Administrator / Faculty

David Nelson

Director and Professor
David Nelson
Director and Professor
Appalachian Laboratory


Dr. Nelson is a Professor at the Appalachian Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Frostburg, Maryland. He is a broadly trained ecologist who uses chemical signatures called stable isotopes to investigate the effects of environmental changes on ecological and biogeochemical processes. He has worked on a variety of taxa (plants, animals, microbes) and systems (grasslands, forests, lakes, streams) across various temporal scales throughout the world. He founded and directs the Central Appalachians Stable Isotope Facility, which is housed at the Appalachian Lab. In July 2021 Dr. Nelson became Director of the Appalachian Laboratory as part of a new model that will allow faculty to rotate through leadership positions at the lab on a regular basis. As Director, he is responsible for operations and programs of the Lab, including strategic planning and implementation; faculty hiring, mentorship, and promotion; budget and resource planning; diversity, equity, and inclusion; external relations; advancement; facilities management and planning; and information technology services. 

Dr. Nelson has served as vice-chair and chair of the paleoecology section of the Ecological Society of America, as well as vice-chair of the UMCES faculty senate. He serves on the editorial boards of the journals Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and PeerJ. He is actively involved in various science outreach activities in western Maryland and nearby West Virginia. He received a B.A. in Biology from Trinity Christian College and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Illinois. He held postdoctoral positions at the University of Illinois and Harvard University. He joined the faculty of the Appalachian Lab in 2009, and was a visiting scholar at Nagoya University in Japan in spring 2017.  

Areas of Expertise

  • Stable isotope ecology
  • Ecology and evolution of C4 grasses
  • Wind-wildlife interactions
  • Watershed biogeochemistry


  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2005, Ph.D., Ecology
  • Trinity Christian College, 2001, B.A., Biology

Regularly Offered Courses