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Craig Nelson
Associate Researcher, Dept of Oceanography; C-MORE; Sustainability Faculty
PhD Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara 2008
BA Integrative Biology and English, University of California, Berkeley 1998
Phone: (808) 956-6859
Fax: (808) 956-0581

2525 Correa Road, HIG 211
Honolulu, HI 96822

Craig Nelson started as an Assistant Researcher in the Fall of 2013 with the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) via a joint appointment to the Department of Oceanography and UH Sea Grant. Prior to joining the UH faculty, Craig was a researcher with the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara from 2008-2012. He earned his BA in Integrative Biology and English from UC Berkeley in 1998 and his PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology from UC Santa Barbara in 2008. His academic career has followed a circuitous route, including research stints in forestry, entomology, medicine, limnology, and his present disciplinary emphasis of coastal microbial oceanography.

Craig’s research lies at the interface of microbial ecology and ecosystem science, specializing in the structure and function of natural microbial communities in aquatic habitats such as coral reefs, lakes, streams, and the open ocean. By studying microorganisms such as Bacteria and Archaea in the context of the ecosystems which they inhabit, his research broadly aims to simultaneously shed light on their immense undiscovered diversity and illustrate their collective role in controlling the key elemental transformations that sustain life on Earth. His work over the past decade has focused on culture-independent characterization of natural bacterial communities, including taxonomic and metagenomic structure and measurement of biogeochemical processes in the surrounding environment which regulate and are regulated by these microbes. His research often seeks to integrate microbial ecology with relevant ecological problems such as nutrient pollution, land use change, and aquatic pathogen proliferation. He combines extensive field surveys with laboratory and in situ experimentation to link bacterial identity to function, relying heavily on next-generation molecular approaches, bioinformatics, and multivariate statistics to integrate microbiology with spatial and temporal environmental context. Much of Craig’s published work has sought to link the dynamics of bacterial communities with important but poorly understood aspects of freshwater and marine carbon cycling, including dissolved organic matter utilization, ecosystem metabolic balance, and the role of microbes in food webs.

Some motivating questions underlying past and current research projects include…

What is the role of bacteria in coral health and reef metabolism? How do bacteria in coral reefs differ from the surrounding ocean? Are bacteria facilitating the spread of algae on reefs worldwide?

What do bacteria in the ocean eat? Is the diversity of these bacterial communities determined by the types of organic matter on which they specialize? Can we track different organic compounds into specific bacterial lineages?

How do bacterial communities change as water flows through watersheds? How does land use change the types of bacteria in watersheds? How do these changes impact the bacteria released into coastal habitats?