Joseph Nelson

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NELSON, Joseph Schieser
Joe was born in San Francisco, California 12 April 1937. He moved with his parents to a copper mine in British Columbia when eight months old.
As an undergraduate student Joe worked for federal fisheries, doing field work in much of British Columbia (e.g., Vancouver Island, Nass River) and Yukon Territory. Joe obtained his BSc and PhD (research near Prince George) from the University of British Columbia, and his MSc from the University of Alberta (research on the fishes of the Kananaskis River).
Joe started at the University of Alberta in 1968 as an Assistant Professor of Zoology and retired as a Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences in 2002. He enjoyed teaching students, supervising graduate students, and doing research. He variously served as Associate Chair and Acting Chair, Department of Zoology. He served as Associate Dean, student services, Faculty of Sciences, 1995-2000; 2002.
Some of the awards he received: The Robert H. Gibbs, Jr. Memorial Award, for an outstanding body of published work in systematic ichthyology, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 2002; J. Dewey Soper Award, Alberta Society of Professional Biologists, 2003; Alberta Centennial Medal, (via Dept. Sustainable Resource Development), 2006; Artedi Lecturer Diploma, for outstanding and world- leading contributions in the field of the nature, interrelationship and distribution of fishes, at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden, 2008; Fry Medal, Canadian Society of Zoologists, given to a Canadian Zoologist who has made an outstanding contribution to knowledge and understanding of an area in zoology, 2010; Robert K. Johnson Award for Excellence in Service, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, 2010; and the William E. Ricker Resource Conservation Award, American Fisheries Society, 2011.
In addition to publishing many research papers of fishes, he co-authored The Fishes of Alberta (two editions) with M.J. Paetz, and authored Fishes of the World (four editions). He chaired a committee of seven that in 2004 published Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico, 6th ed. He was a long-serving member of COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada), serving primarily on the Freshwater Fishes Specialist Subcommittee. Much of his research on Alberta fishes was on pelvicless sticklebacks (primarily in Astotin Lake). Also, on a world scale, he described 15 marine fish species and co-authored in describing four more. He has had three living fish species named after him and one fossil acanthodian fish.
Joe had three main hobbies, genealogy, astronomy (from age six), and karate (he taught for many years as a black belt Sensei at the Jewish Community Centre under the direction of Sensei Joseph Rempel).
In 2009 Joe was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome. This turned into leukemia. After a close call, a new chemo called Vidaza extended his life one and a half years but then the leukemia returned. Joe was very grateful to the staff at the University of Alberta Hospital, especially Dr. Larrett and the medical outpatient department, for such dedicated and cheerful care. He was very grateful to the many blood donors whose blood allowed his life to be extended and Blood Bank staff. Joe also felt blessed by having many supportive friends and family and loving care from his dear wife Claudine.
Joe is survived by his loving wife Claudine and four children (and three sons-in-law): Brenda (Mark Brown), Janice (David Kelly), Mark, and Karen (Rob Baron). They have four grandchildren: Anna Nicholls, Kaitlind Kelly, and twins Zaria and Zephran Kelly. They are also the Canadian grandparents of Sharanya Das, daughter of Mrinal (a former student) and Saswati Das. Joe was pre-deceased by his parents and two brothers, Walter and Bill.
A Memorial Service for Joe will be held at a later date.
To send condolences, please visit

Published in The Edmonton Journal on Aug. 12, 2011
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