Chad Nelson

Chad Nelson

Environmental Director, Surfider Foundation

MEM '96

Dr. Chad Nelsen is the Environmental Director at the Surfrider Foundation where he has worked since 1998. At Surfrider, Chad is responsible for strategic guidance on coastal and ocean environmental campaigns at the local through international level on topics ranging from ocean planning, water quality, coastal management and protection of beach access and coastal recreation. He also oversees a number of environmental programs that include volunteer water quality monitoring, ocean friendly landscaping, and education and outreach programs.

Prior to joining Surfrider, Chad was a NOAA Coastal Zone Management Fellow working with Oregon's state coastal zone management program. He is an alumnus of Brown University and Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment and earned a Doctorate from UCLA in the Environmental Science and Engineering program focusing the economics of coastal recreation and surfing. He helped to develop the field of “surfonomics” – an extension of natural resource economics focused on the values of surfing. He was one of the first to estimate the non-market value of surfing through his research at Trestles in Southern California.

He led a team that earned recognition from the US Coral Reef Task Force for coral reef conservation in Puerto Rico, where they established the first marine reserve on the mainland of Puerto Rico. Chad is currently President of Save the Waves, a small international coastal protection organization, and a Director of The Coastal Society. He's an avid surfer and beach enthusiast who lives in Laguna Beach with his family.

"Without question, the single most important step I took towards my career in ocean and coastal conservation was to attend the Nicholas School of the Environment. Not only did I gain important understanding about the intersection of science and policy, it opened my eyes to numerous job opportunities in my field, and gave me the confidence to seek those out."