Meet Darby and Geri Nelson

Meet Darby and Geri!

Photo of the people featured in this story
Geri (left) and Darby (right) make a pit stop while paddling the Minnesota River.

Darby and Geri Nelson are two of the kindest most generous people you’ll ever meet.

Darby is an aquatic ecologist, biology professor emeritus, author, and former  Minnesota state legislator who was born near Lake Vermilion and grew up in Morton, Minnesota. The son of two teachers, helping others learn is in his bones. Geri has a BS in biology and MS in gifted and talented education. She taught physical science for 25 years in the Anoka Hennepin School District. She is active in church and with many civic organizations. They met and fell in love in 1966 at the Itasca Biological Station “over a round leech with one hundred babies attached to her abdomen.” Their children and grandchildren (and cross-country skiing, for Darby) are their deepest joy.

Freshwater has had the privilege of knowing the Nelsons since 2012 when Darby joined Freshwater’s board. In recent years, inspired by their passion for education and the environment, they helped found a Freshwater student internship program. Through their support, Dr. Carrie Jennings, Freshwater’s research and policy director, has been able to collaborate with the University of Minnesota to bring new and growing internship positions to Freshwater for student learning, training, and career enhancement. It’s a program that not only helps launch careers and gives young scientists hands-on experience but also expands freshwater science and research in Minnesota. Long term, the program advances critical policy protections for the environment and public health.

Darby has published two iconic books on Minnesota’s waters: “For Love of Lakes” and “For Love of a River: The Minnesota”. Their philanthropy has traversed the region and touched countless lives and landscapes of Minnesota. The Nelsons’ profound care and commitment to students and our waters will have a transformative impact on future generations. Please join us in thanking Darby and Geri for the legacy they leave for Minnesotans, and our beloved lakes and rivers. Learn more about them here.

In the video below, check out this Earth Day event from the League of Women Voters of Minnesota, where the Nelsons talked about writing “For Love of a River: The Minnesota” and “For Love of Lakes.”

In the discussion that followed the talk, hear how panelists translate science into policy to protect Minnesota water quality.