Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies

Image: Ripples on water

SF State's bayside marine and estuarine research facility.

Frances Wilkerson - Adjunct Professor & Sr. Research Scientist

Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography
Romberg Tiburon Center and Department of Biology

Phone: (415) 338-3519

Dr. Wilkerson

Research Interests

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 the ocean 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. This involves measuring nutrient uptake and assimilation using both traditional isotopic 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 jelly fish, giant clams and anemones.

Selected Papers

Armbrust et al., (incl. Wilkerson). 2004. The genome of the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana-ecology, evolution and metabolism. Science. 306: 79-86.


Hogue, V., F.P. Wilkerson and R.C. Dugdale. 2005 Effects of ultraviolet-B radiation on natural phytoplankton assemblages in central San Francisco Bay . Estuaries. 28: 190-204.

Takabayashi, M., F.P. Wilkerson, D. Robertson. 2005. Response of glutamine synthetase gene transcription and enzyme activity to external nitrogen sources in the diatom, Skeletonema costatum (Bacillariophyceae). J. Phycology 41: 84-94.


Wilkerson, F.P., R.C. Dugdale, V.E. Hogue and A. Marchi. 2006. Phytoplankton blooms and nitrogen productivity in San Francisco estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 29: 401-416.

Takabayashi, M., K. Lew, A. Johnson, A. Marchi, R. Dugdale, F.P. Wilkerson. 2006. The effect of nutrient availability and temperature on chain length of the diatom, Skeletonema costatum . Journal of Plankton Research 28: 831-840.


Gibson A H., B. D. Jenkins, F. P. Wilkerson, S.M. Short and J.P. Zehr. 2006. Characterization of cyanobacterial glnA gene diversity and gene expression in marine environments FEMS Microbiology Ecology 55 (3): 391-402. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2005.00050.


Wilkerson, F.P. R.C. Dugdale, A. Marchi, V. Hogue, A. Lassiter. The phytoplankton bloom response to wind events and upwelled nutrients during the CoOP-WEST study. Deep-Sea Research II 53: 3023-3048.


Lassiter, A.M, F. Wilkerson, R.Dugdale and V. Hogue. Functiona phytoplankton groups in the CoOP_West upwelling region: the Chaeteoceros complex. Deep-Sea Research II 53: 3063-3077.


Dugdale, R.C., F.P. Wilkerson, A.Marchi and V.Hogue. Nutrient controls on new production in the Bodega Bay, California, coastal upwelling plume. Deep-Sea Research II 53: 3049-3062.


Largier J.L, C.A Lawrence, M. Roughan, D.M. Kaplan, E.P. Dever, C.E. Dorman, R.M. Kudela, S.M Bollens, F.P. Wilkerson, R.C. Dugdale, L.W. Botsford, N Garfield, B. Kuebel-Cervantes, D. Koracin. 2006. WEST: a northern California study of the role of wind-driven transport in the productivity of coastal plankton communities. Deep-Sea Research II 53: 2833-2849.



Dugdale, R.C., F. P. Wilkerson, F.Chai, R. Feely. 2007 Size fractionated nitrogen uptake measurements in the Equatorial Pacific and confirmation of the low Si-HNLC condition. Global Biogochemical Cycles, 21, No 2 GB2005 doi:10.1029/2006GB002722.


Dugdale, R.C., F.P. Wilkerson, V.E. Hogue and A. Marchi. 2007. The role of ammonium and nitrate in spring phytoplankton bloom development in San Francisco Bay. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 73: 17-29.


Wilkerson, F. and R.,C. Dugdale. 2007. Nitrogen in Coastal Upwelling. Book Chapter in Nitrogen in the Sea (Carpenter, E., Capone, D., Bronk,, Mullholland, M, eds).


Wilkerson, F.P. and R.C. Dugdale. 2008. Coastal Upwelling. In: “Nitrogen in the Marine Environment “, Capone et al. (eds). Elsevier Press, pp 765-801.

Dugdale, R, F. Chai, R. Feely, C. Measures, A. Parker, F. Wilkerson. 2010. The regulation of equatorial Pacific new production and pCO2 by silicate-limited diatoms, Deep-Sea Research II doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.08.008

Parker, A.E., F. Wilkerson, R.C. Dugdale, A. Marchi, V. Hogue, M. Landry and A.G. Taylor. 2010. Spatial patterns of nitrogen uptake and phytoplankton in the equatorial upwelling zone (110ºW–140ºW) during 2004 and 2005. Deep Sea Research. II doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.08

Strutton, P.G., A. Palacz, R.C. Dugdale, F. Chai, A. Marchi, A. Parker, V. Hogue, F. Wilkerson. 2010. The impact of equatorial Pacific tropical instability waves on hydrography and nutrients: 2004-2005. Deep-Sea Research II doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2010.08.015.


Peter G. Strutton, Artur P. Palacz, Richard C. Dugdale, Fei Chai, Al Marchi, Alex E. Parker, Victoria Hogue, Frances P. Wilkerson. 2011. The impact of equatorial Pacific tropical instability waves on hydrography and nutrients: 2004-2005, Pages 284-295. DeepSea Research II. Volume 58, Issues 3-4.



Alexander E. Parker, Frances P. Wilkerson, Richard C. Dugdale, Al M. Marchi, Victoria E. Hogue, Michael R. Landry, Andrew G. Taylor. 2011. Spatial patterns of nitrogen uptake and phytoplankton in the equatorial upwelling zone (110°W–140°W) during 2004 and 2005, Pages 417-433. DeepSea Research II. Volume 58, Issues 3-4.

Chao, Y., Farrara, J.D., Zhang, H., Zhang, Y.J., Ateljevich, E., Chai, F., Davis, C.O., Dugdale, R. and Wilkerson, F., 2017. Development, implementation, and validation of a modeling system for the San Francisco Bay and Estuary. 

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 194, pp.40-56.




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