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James Nifong, Former Silliman Ph.D. Student

« Please Note: James Nifong is no longer active on the GCE-LTER Project so contact information may not be accurate (see the GCE Personnel page for an up-to-date list of participants) »

Research Emphasis:

I am a herpetologist at heart, though my current research extends into coastal ecology and island food web ecology. My research concentrates on the cross-ecosystem linkage support of top predators inhabiting barrier islands of the southeastern United States. I am using isotopic analysis (N and C) to examine the trophic levels and food sources utilized by top predators on Sapelo Island, Georgia. My study organisms include the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), wild hog (Sus scrofa), raccoon (Procyon lotor), Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus), and various species of lizards (Plestiodon and Anolis). Surrounding much of the interior side of these barrier islands are coastal marshes dominated by marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora). Within these coastal environments, biomass and growth of associated fauna (e.g. fish, oysters, shrimp, snails) is often directly linked to the productivity of S. alterniflora and salinity gradient of the ecosystem. We are proposing to test the hypothesis that due to cross-system linkages in the form of freshwater subsidies from interior habitats (i.e. small and large islands) and protein from marine animals, populations of the before mentioned predators are able to persist in remarkably high population densities on barrier islands. If demonstrated, this could provide evidence to support the relationship of the health of coastal marsh ecosystems with the conservation and management of a wide variety of top predators inhabiting barrier islands of the southeastern United States.

Contact Information:

Primary Organization:  Kansas State University

Mailing Address:

James C. Nifong
Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Division of Biology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas 66506-3501

Office Phone:  (662) 607-0689

E-Mail:  jcnifong@ksu.edu

Web Page:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James_Nifong

GCE Data Sets:

GIS-GCET-1706 (American alligator GPS tracking study from May 2008 to September 2010 on Sapelo Island, Georgia)

INV-GCES-0906 (Population Study of Geukensia demissa and Ilyanassa obsoleta at the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems LTER site in April 2008)

GCE Publications and Presentations: (custom bibliography)

Journal Articles

Silliman, B.R., Hughes, B.B., Gaskins, L., He, Q., Tinker, T., Read, A., Nifong, J.C. and Stepp, R. 2018. Are the ghosts of nature’s past haunting ecology today? Current Biology. 28. (DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.04.002)

Nifong, J.C. and Silliman, B.R. 2017. Abiotic factors influence the dynamics of marine habitat use by a highly mobile “freshwater” top predator. Hydrobiologia. 802(1):155-174. (DOI: 10.1007/s10750-017-3255-7)

Nifong, J.C., Layman, C. and Silliman, B.R. 2015. Size, sex, and individual-level behavior drive intra-population variation in cross-ecosystem foraging of a top-predator. Journal of Animal Ecology. (DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12306)

Rosenblatt, A.E., Nifong, J.C., Heithaus, M., Mazzotti, F.J., Cherkiss, M., Jeffery, B., Elsey, R.M., Decker, R., Silliman, B.R., Guillette, L., Lowers, R. and Larson, J. 2015. Factors affecting individual foraging specialization and temporal diet stability across the range of a large “generalist” apex predator. Special Issue: INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL NICHE SPECIALIZATION. Oecologia. 178:5-16. (DOI: 10.1007/s00442-014-3201-6)

Nifong, J.C., Nifong, R., Silliman, B.R., Lowers, R., Guillette, L., Ferguson, M., Welsh, M., Abernathy, K. and Marshall, G. 2014. Animal-borne imaging reveals novel insights into the foraging behaviors and diel activity of a large-bodied apex predator, the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). PLOS One. 9(1). (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083953)

Tellez, M. and Nifong, J.C. 2014. Gastric nematode diversity between estuarine and inland freshwater populations of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis ,daudin 1802), and the prediction of intermediate hosts. International Journal for Parasitology:Parasites and Wildlife. 3:227-235. (DOI: 10.1016/j.ijppaw.2014.07.001)

Nifong, J.C. and Silliman, B.R. 2013. Impacts of a large-bodied, apex predator (Alligator mississippiensis Daudin 1801) on salt marsh food webs. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 440(2013):185-191. (DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2013.01.002)

Nifong, J.C., Lowers, R., Silliman, B.R., Abernathy, K. and Marshall, G. 2013. Attachment and deployment of remote video/audio recording devices (Crittercam) on wild American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis Duadin 1801). Herpetological Review. 44(2):243-247.

Platt, S.G., Elsey, R.M., Liu, H., Rainwater, T.R., Nifong, J.C., Rosenblatt, A.E., Heithaus, M. and Mazzotti, F.J. 2013. Frugivory and seed dispersal by crocodilians: an overlooked form of saurochory? Journal of Zoology. (DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12052)

Rosenblatt, A.E., Heithaus, M., Mather, M., Matich, P., Nifong, J.C., Ripple, W. and Silliman, B.R. 2013. The Roles of Large Top Predators in Coastal Ecosystems: New Insights from Long Term Ecological Research. Special Issue: Coastal Long Term Ecological Research. Oceanography. 26(3):156 - 167. (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2013.59)

Nifong, J.C., Rosenblatt, A.E., Johnson, N., Barichivich, W., Silliman, B.R. and Heithaus, M. 2012. American Alligators Digestion Rate of Blue Crabs and its Implications for Stomach Contents Analysis. Copeia. 2012(3):419-423. (DOI: 10.1643/CE-11-177)

Theses and Dissertations

Nifong, J.C. 2014. Use of marine habitat and food resources by coastal inhabiting Alligator Mississipiensis (American Alligator): implications for food webs and community dynamics. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. 201 pages.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.