Rob Nelson is a biologist and Emmy award winning science communicator who currently acts as the director of the non-profit, Untamed Science. He is the lead creative director and producer for the video content developed through the US branch of the company. He also writes and coordinates much of the content for the website. Rob’s real passion lies in educating people about the natural world and helping people tell their own stories about it. These passions have led him to take Untamed Science into classrooms via Pearson Publishing (reaching nearly 6 million students a year), on Youtube via their science channel and via science filmmaking tutorials.
Rob began his career as a marine scientist. He earned a bachelors degree in Marine Science from the University of Miami. He spent a year studying in Australia at James Cook University in 1999 where he met fellow producer and co-host Jonas Stenstrom. He later got a masters degree at the University of Hawaii where he studied the behavioral and population ecology of the Hawaiian Shrimp Goby and how they interact with predators like hammerhead sharks.
Rob’s time in Hawaii was spent doing research and making films of both his and his colleagues findings. Since he enjoyed science and filmmaking he decided to mold both passions together and got accepted to do a masters in Science Filmmaking at Montana State University’s Science and Natural History Filmmaking Program.
Read more about how Rob got started in wildlife filmmaking
Rob on TV
Rob debuted his hosting career with the hit show on Animal Planet: Life After – Chernobyl. From there he hosted 2 seasons of Science Channel’s Secrets of the Underground and Discovery Channel’s Man-eating Python of Sulawesi. He was also an on-camera expert for What on Earth (5 seasons), Strange Evidence, the Nat Geo Wild show Worlds Weirdest, and National Geographic’s Animals Gone Wild. Rob has also co-hosted DNews with Julia Wilde.
Rob in Education
Besides being one of the faces for the 2008-20013 Untamed Science series in the Pearson Science textbooks, Rob has made a name for himself in the world of outdoor education. If you take a boating, hunting, archery, skydiving, ATV, snowmobile or paddle-sports course in the US, you’ll see Rob presenting the material via his work with Kalkomey and Skydive Chicago.
Rob is also the lead director for the Untamed Science and 52Things Youtube series. Here are a few snippets from that.
Rob and Science Communication
Rob is a huge advocate for increasing science education in the world. He gives talks about the importance of increasing the storytelling to the public by scientists. Here is a talk he gave at the UNC Climate Change Symposium.
Rob Nelson: Sports, and Sport Science
Rob has worked hard to combine extreme sports with science. The reason for this is that Rob has always wanted to reach the kids at the back of the class – the kids that aren’t already interested in science. He has skills in multiple sports that the team has used to tell the science stories including whitewater kayaking, snowboarding, SCUBA diving, hang gliding, skydiving, wake-boarding, cross-country skiing, slalom skiing, bare-footing, open ocean swimming, parkor, road cycling and mountain biking. We asked Rob to explain why he tries to incorporate some sort of extreme sport into every video.
“I don’t include these sports in our videos as a kind of cheesy, extreme intro. I include some of the the sports I enjoy because I both love doing them and I think it’s a great way to explain the science. It’s also a great excuse to get out and do some of these activities while making a video. I also want people to realize that you can do activities like this while thinking about the science involved in it. Some of the videos we do have a perfect connection to the science. For instance, Jonas, Haley and I took up skydiving with the intent to tell the story of gravity. What a better visual than the two of us falling through the sky! Prep for that video alone got us to almost 200 skydives.”
“I also think that most of the sports that we call extreme sports, aren’t really all that extreme. Everybody can do them – it’s just not as mainstream. Besides the science, we wanted to show students that they can do these sports too. Take hang-gliding for instance. It’s a great sport and the equipment is relatively simple. The hang-gliding experts I talked to however, said that participation in the sport is dropping. They’re not sure why, other than the fact that people just don’t know about it. We have a great ability in these videos to get some of these sports into the eyes of the public and we’re happy that we can find good ways to do it. Hang-gliding by the way, is a great sport to explain concepts of the atmosphere and air currents!”
Recently, Rob has gotten into documenting sport science for athletes through his show, Sportology. A parkor accident made it so that Rob couldn’t run anymore. This need to understand the science made him seek out and try to find solutions for other athletes. This video is explains that story:
Rob and Haley Nelson – A filmmaking and science team
In 2010 Rob got married to Haley Chamberlain (now Haley Chamberlain Nelson). They work together, creating science and nature videos everywhere they go.
As a father, husband, filmmaker, biologist and educator, there are certain things that Rob has learned along the way. This video encapsulates much of that philosophy
Rob’s Early Awards via Untamed Science
Midwest Regional Emmy: Mysteries of the Driftless (2014)
Jackson Hole Media Festival: Winner Special Jury Award (2014)
IWFF : Winner of Best Internet Program (2011)
JHWFF Finalist : Best Short Short (2011)
JHWFF Panelist : Contemporary Funding and Distribution (2011)
Wildscreen Panelist: Breaking out of the Box (2006)
Smithsonian Internship grantee (2007)
JHWFF Finalist Ecogeeks Podcasts (2007)
JHWFF Panelist: Science for the Next Generation (2007)
JHWFF Panelist: Video in the Classroom (2007)
Honorable Mention: Blue Film Festival – Untamed Science (2009)
Rob’s Partners, Clients and Employers via Untamed Science
Nat Geo Wild
US Forest Service
North Carolina State University
University of North Carolina
California Academy of Sciences
Mote Marine Laboratory
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Mississippi Valley Conservancy
Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
Save Our Seas
Pearson Education Publishing
American Chemical Society
National Science Foundation
New York State DNR
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute: Panama
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission
University of Gothenburg
University of Hawaii at Manoa
South Carolina DNR
Rob Nelson’s Research
- What makes a science video effective in today’s American classroom? by Rob Nelson
- White Squirrel Abundance by Rob Nelson
- The Bugs of Your Home – via a collaboration with Cal Academy
- The Amazing Shrimp Goby – Hawaii Research by Rob Nelson
- How Scientists Should Communicate Science