About

My passion is sustainable management of land and water. We need better understanding of agroecosystem functioning, and innovative approaches and tools to improve management practices. The challenges and opportunities are particularly large in the tropics due to the diversity and value of ecosystems and land, and rapidly growing populations, economies and inequities.

My current research focusses on improving food production, soil condition, runoff water quality and the greenhouse gas balance in tropical agricultural systems, through better understanding of plant- soil processes and ecology, and assessment of alternative management practices. I also maintain a keen interest in the nature and roles of soil organic matter and the behaviour and management of acidic, saline and sodic soils.

Teaching
  • EA2007: Soil Properties and Processes for Management (Level 2; CNS & TSV)
  • EA3007: Land and Water Management (Level 3; CNS)
  • EA3207: Soil Properties and Processes (Level 3; CNS & TSV)
  • EA5017: Soil Properties and Processes (Level 5; CNS & TSV)
  • EV1005: Environmental Processes and Global Change (Level 1; CNS)
  • EV2401: Australian Landscape Processes and Evolution (Level 2; CNS & TSV)
Interests
Research
  • Soil amendments and enhanced efficiency fertilisers for optimising production and environmental impact in tropical cropping systems
  • Modelling effects of environment and management on soil condition and nitrogen losses in oil palm plantations
  • Understanding and managing effects of soil physicochemical conditions on soil biological health, particularly suppressiveness/ conduciveness to Panama disease in bananas
  • Social innovations to optimise cocoa-food crop and oil palm-food crop systems
Teaching
  • Soil matters: it is the most biologically diverse and active part of the earth, where minerals, water, air and living things interact in complex and fascinating ways that are critical for human well-being and ecosystem functioning. Having a good grasp of soil properties and processes is invaluable for graduates in environmental science and management.
Experience
  • 2015 to present - Associate Professor, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2010 to 2014 - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2004 to 2009 - Lecturer/Senior Lecturer (50%), James Cook University (Cairns, Australia)
  • 2004 to 2009 - Senior Scientist (50%), Department of Natural Resources and Mines (Mareeba, Australia)
  • 2001 to 2003 - Senior Agronomist, PNG Oil Palm Research Association (Papua New Guinea)
  • 1999 to 2001 - Research Scientist, CSIRO (Townsville, Australia)
  • 1997 to 1999 - Research Officer, BSES/CRC Sugar (Ayr, Australia)
  • 1993 to 1996 - PhD candidate, University of Adelaide (Adelaide, Australia)
  • 1991 to 1992 - Research Officer, INRA (Dijon, France)
  • 1991 - Technical Officer, Swedish Uni of Agricultural Sciences (Uppsala, Sweden)
  • 1987 to 1990 - Research Officer, Australian Centre for Water Treatment and Water Quality Research (Adelaide, Australia)
Socio-Economic Objectives
Honours
Awards
  • 2012 - Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (Australian Office for Learning & Teaching and JCU)
Fellowships
  • 2015 - Fellow, The Cairns Institute
Publications

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters
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ResearchOnline@JCU stores 118+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Paul Nelson from 1990 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Leverhulme Trust - Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation

Sequestering carbon and improving sugarcane productivity by enhanced weathering of basalt

Indicative Funding
$479,169 over 5 years (administered by University of Sheffield)
Summary
Arresting the build-up of atmospheric CO2 is one of humanity's biggest challenges. In geological time, the weathering of rocks consumes CO2, which is then sequestered as limestone in the ocean, but the natural rate of this process is very slow. In this project we will determine the feasibility of accelerating weathering by introducing crushed basalt (a common and easily weathered rock) into the place on earth with highest CO2 production and potential weathering rates - topsoil in the humid tropics. We will also examine the effects on soil condition and crop growth, which are likely to be beneficial.
Investigators
Paul Nelson, Michael Bird and David J Beerling (College of Science & Engineering and University of Sheffield)
Keywords
Carbon sequestration; Soil Fertility; Sugarcane; Water Quality; Great Barrier Reef; Agricultural Sustainability

Horticulture Innovation Australia - Research Grant

Activity 2.6 (Banana soil physico-chemical properties) of 'Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 4 Research program (BA14014)'

Indicative Funding
$320,000 over 4 years (administered by DAF)
Summary
The project will determine the influence of soil physiocochemical conditions on growth and infectivity of the banana disease-causing fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Cubense (Foc. Foc is one of the world's most destructive banana diseases and Tropical Race 4, which attacks the Cavendish variety, was recently detected in the Tully valley in the heart of the North Queensland banana production region. This project is part of a larger program aimed at providing new information and practices to address key areas of need with a medium to long-term view of developing management practices for banana growers affected by Tropical Race 4.
Investigators
Paul Nelson and Rosalie Hocking in collaboration with Tony Pattison and Anna McBean (College of Science & Engineering, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry)
Keywords
Soil Chemistry; banana disease; sil physics; Fusarium oxysporum (Netriaceae); soil biology; agricultural soil management

ACIAR - Research Grant

Strengthening Livelihoods for Food Security Amongst Cocoa and Oil Palm Farming Communities in Papua New Guinea

Indicative Funding
$63,963 over 4 years (administered by Curtin University of Technology)
Summary
This project addresses rising food insecurity amongst smallholder cocoa and oil palm households in Papua New Guinea. The capacity of these households to grow or buy food is declining due to increasing populations and decreasing per-capita income in oil palm-growing communities and the spread of coco pod borer in cocoa-growing areas. The project objectives are to i) assess food security status in these communities, ii) determine the key factors influencing food security, iii) enhance food and livelihood security through strengthening food production and diversifying incomes, and iv) strengthen household and institutional capacity to address food and livelihood security.
Investigators
Gina Koczberski, George Curry, Paul Nelson, Eric Omuru and Douglas Roger (Curtin University of Technology, College of Science & Engineering, Cocoa and Coconut Institute and Oil Palm Industry Corporation)
Keywords
Mixed Cropping; Agroforestry; Farming System; Food Security; Livelihoods; Tropical Agriculture

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - Carbon Farming Initiative

Validation of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Methods in Banana and Mango Tree Crops Across Tropical Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia

Indicative Funding
$126,200 over 4 years (administered by Northern Gulf Resource Management Group)
Summary
Banana and mango are the most intensive horticultural crops in tropical Australia. Conventional management practices have depleted soil organic C and produced high N20 emissions. This project will trial soil management innovations in Qld precision agriculture and new forms of N fertiliser.
Investigators
T Hoogwerf, Geoff Dickinson, John Armour, Paul Nelson, Gavin Kay and Melissa Fraser (Northern Gulf Resource Management Group, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Department of Natural Resources and Mines, College of Science & Engineering, Terrain Natural Resource Management (Wet Tropics), NT Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries and Mines)
Keywords
Mango; Banana; Fertiliser management; Carbon Sequestration; Greenhouse gas emissions; Mulch

Office for Learning and Teaching - Extension Grants

Exploring field spaces as learning places: Optimising the impact of field-based learning on the student experience

Indicative Funding
$30,000 over 2 years
Summary
The project aim is to improve the field-based learning experience for students. The team includes staff from multiple disciplines in the new CMES and CTSE Colleges. The range of field-based learning activities undertaken in the two colleges will be identified and mapped to the curriculum in nominated courses. Focus groups will be held with academics and students to gather data. Findings will be shared with the broader university community through a collaborative symposium. Strategies for effective practice in field-based learning and teaching will be applied to nominated courses and the impact on student learning evaluated. The project deliverables will include a university-wide symposium, website and online guide to field-based learning.
Investigators
Phil Turner, Janet Buchan, Paul Nelson, Lin Schwarzkopf, Janine Sheaves, Orpha Bellwood, Carl Spandler, Michelle Lasen and Tanya Doyle (College of Science & Engineering, College of Arts and Society & Education)
Keywords
Learning and teaching; Learning spaces; Field based learning; Science Education

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Response and vulnerability of tropical rainforest plants to experimental drought

Indicative Funding
$365,000 over 3 years
Summary
How will tropical forests respond if droughts should increase in the future? In a globally unique experiment, we will induce artificial rough in an Australian tropical rainforest and then use a canopy crane to assess plant responses at all vertical forest layers. We will contrast demographic and physiological responses of an array of plant species and functional groups, compared to nearby experimental-control plots where tree growth, composition, soil water and atmospheric exchange have been monitored since 1999. Drought responses for key species and functional groups will be compared with their distributions across regional rainfall gradients to yield novel insights into potential rainforest responses to future climate change.
Investigators
Susan Laurance, Joe Holtum, Bill Laurance and Paul Nelson in collaboration with Jonathan Lloyd and Maurizio Mencuccini (College of Science & Engineering, University of Leeds and University of Edinburgh)
Keywords
rainforest ecology; climate change adaptations; Ecophysiology
Supervision

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

Current
  • Carbon Cycle Processes in Tropical Savannas of Far North Queensland, Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Biochar Soil Fertility and Carbon Sequestration in the Tropics (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Automatic Generation of Geometry for Simulation and Games (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Soil Physiochemical Traits for Reducing Panama Disease in Banana Cultivation (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Modelling the Nitrogen Budget of Oil Palm Plantations to Reduce Uncertainty in Life Cycle Assesment. Case Study in Sumatra, Indonesia. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Soil Carbon Dynamics Under Oil Palm Plantations. (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Maximizing Nutrient Use and Soil Fertility in Smallholder Coffee and Food Garden Systems in Papua New Guinea by Managing Nutrient Stocks and Movement (Masters , Primary Advisor)
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Soil in Mango and Banana fields: Effects of Nitrogen Fertiliser Type and Mulching (Masters , Primary Advisor)
Completed
Data

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit the JCU Research Data Catalogue.

Collaboration

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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