Interview with Professor Takayuki Nakatsubo
Prof. Nakatsubo grew up chasing insects. Before he knew it, he found his interest expanding to all kinds of organisms and to the Earth.  The Earth is a magnificent field that excites our curiosity. On this planet, organisms stay alive and interact with each other. To clarify the overall picture of life, his research adventure continues.
Striving to understand the entire ecosystem through elucidation of the relationships among organisms
  Professor Takayuki Nakatsubo gives the impression that he is just a big kid at heart. He says that he has been extremely fond of organisms ever since he could remember.

Prof. Nakatsubo says, “When I was at kindergarten, I always enjoyed catching insects. It was when I was an elementary school pupil that I caught a wild stag beetle for the first time in my life. I can still remember that exciting moment.” The boy, who dreamed of becoming an insect expert, has now grown up to be a researcher who is involved in the study of ecosystems as a whole. He recalls that the decisive factor in selecting his future career path in this discipline was the eye-opening experience he had as a university student, during a trip to the United States, where he was inspired by Mother Nature.

“In the face of Mother Nature, I realized that I should pursue field studies. I originally liked plants as well, and I have always been interested in life forms in general,” he added.

In his ongoing research, he is mainly addressing two major themes: the High Arctic and river basins. Although these two are in complete contrast to each other, Prof. Nakatsubo studies these themes from the same perspective.
Specifically, he strives to figure out the entire ecosystem, by focusing on each life form that comprises an ecosystem and thereby accumulating his findings to clarify the ecology of individual organisms. He also minutely investigates what kind of material cycle the ecosystem has and how the material cycle varies according to environmental changes, so as to capture the entire picture.

Prof. Nakatsubo explains: “For example, a tidal estuary is home to various organisms. Among other things, crabs and snails play important roles in the material cycle. We are therefore seeking to quantify how carbon and other materials move through the research on snails. In other words, we try to quantify how organisms are related with the dynamics of elements in the ecosystem. Let’s say, when a gas exchange occurs, we measure its rate and examine what will happen if it is influenced by environmental factors, such as temperature and light. In doing so, we attempt to clarify the material flow in the ecosystem.”

Prof. Nakatsubo takes a versatile approach to conducting research on nature, and uses a variety of methods, including field measurements, laboratory experiments and clture experiments.
Two decades of research on the High Arctic-an unparalleled long-term research initiative
  He has been engaged in a research project to investigate the High Arctic. Based in northern Norway, it has been carried out through international collaboration. In this respect, Prof. Nakatsubo has published papers mainly geared for overseas readers. Despite the fact that Japan has no territory in the High Arctic, he has been continuing this research for 20 years. For its rarity, this work has attracted much attention from many quarters.

Prof. Nakatsubo points out that the polar regions are now undergoing rapid warming of the climate.

“Our data show a rapid increase in warming for the past decade. In the polar regions, global warming can be felt more clearly than in other areas. I think that it is the responsibility of scientists to find answers to the questions about how the environment is changing, and how it will change in the future. Although we cannot directly stop global warming, I believe that our research can provide necessary information to help people deepen their understanding of the changes in the environment. I will therefore continue to conduct surveys and undertake research into the High Arctic, in collaboration with researchers in Japan and overseas in the future,” says the professor.
On the other hand, another area of interest for him is conducting research on river basins that are directly related to environmental problems found around us. For this reason, Prof. Nakatsubo feels that it is necessary not only to present the research results at academic conferences, but also to disseminate relevant information to local communities in an easy-to-understand manner.

He says, “Recently I have paid attention to the problem of alien species. Notably, various alien species have been introduced to river basins, where they cause various changes. Finding solutions to this problem is not a challenge to be addressed by researchers alone. With this recognition, I try to actively participate in social activities led by Eco-net Higashi-Hiroshima and other civic groups.”
Then, what are his future goals for these two major research themes?

First, regarding his research into the High Arctic, Prof. Nakatsubo mentioned that he would like to establish a firm base for this research and pass it on to future generations.
  He continued, saying that “research in the polar region involves difficulties in terms of accessibility and takes a long time. To address these issues, we should hand down what we have accumulated so far, including the research network, to the next generation. As we have been able to undertake research based on what our predecessors had established, it is important to pass the outcomes of our own endeavors on to future generations. It is also necessary to develop human resources at the same time.”

As for his research on river basins, he said that his objectives were to incorporate his findings into practical applications while continuing his current research activities.

He says, “Since many things remain to be investigated, I will work to broaden the scope of my research and build up research outcomes. In parallel, I want to continue my activities to promote public awareness of the natural environment, by such means as providing citizens with opportunities to commune with nature. As part of these efforts, we have organized observation meetings to inspire children to love nature.”

Prof. Nakatsubo expects that his research activities and results will help encourage citizens to become more familiar with local communities, and lead to a groundswell for local revitalization.
Hoping to let students know the fun of research, which will be continued beyond generations

  Prof. Nakatsubo says, “The real thrill of research in this discipline lies in discovering unimaginable aspects of organisms.”

He continued, “In the course of research, we can find that an inconspicuous plant has a wonderful ability to do something or other, and we can discover some really marvelous phenomena. Although we usually make a calculated guess before conducting research, the results are often different from what we expect. Nothing is more interesting to me than to make such a new discovery.”

The professor also cites another joy of pursuing his research. With a smile on this face, he adds, “When I visit a field again several years after the first survey, I can look at the same field in a different way, because my understanding of individual organisms and ecosystems has deepened. In such a moment, I realize the considerable progress in my own understanding. This is also one of the true pleasures of research.”

He says that whenever he goes out, he can always encounter something that fills him with wonder and surprise. This indicates that he still remains very inquisitive, even though he is now a researcher with a solid track record.

His strong curiosity continues to drive Prof. Nakatsubo to pursue his research activities.

“I believe that research continues from one generation to another. I hope that the researchers of the next generation will inherit and further develop what we have built up so far, including our enthusiasm,” says the professor.

His hope is also reflected in the following message from him to younger generations.

“Nowadays, when deciding their future paths, many students tend to rely on information collected through the Internet. However, I would rather hope that you take the time to look for the future direction you should take through firsthand experience. I recommend that you get deeply involved in something, and try doing it anyway you can. You may then find it to be very interesting. Doing research is not only intriguing, but will also enable you to discover your own abilities and find a new self. This particular research discipline will offer you opportunities to experience both knowing the natural world and finding yourself. I strongly hope you will enjoy this precious experience.”
Takayuki Nakatsubo
Laboratory of Land-Atmosphere Interaction

April 1, 1990 ? March 31, 1991 Research Fellowship for Young Scientists (Post doc), Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)
April 1, 1991 ? March 31, 1999 Research Assistant, School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University
April 1, 1999 ? March 31, 2002 Associate Professor, School of Integrated Arts and Science, Hiroshima University
April 1, 2002 ? March 31, 2007 Associate Professor, School of Applied Biological Science, Hiroshima University
April 1, 2007 ? August 31, 2011 Associate Professor, School of Applied Biological Science, Hiroshima University
September1, 2011 ? present Professor, School of Applied Biological Science, Hiroshima Universityiversity

Posted on Mar 31, 2016