverse marine herbivores and carnivores, including species that are used as bioindicators of coastal contamination. Experimental studies have assessed rate constants for metal accumulation and release from organisms under different environmental conditions, and the results are applied to understanding processes in specific environmental regions. We have recently been working with food webs in the Arctic, the Mediterranean, San Francisco Bay, and the Equatorial Pacific. Additionally, our research has related bioaccumulation and toxicity of select metals to phytoplankton and zooplankton in marine and freshwater environments. These studies emphasized physiological and biochemical responses to sublethal concentrations of metals.

    My group has also been active in developing the capability of analyzing the trace element composition of individual plankton plankton cells using synchrotron-based x-ray fluorescence microscopy. This method is now being applied toward understanding elemental stoichiometries in different types of plankton cells and in evaluating biological responses to varying iron concentrations.

    We are currently analyzing Pacific bluefin tuna and other Pacific animals for the presence of radionuclides that have been released from the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan, in part to evaluate public health risks and in part to use cesium radioisotopes to trace migratory patterns. We are also analyzing these fish for mercury and comparing tissue concentrations with those in Atlantic bluefin tuna.

    Since October 2006 I have served as the Director of Stony Brook University’s   Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research. I have also been active in helping to coordinate biogeochemical research in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, in conjunction with   CIESM, through specialized workshops and conferences.

  • Publications


    Selected Publications

    Full Publication List

    Fisher, N.S. 1975. Chlorinated hydrocarbon pollutants and photosynthesis of marine phytoplankton: a reassessment. Science 189: 463-464.

    Fisher, N.S. 1977. On the differential sensitivity of estuarine and open-ocean diatoms to exotic chemical stress. Amer. Nat. 111: 871-895.

    Fisher, N.S., G.J. Jones, and D.M. Nelson. 1981. Effects of copper and zinc on growth, morphology, and metabolism of Asterionella japonica (Cleve). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 51: 37-56.

    Fisher, N.S., P. Bjerregaard, and S.W. Fowler. 1983. Interactions of marine plankton with transuranic elements. Limnol. Oceanogr. 28: 432-447.

    Fisher, N.S. 1986. On the reactivity of metals for marine phytoplankton. Limnol. Oceanogr. 31: 443-449.

    Fisher, N.S., J.K. Cochran, S. Krishnaswami, and H.D. Livingston. 1988. Predicting the oceanic flux of radionuclides on sinking biogenic debris. Nature 335: 622-625.

    Reinfelder, J.R. and N.S. Fisher. 1991. The assimilation of elements ingested by marine copepods. Science 251: 794-796.

    Fisher, N.S. and M. Wente. 1993. The release of trace elements by dying marine phytoplankton. Deep-Sea Res. 40: 671-694.

    Wang, W.-X., N.S. Fisher and S.N. Luoma. 1996. Kinetic determinations of trace element bioaccumulation in the mussel Mytilus edulis. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 140: 91-113.

    Fisher, N.S., J.-L. Teyssié, S.W. Fowler, and W.-X. Wang. 1996. Accumulation and retention of metals in mussels from food and water: a comparison under field and laboratory conditions. Environ. Sci. Technol. 30: 3232-3242.

    Fisher, N.S., S.W. Fowler, F. Boisson, J.L. Carroll, K. Rissanen, B. Salbu, T.G. Sazykina, and K.L. Sjoeblom. 1999. Radionuclide bioconcentration factors and sediment partition coefficients in Arctic Seas subject to contamination from dumped nuclear wastes. Environ. Sci. Technol. 33: 1979-1982.

    Roditi, H.A., N.S. Fisher, and S.A. Sañudo-Wilhelmy. 2000. Uptake of dissolved organic carbon and trace elements by zebra mussels. Nature 407: 78-80.

    Fisher, N.S., I. Stupakoff, S.A. Sañudo-Wilhelmy, W.-X. Wang, J.-L. Teyssié, S.W. Fowler, and J. Crusius. 2000. Trace metals in marine copepods: a field test of a bioaccumulation model coupled to laboratory uptake kinetics data. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 194: 211-218.

    Fisher, N.S. 2002. Editor. Bioaccumulation of Metals and Radionuclides in Marine Organisms. CIESM Workshop Monograph No. 19, Monaco, 120 pp.

    Twining, B.S., S.B. Baines, N.S. Fisher, J. Maser, S. Vogt, C. Jacobsen, A. Tovar-Sanchez, and S.A. Sañudo-Wilhelmy. 2003. Quantifying trace elements in individual aquatic protist cells with a synchrotron x-ray fluorescence microprobe. Anal. Chem. 75: 3806-3816.

    Twining, B.S., S.B. Baines, and N.S. Fisher. 2004. Element stoichiometries of individual plankton cells collected during the Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX). Limnol. Oceanogr.49: 2115-2128.

