Margaret Nelson

  • Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Vice Dean, Barrett, The Honors College
  • Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Barrett, The Honors College
Arizona State University
PO Box 871612
Tempe, AZ 85287-1612


Margaret Nelson is a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Vice Dean of Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. She has been recognized for her teaching excellence as ASASU Centennial Professor, Parents Association Professor of the Year, and ASU President's Professor. Her teaching addresses critical thinking, research skills and collaboration across traditional academic disciplines. In addition, she includes undergraduate and graduate students in her archaeological research. She has conducted research in the Mimbres region of southwest New Mexico for over 30 years, collaborating for the past 20 years with Dr. Michelle Hegmon. Their work focuses primarily on the Classic to Postclassic transformation. Nelson's 1999 book Mimbres During the 12th Century: Abandonment, Continuity, and Reorganization derives from that research. Her book Mimbres Lives and Landscapes, edited with Hegmon, brings many specialists together in a popular book about archaeology and Mimbres culture. She currently leads an interdisciplinary research team addressing a range of social-ecological issues concerning resilience and sustainability for prehistoric small-scale farmers in the U.S. Southwest (600-1500 CE) and the lessons learned from this research for contemporary issues of resilience and sustainability. Their work has been submitted as a Special Feature for the journal Ecology and Society. Nelson was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008.


archaeology; resilience and vulnerability; transformation; socioecology


PhD, Anthropology, University of California - Santa Barbara, 1981

BA, Anthropology (Honors), Occidental College, 1973

Journal Articles


Collette, B. B., K. E. Carpenter, B. A. Polidoro, M. J. Juan-Jorda, A. Boustany, D. J. Die, C. Elfes, E. Z. Fox, J. Graves, L. R. Harrison, T. J. McManus, C. V. Minte-Vera, M. C. Nelson, V. Restrepo, J. Schratwieser, C. L. Sun, A. Amorim, M. Brick Peres, C. Canales, E. Cardenas, S. K. Chang, W. C. Chiang, N. de Oliveira Leite Jr, H. Harwell, R. Lessa, F. L. Fredou, H. A. Oxenford, R. Serra, K. T. Shao, R. Sumalia, S. P. Wang, G. Watson and E. Yanez. 2011. High values and long life—double jeopardy for tunas and billfishes. Science 333:291-292. DOI: 10.1126/science.1208730. (link)

Schoon, M. L., C. Fabricius, J. M. Anderies and M. C. Nelson. 2011. Synthesis: Vulnerability, traps, and transformations – long-term perspectives from archaeology. Ecology and Society 16(2):Art. 24. (link)

Spielmann, K. A., M. C. Nelson, S. E. Ingram and M. A. Peeples. 2011. Sustainable small-scale agriculture in semi-arid environments. Ecology and Society 16(1):. DOI: (link)

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Nelson, M. C. and C. Strawhacker eds. 2011. Movement, Connectivity, and Landscape Change in the Ancient Southwest. University Press of Colorado. Boulder.


Nelson, M. C. and C. A. Strawhacker eds. 2010. Changing histories, landscapes and perspectives: The 20th Anniversary Southwest Symposium. University of Colorado Press. Boulder.

Book Chapters

In Press

Swanson, S., R. Anyon, M. C. Nelson and S. Ventre. In Press. Pithouse villages, population dynamics and landscape use in the Southern Mogollon region, AD 200-900. Amerind Foundation, Dragoon, AZ; University of New Mexico Press.


Nelson, M. C., M. Hegmon, K. W. Kintigh, A. P. Kinzig, B. A. Nelson, J. M. Anderies, D. A. Abbott, K. A. Spielmann, S. E. Ingram, M. A. Peeples, S. A. Kulow, C. A. Strawhacker and C. A. Meegan. 2012. Long-term vulnerability and resilience: Three examples from archaeological study in the Southwestern U.S. and Northern Mexico. In: Cooper, J. and P. Sheets eds., Learning to Live with Climate Change: Understanding Hazards, Mitigating Impacts, Avoiding Disasters.


Spielmann, K. A., M. C. Nelson, S. E. Ingram and M. A. Peeples. 2011. Mitigating environmental risk in the US Southwest. Pp. 180-211 In: Miller, N. F., K. M. Moore and K. Ryan eds., Sustainable Lifeways: Cultural persistence in an ever-changing environment. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Strawhacker, C. A., M. Hegmon, M. C. Nelson, M. Peeples, K. G. Schollmeyer and S. Swanson. 2008. Interaction and diversity in the Postclassic Mimbres World: Results of the 2007 field season. Poster presented March 19 at the 20th Anniversary Southwest Symposium, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.


Elliott, M., P. Turkon, J. Riel-Salvatore and M. C. Nelson. 2005. Tools of the trade? New perspectives on maguey processing in Malpaso Valley, Zacatecas, Mexico AD 500-900. Poster presented March 30-April 3 at the 70th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Salt Lake City, UT.

Nelson, M. C. and K. Schollmeyer. 2005. Contextualizing diversity. Poster presented Nonvember 30 at the 104th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Washington DC.



Ingram, S. E., A. Dugmore, J. Areborg, G. Hambrecht, M. Hegmon, K. W. Kintigh, T. H. McGovern, M. C. Nelson, R. Oram, M. Peeples, K. A. Spielmann and O. Vesteinsson. 2011. Climate hazards and social transformations in the North Atlantic region and in the U.S. Southwest, 900 to 1500 C.E. Presentation at the June 22-26 International Congress of Arctic Social Sciences Conference, Iceland.


Nelson, M. C., A. P. Kinzig, S. E. Ingram, C. Strawhacker and R. Cleland. 2010. Lessons from the past about biodiversity in social-ecological systems. Presentation October 8 associated with the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Environment Programme, Nagoya, Japan.


Hegmon, M., M. C. Nelson, M. Peeples, C. M. Meegan, S. A. Kulow and A. P. Kinzig. 2007. Human and regional-scale perspectives on social transformation in the US Southwest: Hohokam, Mimbres, and Mesa Verde. Presentation April 26-29 at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Austin, TX.

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Larson, K. L., D. D. White, P. Gober, C. W. Kirkwood, V. K. Smith, M. C. Nelson, C. L. Redman and S. K. Wittlinger. 2013. Advancing science in support of water policy and urban climate change adaptation at Arizona State University’s Decision Center for a Desert City: A synthesis of interdisciplinary research on climate, water, and decision making under uncertainty. Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University. Technical Report 13-02. (link)