Frances Wilkerson

Frances Wilkerson

Adjunct Professor of Biology
Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
Phone: (415) 338-3519

Wilkerson Lab Website


I am a Biological Oceanographer studying nutrient and phytoplankton interactions in the sea, especially those involving diatoms and eutrophic regions such as coastal upwelling and estuarine ecosystems. More specifically my research concerns nitrogen cycling in aquatic systems, and how fluxes of nitrate and ammonium affect phytoplankton, primary production and the biological pump. As such, it is linked with oceanic carbon fluxes and global climate change cycling. It also covers impacts related to anthropogenic nutrients, harmful algae and wetland systems. The research involves measuring nutrient uptake and assimilation using both traditional isotopic tracer approaches and some molecular genetics tools. Study sites include San Francisco Bay, coastal California and the equatorial Pacific. I am also interested in the role symbiotic algae play in marine symbioses, for example, zooxanthellae that reside in jellyfish, giant clams and anemones. 

Selected Papers

  • González-Galisteo, S., T.T. Packard, M. Gómez, A. Herrera, R.C. Dugdale, F.P. Wilkerson, R.T. Barber, D. Blasco, J.P. Christensen, J.P. and L.A. Codispoti. 2019. Calculating new production from nitrate reductase activity and light in the Peru Current Upwelling. Progress in Oceanography 73: 78-85.      
  • Glibert P.M., C.A. Heil, F.P. Wilkerson, R.C. Dugdale. 2018 Nutrients and harmful algal blooms: dynamic kinetics and flexible nutrition. In: Glibert P., Berdalet E., Burford M., Pitcher G., Zhou M. (eds) Global Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms. Ecological Studies (Analysis and Synthesis), vol 232. Springer, Cham, pp.93-112.    
  • Liu, Q., F. Chai, R.C. Dugdale, Y.Chao, H. Xue, S. Rao, F. Wilkerson, J. Farrara, H. Zhang, Z. Wang, and Y. Zhang. 2018. San Francisco Bay nutrients and plankton dynamics as simulated by a coupled hydrodynamic-ecosystem model. Continental Shelf Research 161: 29-48.
  • Kraus et al. ((incl.Wilkerson). 2017 A river-scale Lagrangian experiment examining controls on phytoplankton dynamics in the presence and absence of treated wastewater effluent high in ammonium. Limnology and Oceanography 62: 1234-1253.
  • Wilkerson, F.P. and R. C. Dugdale. 2016. The ammonium paradox of a high nutrient low chlorophyll estuary. In: Aquatic Microbial Ecology and Biogeochemistry: A Dual Perspective” (P.M. Glibert and T.M. Kana (ed), Springer.
  • Glibert, P.M., F.P. Wilkerson, R.C. Dugdale, J. A. Raven, C. Dupont, P.R. Leavitt, A.E. Parker, J.M. Burkholder, T.M. Kana. 2016. Pluses and minuses of ammonium and nitrate uptake and assimilation by phytoplankton and implications for productivity and community composition, with emphasis on nitrogen-enriched conditions. Limnology and Oceanography 61: 165-197.
  • Wilkerson, F.P., R.C. Dugdale, A.E. Parker, S.B. Blaser, A. Pimenta. 2015. Nutrient uptake and primary productivity in an urban estuary: using rate measurements to evaluate phytoplankton response to different hydrological and nutrient conditions. Aquatic Ecology 49(2): 211-233.