Wendy Nelson (marine scientist)

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Wendy Nelson
NationalityNew Zealand
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia
AwardsHutton Medal
Scientific career
FieldsMarine biology
ThesisAnalipus japonicus (Harv.) Wynne (Phaeophyta): studies of its biology and taxonomy (1980)

Wendy Alison Nelson MNZM is a New Zealand marine scientist and world expert in phycology. She is New Zealand's leading authority on seaweeds.[1] Nelson is particularly interested in the biosystematics of seaweeds/macroalgae of New Zealand, with research on floristics, evolution and phylogeny, as well as ecology, and life history studies of marine algae. Recently she has worked on the systematics and biology of red algae including coralline algae, distribution and diversity of seaweeds in harbours and soft sediment habitats, and seaweeds of the Ross Sea and Balleny Islands.[2]


Nelson completed a BSc at the University of Auckland, then a BSc Hons at Victoria University of Wellington, before heading to Vancouver, Canada, to do her PhD at the University of British Columbia.[3]

Professional life

Nelson started working at New Zealand's National Museum in the 1970s, where she studied with her mentor Nancy Adams.[1] She was appointed Curator of Botany at the National Museum when Nancy Adams retired in 1987.[1] From 1987 to 2002, she documented the national museum's seaweed collections, and added almost 8,000 new specimens.[1] She moved to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in 2002, where she is currently a Professor of Biology Sciences at the University of Auckland and Principal Scientist - Marine Biology.[4][5]

Nelson is currently involved in a number of different projects cataloguing and describing marine algae from around New Zealand.[6] She is also involved in the CARIM (Coastal acidification - rate, impacts and management)[7] research project funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment. The project is generating new knowledge on ocean acidification, to enhance protection and management of New Zealand coastal ecosystems.[8]

She was a member of the New Zealand Conservation Authority for 8 years.[9] In 2015 she led the Royal Society of New Zealand report on the "National Taxonomic Collections of New Zealand."[10][11] Nelson is currently the president of the International Phycological Society.[12]

Honours and awards

In the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours, Nelson was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the marine environment.[9]

In 2016, Nelson won the Royal Society of New Zealand's Hutton Medal, which is awarded for outstanding work by a researcher in New Zealand in the Earth, plant and animal sciences.[13] The Royal Society commented: "She has significantly expanded knowledge of New Zealand seaweeds and the evolutionary relationships between seaweeds worldwide. She has also campaigned against seaweed pests and advanced understanding of the ecological importance of coral seaweeds and their vulnerability to climate change."[13][14]

Selected works

Nelson, W. A. (2013). New Zealand Seaweeds: an illustrated guide. Wellington, N.Z.: Te Papa Press.

Nelson, W. A. (2012). Phylum Rhodophyta: Red algae. In D. P. Gordon (Ed.) New Zealand inventory of biodiversity. Volume three. Kingdoms. Bacteria, Protozoa, Chromista, Plantae, Fungi (pp. 327–346). Christchurch, NZ: Canterbury University Press.

Nelson, W. A., Bilewitch, J. P., & Sutherland, J. E. (2018). Distribution of the genus Zonaria (Dictyotales: Phaeophyceae) in New Zealand, and description of Zonaria cryptica sp. nov from Stewart Island. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 1-12. 10.1080/0028825X.2018.1478310

Nelson, W. A., & Sutherland, J. E. (2018). Prasionema heeschiae sp. nov. (Prasiolales, Chlorophyta) from Campbell Island, New Zealand: first record of Prasionema in the southern hemisphere. European Journal of Phycology, 53 (2), 198-207. 10.1080/09670262.2018.1423577

Nelson, W., & Sutherland, J. (2017). Predaea rosa sp. Nov. (Nemastomatales, Rhodophyta): A cool-temperate species from southern New Zealand. Phycologia, 56 (2), 167-175. 10.2216/16-81.1

Nelson, W. A., & Dalen, J. (2016). New Zealand Rhodymeniales: A New Name for Gloioderma saccatum (J. Agardh) Kylin. Cryptogamie, Algologie, 37 (3), 171-178. 10.7872/crya/v37.iss3.2016.171


  1. ^ a b c d "Nancy Adams, Wendy Nelson and the Three Kings' seaweeds". 2016-07-19. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  2. ^ "Dr Wendy Nelson". NIWA. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  3. ^ "Professor Wendy Nelson".
  4. ^ "Professor Wendy Nelson - The University of Auckland". unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  5. ^ "Dr Wendy Nelson". NIWA. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  6. ^ "Professor Wendy Nelson - The University of Auckland". unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  7. ^ "Home". CARIM. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  8. ^ "Team". CARIM. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  9. ^ a b "News: Queen's Birthday honour for Dr Wendy Nelson". NIWA.co.nz. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  10. ^ "Warning of grave threat to species collections". Radio New Zealand. 2015-12-15. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  11. ^ National Taxonomic Collections of New Zealand (December 2015). "National Taxonomic Collections in New Zealand" (PDF). Royal Society of New Zealand Report – via Royal Society of New Zealand.
  12. ^ "International Phycological Society – Promoting phycology around the world". intphycsociety.org. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  13. ^ a b "CARIM scientist Wendy Nelson wins prestigious research award". CARIM. Retrieved 2017-08-06.
  14. ^ "Celebrating New Zealand's researchers « Media Releases « News « Royal Society of New Zealand". 2016-12-18. Retrieved 2017-08-06.