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Don Nelson

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Professor, Anthropology
Graduate Coordinator

I didn’t always plan to be an anthropologist. However, during an undergrad anthropology course I realized that the field of anthropology would provide an excellent arena to pursue my innate curiosity about the diversity of people and their interactions with each other and their environments. My goal as an anthropologist is to pursue research that is intellectually challenging and that enhances our abilities to resolve complex social and environmental issues. My intellectual interests span scales that include individual households, communities, watersheds, regions, and nations. I also am an ardent believer in an interdisciplinary approach to framing and exploring research questions.

In my professional life I have worked extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a particular focus in Northeast Brazil and the Brazilian Amazon. I have also been involved with work in Africa including the countries of Mozambique, Angola, and The Comoros. I use a range of participatory methodologies as well as quantitative tools in my research, which include GIS and remote sensing. My research explores relationships between humans, climate and their natural environments.


PhD, Anthropology (with minor in Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis), University of Arizona, 2005

Research Interests:
  • Vulnerability and adaptation studies 
  • Food and water security 
  • Global climate and environmental change
  • Land-use and land-cover change
  • Water governance and ethics
  • International development  
Selected Publications:

Coughlan, M. R., & Nelson, D. R. 2018. Influences of Native American land use on the Colonial Euro-American settlement of the South Carolina Piedmont. PLOS ONE13(3), 23 pages. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0195036

Nelson, D. R., Lemos, M. C., Eakin, H., & Lo, Y.-J. 2016. The limits of poverty reduction in support of climate change adaptation. Environmental Research Letters, 11(9), 094011. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/9/094011

Nelson, D. R. 2011. Adaptation and resilience: responding to a changing climate. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 2(1), 113–120. doi:10.1002/wcc.91

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