Nancy N. Rabalais is a marine scientist who studies coastal eutrophication and oxygen deficiency, land-ocean interactions, benthic ecology, and science communication. She is recognized for her work on the area of oxygen deficient bottom waters on the northern Gulf of Mexico continental shelf. Rabalais was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, eventually settling in Corpus Christi, Texas. She graduated from Texas A&I University, Kingsville, Texas, in 1972 and 1975 with a B.S., M.S. in Biology, then a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1983. She joined the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in 1983 and was the Executive Director from 2005-2016. She moved to Louisiana State University in 2016, where she is a Professor and holds the Shell Endowed Chair in Oceanography/Wetland Sciences. She has served on numerous boards and panels for federal agencies and national organizations. She chaired the Ocean Studies Board, the National Sea Grant Advisory Board, and served on many National Research Council committees. She is a member of the National Academy of Science, a MacArthur Fellow, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union, and a Sustaining Fellow of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

Research Interests

Since the mid-1980s, Rabalais has been characterizing the dynamics of the large region in the northern Gulf of Mexico where oxygen levels are perilously low for many marine organisms. Studies linking the area to landscape use and increasing nitrogen and phosphorus delivered to the Mississippi River led to federal legislation concerning the degraded water quality and a federal/state/tribal task force to mitigate the low oxygen through nutrient management in the Mississippi River watershed. The collaborative research has spanned biological productivity, oxygen processes, physical oceanography, benthic ecology, phytoplankton ecology and nutrient limitations, palaeoecology, ocean acidification, chemical oceanography, long-term environmental trends, nutrient and carbon cycling, microbial ecology, and modelling, She maintained a 28-year ocean observing system integrating dissolved oxygen with physical, chemical, and biological measurements. Rabalais communicates the results of the research group to Congress, state and federal agencies, multiple media outlets, and helps others improve their communication skills so that science research results can be understood and appreciated by all facets of society. Her environmental science awards include the Heinz Award, Clark Prize, Rachel Carson Lecture, Roger Revelle Lecture, Ruth Patrick Award, Bostwick H. Ketchum Award, Peter Benchley Award, and Blasker Award shared with R. E. Turner.

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Primary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology

Secondary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences