Position: Emeritus Professor, University of Waikato
Field: Sedimentary geology
Born and raised in Wellington, Professor Cam Nelson developed a love of landscapes from a very early age.
That inquisitiveness and love of the outdoors took Cam to Victoria University of Wellington where he graduated with an honours degree in geology in 1965.
After 4 years as a junior lecturer in geology at University of Auckland in the late 1960s and a PhD study on the nature and origin of limestones in the King Country, Cam moved to the University of Waikato’s newly formed School of Science in 1971 as its founding geologist.
Cam’s research has centred on the discovery that limestone can form in colder waters, not just in warm tropical seas as was originally thought. His investigations into these cold-water formations, known as cool-water or temperate carbonates, have enabled him to define the key sedimentological and chemical differences between these deposits and those of tropical limestones. The results have had major implications for correctly interpreting the origin and significance of all limestones in the ancient rock record both from a theoretical perspective and in an applied sense.
We’ve explored together, pondered questions together and now they’re out in the world applying their geological knowledge. That’s a tremendous sense of achievement.
Cam has received several awards related to his career in sedimentary geology, including the Hochstetter Lecturer (1984) and McKay Hammer Award (1991) of the Geological Society of New Zealand, election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1995 and receipt of the Hutton Medal (Earth Sciences) from the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2004.
Although Cam officially retired in June 2012, after 40 years of dedicated service, he still plays an active role in the geology field. Having taught hundreds of bachelor’s level students and been involved in the supervision of about 150 completed MSc and PhD degree students, he says, “It’s a wonderful feeling to reflect and know they’ve all taken onboard some of my enthusiasm for the geosciences.”
This article is based on information current in 2012 and 2018.