    Pickhardt, P.C., and N.S. Fisher. 2007. Accumulation of inorganic and methylmercury by freshwater phytoplankton in two contrasting water bodies. Environmental Science and Technology 41: 125-131.

    Karimi, R., C.Y. Chen, P.C. Pickhardt, N.S. Fisher, and C.L. Folt. 2007. Stoichiometric controls of mercury dilution by growth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104: 7477-7482.

    Baines, S.B., N.S. Fisher, and J.J. Cole. 2007. Dissolved organic matter and persistence of the invasive zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) under low food conditions. Limnology and Oceanography 52: 70-78.

    Fisher, N.S. 2007. Editor. Marine Sciences and Public Health–Some Major Issues. CIESM Workshop Monograph No. 31, Monaco, 128 pp.

    Mathews, T., and N.S. Fisher. 2008. Trophic transfer of seven trace metals in a four-step marine food chain. Marine Ecology Progress Series 367: 23-33.

    Vogel, C., and N.S. Fisher. 2010. Metal accumulation by heterotrophic marine bacterioplankton. Limnology and Oceanography 55: 519-528.

    Karimi, R., N.S. Fisher, and C.L. Folt. 2010. Multielement stoichiometry in aquatic invertebrates: when growth dilution matters. American Naturalist 176: 699-709.

    Baumann, Z., and N.S. Fisher. 2011. Relating the sediment phase speciation of As, Cd, and Cr with their bioavailability for the deposit-feeding polychaete Nereis succinea. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30: 747-756.

    Chen, X., S.G. Wakeham, and N.S. Fisher. 2011. Influence of iron on fatty acid and sterol composition of marine phytoplankton and copepod consumers. Limnology and Oceanography 56: 716-724.

    Karimi, R., T. Fitzgerald, and N.S. Fisher. 2012. A quantitative synthesis of mercury in commercial seafood and implications for exposure in the US. Environmental Health Perspectives 120: 1512-1519.

    Luengen, A.C., N.S. Fisher, and B.A. Bergamaschi. 2012. Dissolved organic matter reduces algal accumulation of methylmercury. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 31: 1712-1719.

    Buesseler, K.O., S.R. Jayne, N.S. Fisher, I.I. Rypina, H. Baumann, Z. Baumann, C.F. Breier, E.M. Douglass, J. George, A.M. Macdonald, H. Miyamoto, J. Nishikawa, S.M. Pike, and S. Yoshida. 2012. Fukushima-derived radionuclides in the ocean and biota off Japan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 5984-5988.

    Madigan, D.J., Z. Baumann, and N.S. Fisher. 2012. Pacific bluefin tuna transport Fukushima-derived radionuclides from Japan to California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109: 9483-9486.

    Fisher, N.S., K. Beaugelin-Seiller, T.G. Hinton, Z. Baumann, D.J. Madigan, and J. Garnier-LaPlace. 2013. An evaluation of radiation doses and associated risk from the Fukushima nuclear accident to marine biota and human consumers of seafood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110:10670-10675.

    Dutton, J., and N.S. Fisher. 2014. Modeling metal bioaccumulation and tissue distribution in killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) in three contaminated estuaries. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 33: 89-101.

    Madigan, D.J., Z. Baumann, A.B. Carlisle, D.K. Hoen, B.N. Popp, H. Dewar, O.E. Snodgrass, B.A Block, and N.S. Fisher. 2014. Reconstructing transoceanic migration patterns of Pacific bluefin tuna using a chemical tracer toolbox. Ecology 95: 1674-1683.

    Fisher, N.S., S.W. Fowler, and D.J. Madigan. 2015. Perspectives and reflections on the public reaction to recent Fukushima-related radionuclide studies, and a call for enhanced training in environmental radioactivity. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 34: 707-709.

    Lee, C.-S., and N.S. Fisher. 2016. Methylmercury uptake by diverse marine phytoplankton. Limnology and Oceanography 61: 1626-1639.

    Lee, C.-S., M.E. Lutcavage, E. Chandler, D.J. Madigan, R.M. Cerrato, and N.S. Fisher. 2016. Declining mercury concentrations in bluefin tuna reflect reduced emissions to the North Atlantic Ocean. Environmental Science and Technology 50: 12825–12830.

    Rudd, J.W.M., R.A. Bodaly, N.S. Fisher, C.A. Kelly, D. Kopec, and C. Whipple. 2018. Fifty years after its discharge, methylation of legacy mercury trapped in the Penobscot Estuary sustains high mercury in biota. Science of the Total Environment 642: 1340-1352.

    Lee, C.-S., and N.S. Fisher. 2019. Microbial generation of elemental mercury from dissolved methylmercury in seawater. Limnology and Oceanography 64: 679-693.

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