American Geographical Society Council member Dr. Frederick (‘Fritz’) Nelson is a cryospheric scientist specializing in permafrost and the landforms of cold environments. His research can be grouped into several themes: (1) evolution of cold, nonglacial landscapes; (2) the impacts of climatic change in permafrost environments; (3) terrain-climate interactions (topoclimate); and (4) the history of American geography and cold-regions science. He has conducted field research in northern Alaska almost continuously since the late 1970s. In addition to Alaska, his scientific work has taken him to Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet, New Zealand, northwestern Canada, and the Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. With long-term colleague K.M. Hinkel (University of Cincinnati), Nelson operates a comprehensive field climatological program in northern Michigan’s Huron Mountain Club, one of the largest areas of old-growth forest in the eastern United States.
Dr. Nelson is author or co-author of eight monographs and edited volumes, and more than 140 scientific papers in peer-reviewed outlets. His work appears in some of the most influential scientific publications, among them Nature, Science, Geophysical Research Letters, Journal of Geophysical Research, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, and Climatic Change.
Nelson earned a B.S. from Northern Michigan University, an M.S. from Michigan State University, and the Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. All of his degrees are in Geography. He has served as a tenured professor at Rutgers University, the State University at Albany, and at the University of Delaware. He retired from teaching 2013 and was given the title Professor Emeritus at Delaware. He is currently an affiliate of the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Research Associate in the Department of Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography at Michigan State University. He has lectured extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia, including invited plenary presentations and public lectures at conferences in China, the United Kingdom, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and the United States.
Nelson currently co-directs (with N.I. Shiklomanov, George Washington University and A.E. Klene, University of Montana) the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring (CALM) program, an international global-change monitoring program that involves scientists from 15 countries and more than 200 permafrost observatories operating in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Tibetan Plateau, and several high-elevation regions in the mid-latitudes. With several other CALM investigators, Nelson recently published a study in which differential GPS was used to demonstrate widespread surface subsidence in areas of northern Alaska underlain by ice-rich permafrost.
Nelson has served the academic and scientific communities in many positions, among them President of the U.S. Permafrost Association, member of the Board of Governors of the Arctic Institute of North America, Councilor and Vice-President of the American Geographical Society, Councilor of the International Permafrost Association, as a member of the boards of several scientific and geographical journals, and as chair of numerous working groups and committees in international organizations. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Northern Michigan University, and is currently a Trustee of the NMU Foundation. He was Contributing Author or Lead Author in the Assessment Reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1989, 1995, 2001, and 2007. The 2007 IPCC group shared the Nobel Peace Prize with U.S. Vice-President Al Gore.
Besides AGS, Nelson is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Arctic Institute of North America, and the Association of American Geographers. Since 2004, he has been a National Fellow of the Explorers Club of New York City.
Written by Elise Mazur, 7/14/2015