In 1835 he was sent on a mission (Tea Committee) to identify if tea could be grown in north-eastern India along with Nathaniel Wallich and William Griffith. This mission ran into troubles with the members of the group.
McClelland was appointed 1836 as the secretary of the "Coal Committee", the forerunner of the Geological Survey of India (GSI), formed to explore possibilities to exploit Indian coal. He was the first to propose hiring professional geologists for the task. He was also involved in surveys of forests and his reports led to the establishment of the Forest Department in India.
He also served as an interim superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden from 1846 to 1847 and was editor of the Calcutta Journal of Natural History from 1841–1847.
McClelland is commemorated in the name of the mountain bulbul, Ixos mcclellandii.
- McClelland J (1839). "Indian Cyprinidae". Asiatic Researches 19: 217–471.
- Riddick, John F. (1998). Who Was Who in British India. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.
- Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("MacClelland", p. 164).
- Dey, Subhas C. (1984). "Ichthyological developments in Assam during Nineteenth Century". Indian Journal of History of Science 19 (4): 297–313. PDF Archived 2013-01-08 at the Wayback Machine
- IPNI. McClell.
- Desmond, Ray (1994). The European Discovery of the Indian Flora. Oxford University Press.
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