Dr. Peter Nelson

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Peter NelsonPeter Nelson joined the faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the fall of 2012. Originally from Spokane, Washington, Dr. Nelson received his B.S.E. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University in 2003, his Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of California at Berkeley in 2010, and he was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Genoa (Italy) from 2011-2012. Dr. Nelson and his students use computational modeling, physical experiments, analytical theory, and field observations to address fundamental questions about geomorphology, sediment transport, hydrology, hydraulics, and morphodynamics. His work has provided mechanistic explanations of why and how the beds of gravel-bed rivers become sorted into patches of distinct grain size, how the addition of fine sediment to an immobile coarse bed can remobilize the armor layer, and how sediment supply and stratigraphy can affect the dynamics of alternate bars in gravel-bed rivers. His research has also investigated post-wildfire hydrology and sedimentation, hydrology and channel design in urbanizing watersheds, fish passage at whitewater park structures, bedrock river morphodynamics, and the effects of dams on river morphology and habitat. He serves on the SEDHYD Sedimentation Committee and on the National Reservoir Sedimentation and Sustainability Team. In 2015, Dr. Nelson received the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

Research Interests

  • Sediment transport
  • Geomorphology
  • River morphodynamics
  • Hydrology
  • Wildfire impacts

International Connections

  • Country: Italy
    Contact: University of Genoa, Research collaboration
  • Country: Canada
    Contact: Simon Fraser University, Research collaboration

Contact Information

Office Location: Engineering B212
Phone: (970) 491-5247
Fax: (970) 491-7727
Personal website
Google Scholar
Curriculum Vitae


  • B.S.E. 2003, Princeton University – Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Ph.D. 2010, University of California – Earth and Planetary Science