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Don Nelson

UGA Arch
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:

Nelson, D.R., B. Bledsoe, S. Ferreira, and N. Nibbelink. 2020. The Potential of Nature-based Solutions for water sustainability. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.45:49-55.

De Azevedo Reis, G., F.A. de Souza Filho, D.R. Nelson, R.V. Rocha and S.M.O. da Silva (2020). Development of a vulnerability to drought index using MCDM and GIS. Natural Disasters.

Nelson, D.R., Bledsoe, B., and M Shepherd. 2020. From hubris to humility: Transcending original sin in managing hydroclimate risk management. Anthropocene.

Chin, A., X. Cui, L. Gillson, D.R. Nelson, M. P. Taylor, V. Vanacker and E. Wang (2020). "Anthropocene in an age of pandemics." Anthropocene.

King, E., Nelson, D.R., and J.R. McGreevy. 2019. Advancing the integration of ecosystem services and livelihood adaptation. Environmental Research Letters.

Coughlan, M and D.R. Nelson. 2019. Geostatistical analysis of historical contingency and land use footprints in the prehistoric settlement dynamics of the South Carolina Piedmont, North America. Journal of Archaeological Science 107:1-9.

Unks, R., King, E., Nelson, D.R., Wachira, N.P., and L. German. 2019. Constraints, multiple stressors, and stratified adaptation: pastoralist livelihood vulnerability in a semi-arid wildlife conservation context in Central Kenya. Global Environmental Change. 54:124-134.

Unks, R., King, E., German, L. Wachira, N.P., and D.R. Nelson. 2019. Unevenness in scale mismatches: institutional change and pastoralist livelihoods in Laikipia, Kenya. Geoforum. 99:74-87.

Maione, C., Nelson, D.R., and R.M. Barbosa. 2019. Research on social data by means of cluster analysis. Applied Computing and Informatics. 15(2):153-162. doi:10.1016/j.aci.2018.02.003

Coughlan, M., and D.R. Nelson. 2018. Legacy effects of prehistoric Native American niche construction on Euro-American settlement in the South Carolina Piedmont. PLOS ONE. 13(3): e0195036.

Delaney, A., T. Evans, J. McGreevy, J. Blekking, T. Schlachter, K. Korhonen-Kurki, P. A. Tamás, T. A. Crane, H. Eakin, W. Förch, L. Jones, D.R. Nelson, C. Oberlack, and M. Purdon. 2018. Governance of food systems across scales in times of social-ecological change: a review of indicators." Food Security 10(2): 287-310.



Articles Featuring Don Nelson
Monday, August 23, 2021 - 10:15am

Congratulations to Dr. Don Nelson on receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation for project titled, "Landscape Exchange Network for Socio-environmental systems (LENS)!" Dr.

Friday, October 16, 2020 - 1:19pm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the University of Georgia (UGA) recently announced a partnership that connects the interdisciplinary expertise of UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems (IRIS), with the vast on-the-ground experience of…

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