Nelson E. Rios

Manager of Biodiversity Informatics

Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute
Belle Chasse, LA 70037

Voice: (504) 394-1711
Fax: (504) 394-5045


Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I also attended the University of New Orleans and received my Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Biology. Since then, I have been employed at Tulane University as the Manager of Collections and Biodiversity Informatics for the Tulane University Biodiversity Research Institute. My current research interests focus on the development of software and services to enhance utilization of natural history data with a focus on ichthyological collections.

Active Projects:

FishNet 2
FishNet is a collaborative effort among fish collections around the world to share and distribute data on specimen holdings. Released in July of 2010, FishNet 2, is the successor to the original FishNet network. I serve as the Co-PI and lead developer of FishNet 2 and am working with twelve collaborating institutions to expand and improve upon data quality within the FishNet network with a primary focus on geospatial referencing of records lacking geographic coordinates.

VertNet aims to bring together data from FishNet, MANIS, HerpNet & ORNIS within a unified cloud based architecture. I serve as a Co-PI and am involved in the integration of georeferencing services with VertNet’s cloud architecture, maintaining HerpNet 2 and ORNIS 2 as transitional networks and outreach through Biodiversity Informatics Training Workshops.

The GEOLocate project began in February of 2002 as an effort to develop efficient computer-assisted methods for georeferencing natural history collections’ data. GEOLocate now comprises a collection of interoperable software components that facilitate the retrospective georeferencing of legacy specimen occurrence data from anywhere in the world. I serve as Co-PI and lead developer.

GEOLocate CoGe
The goal of this project was to design a collaborative georeferencing framework around the GEOLocate georeferencing platform. This project supports the needs of large scale georeferencing by allowing users to create communities that share datasets and distribute workload. Similarity matching between shared records further increases the efficiency of georeferencing. A web-based data portal is used for creation and management of georeferencing communities. Verification of data within a community is accomplished through a specialized GEOLocate web client. I serve as Co-PI and lead developer.

Past Projects:

HerpNet 2 & ORNIS 2
HerpNet 2, which ran from March of 2011 through January of 2015, and ORNIS 2, which ran from June of 2012 through January of 2015 were networks based upon infrastructure developed for FishNet 2, but for herpetological and ornithological data respectively.

Taxon Footprint validation of georeferenced localities
Taxonomic footprints are sets of polygons that define areas of species co-occurrence based on previously georeferenced occurrences of species collected at a locality. The footprints can be used in validating coordinates assigned to the locality by automated georeferencing tools. We developed web services that query species point occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility given a list of species, buffers those results and produces a composite overlay representing areas of co-occurrence. These results can then be used to validate the results of automated georeferencing.

Cypriniformes Tree of Life Data Management Portal
This project involved the design and implementation of a combined data management platform for genomic data, museum holdings & morphological data. The CToL Portal was one of the early pioneer projects using standardized vocabularies (ontologies) to define morphological characters and states.

Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Network
The Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Network (LFWCN) was a prototype information system focused on the conservation of Louisiana’s inland fishes. The LFWCN harvests data using the DiGIR protocol and provides a web portal for the textual and spatial query of specimen occurrences. As data are harvested, UBio services are utilized to provide name resolution. Names which cannot be resolved by UBio are manually verified. The LFWCN was used to produce assessments for all threatened and endangered fishes within Louisiana. Technology from this project was leveraged in building FishNet 2.

Biogeomancer Collaboration
Biogeomancer was an alternative georeferencing application. My role involved developing web services for interoperability with GEOLocate and contributing to development of georeferencing standards.


2000-Present. Manager of Collections and Biodiversity Informatics, Tulane University.

1997-1999. Graduate Research Assistant, University of New Orleans.

Spring 1997. Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of New Orleans.


2012-2015. Georeferencing U.S. Fish Collections: A Community-based Model to Georeferencing Natural History Collections (Collaborative). National Science Foundation, DBI 1202953.

2011-2014. VertNet, a New Model for Biodiversity Networks (Collaborative). National Science Foundation, DBI 1062271.

2010-2014. Machine Learning in Taxonomic Research (Collaborative). National Science Foundation, MCB 1027830.

2010-2012. Enhancement of Fishnet2 for Disaster Impact Assessment. National Science Foundation, DBI 1045668.

2009-2013. Improving GEOLocate to Better Serve Biodiversity Informatics. National Science Foundation, DBI 0852141.

2008-2009. Development of a Prototype Information System for Fish and Wildlife Conservation in Louisiana. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

2006-2007. Mold Remediation in the Tulane University Museum of Natural History. National Science Foundation, DBI 0613004.

2004-2011. AToL: Collaborative Research: Systematics of Cypriniformes, Earth's Most Diverse Clade of Freshwater Fishes (Collaborative). National Science Foundation, EF 0431259.

2005-2009. GEOLocate World: An Expanded Tool for Georeferencing Natural History Collections. National Science Foundation, DBI 0516312.

2005-2007. Biogeomancer. Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (Collaborative). Subcontract.

2004-2010. Building the Information Community Infrastructure - A Test Case Implementation for Ichthyological Collections (Collaborative). National Science Foundation, DBI 0417001.

2002-2006. Development of a Computer Tool for Georeferencing Natural History Collection Data. National Science Foundation, DBI 0131053.

2001-2006. Improvements to the Tulane Fish Collection: Final Phase. National Science Foundation, IOS 0097004.


Ellwood, E. R., Dunckel, B. A., Flemons, P., Guralnick, R., Nelson, G., Newman, G., ... & Mast, A. R. (2015). Accelerating the Digitization of Biodiversity Research Specimens through Online Public Participation. BioScience, biv005.

Paula M. Mabee, Ericka A. Grey, Gloria Arratia, Nina Bogutskaya, Alicja Boron, Miles Coburn, Kevin Conway, Shunping He, Alexander Naseka, Nelson Rios, Andrew Simons, Jolanta Szlachciak and Xuzhen Wang. 2011 Gill arch and hyoid arch diversity and sypriniform phylogenty: Distributed integration of morphology and web-based tools. Zootaxa 2877: 1-40.

Mabee, P.M., Arratia, G., Coburn, M., Haendel, M., Hilton, E.J., Lundberg, J.G., Mayden, R.L., Rios, N., and Westerfield, M. (2007) Connecting evolutionary morphology to genomics using ontologies: a case study from Cypriniformes including zebrafish. J. Exp. Zoolog. B Mol. Dev. Evol. 308(5): 655-668.


1997-2000. Master of Science, University of New Orleans
Thesis: Life History And Feeding Ecology of Atlantic Croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, in Lake Pontchartrain.
Major Advisor: Dr. Robert C. Cashner

1992-1996. Bachelor of Science, University of New Orleans