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Katherine Richardson

Katherine Richardson


Born: May, 1954 (USA)
Nationality: American, Danish resident
Family: Married (1983) to Jens Bjerregaard Christensen; Two children

Current position: 

  • Leader of Sustainability Science Centre, University of Copenhagen
  • Professor in Biological Oceanography, University of Copenhagen 

Research Profile:

The overall focus of my research is to better understanding of the role of biological processes and biodiversity on the cycling of carbon in the upper ocean and how this impacts food webs and the global carbon cycle. Most of my research has been on marine plankton (primarily phytoplankton). However, I have also studied higher trophic levels such as fish (both larvae and adults) and even harbour porpoises. I am a co-PI in The Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (center leader Carsten Rahbek) supported by the Danish National Eesearch Foundation, where I lead the theme on macroecology and oceanographyRecent research foci include:

  • Climate control of marine ecological processes, including predicting the influence of climate change on aquatic productivity, quantifying the role of biological processes in ocean uptake of atmospheric CO2 and how changes in ocean conditions influence the strength of the biological pump.
  • The effect of physical/chemical conditions on biodiversity and size distribution of phytoplankton and the effect of eutrophication on biodiversity and size distribution of phytoplankton
  • The relationship between phytoplankton distributions and water column stability with special interest in phytoplankton blooms and hydrographic features.

In addition I have recently been working with an international research team focusing on identifying "planetary boundaries", i.e. quantifying the global supply of some non-material global resources upon which humankind is dependent.

In 2006-2007 I led the largest project on a round-the world cruise ( with participation of researchers from 4 Danish research institutes where our research aim was to develop a global picture of carbon flow in surface waters of the ocean as well at CO2 exchange between the ocean and the atmosphere. The project is endorsed by international project, IMBER (Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research, Until the Galathea cruise, most of my research has been carried out in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, North Atlantic and Greenland Seas


PhD (1980) University of North Wales, U.K. (Carried out while on a Marshall Fellowship from the U.K.)
Thesis: The Role of Dissolved Organic Material in the Nutrition and Survival of Marine Dinoflagellates. (Supervisors: Prof. G.E. Fogg, FRS; Dr. I.A.N. Lucas).
B.A. (1976-magna cum laude) Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. 
Graduated (1972) from Yarmouth High School, Yarmouth, Maine.


Feb. 1, 2007 - 31 Jan. 2012 Vice Dean for Public Outreach, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen

May 1, 2008 - April 30, 2013 - Adj Professor in Biological Oceanography, Aarhus University

Feb. 1, 2002 - 31 Jan. 2007 Pro-rector, Aarhus University

May, 1998 - 2007 Professor, Biological Oceanography, Aarhus University

May 1997-2002: Adjunct Professor (Roskilde University)

Sept. 1996 - May, 1998: Research Director of Department of Marine and Coastal Ecology, Danish Institute for Fisheries Research

Jan. 1988 - Aug. 1996: Head of Department of Marine and Coastal Ecology, Danish Institute for Fisheries Research.

June, 1983 - Jan. 1988: Biologist, Danish Institute for Fisheries and Marine Research.

Jan. 1982 - June, 1983: Post-doctoral fellow on contract to Prof. J. A. Raven, University of Dundee, Scotland.

Oct. - Dec. 1981: Computing and data analysis on contract to the Unit of Coastal and Estuarine Studies, University of Wales, U.K.

Feb. - May, 1981: European Scientific Exchange Fellow at the Department of Plant Physiology, University of Umeå, Sweden (sponsored by the Royal Society, London).

Oct. 1979 - Oct. 1981: Demonstrator in Marine Biology, University College of North Wales, Menai Bridge, U.K.

Work-related posts:

2017 - Member of the International Scientific Advisory Committee, Ocean Frontier Institute, Canada

2016 – Member of the United Nations Scientific Panel to draft the Global Sustainable Development Report, appointed by UN’s Secretary-General.

2016- Member of the SDSN Northern Europe Leadership Council

2016-2017 Member of the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) Evalutation Committee

2016-2018 Chair of the University of Gothenburg Marine Advisory Board

2016 - Adjunct Principal Investigator of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

2013 - Member of United Nation Sustainable development solutions (UN SDSW)

2013-2016 Advising groupmember of Horizon 2020 Challenges 5

2013-2014 - Governing Board Member of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology

2012 - Member Science Europe Committee for Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics

2012 - Member EU Joint Program Initiative (JPI) Climate Trans-disciplinary Board

2012 - Member of European Research Committee (ERC) Starting Grants Evaluation Panel: Earth System Science

2011 -  Member of the Mistra CEE (EVIEM) Executive Committee, appointed by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

2010 - Chairperon of Scientific Advisory Board: EUROFLEETS

2009 - Member of Scientific Advisory Board: ACCENT EU Project

2009 - Member of Steering Committee of the Sustainable Development Knowledge Partnership, established by United Nations Division of Sustainability.

2008 - 2013 Board Member, ICROFS (international Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems)

2007-2010: Chairperson of European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants Evalutation Panel: Earth System Science

2006-2007: Member Scientific Advisory Board: Bjørn Carlson Stiftelse, Stockholm, Sweden, Appointed by the Royal Scientific Academy in Sweden.

2005-2008: Member, Scientific Advisory Committee Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research, Texel.

2005-2009: Member of EUROCEANS (EU Network of Excellence) steering committee

2005-2006: Board Member: NORDFORSK

2004-2007: Member, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria.

2004-2009: Member, Scientific Advisory Panel Leibniz - Institut für Meereswissenschaften, Germany.

2004-2009: Member, Scientific Advisory Council Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK.

2003-2008: Member ERASMUS MUNDUS Selection Committee

2002-2006: Member (vice-president), Scientific Committee, European Environmental Agency.

2001-2007: Vice President ESF (European Science Foundation)

1999-2004: Member IGBP (International Geosphere Biospere Program) Scientific Committee

1998-2004: Member, Board of Trustees, ICLARM (International Center for Living Aquatic resource Management), Penang, Malaysia.

Jan. 1998-2001: Member, Living Marine Resources Panel, Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)

1996-1999: Member, Nordisk Forskningspolitisk Råd (Nordisk FPR)

1995-1998: Member of Executive Council European Ocean Board (ESF)

1992-1996: Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Marine Environment (ACME) - International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES)

1988-1992: Member of the Advisory Committee on Marine Pollution (ACMP) (ICES)

1988-1998: Member Biological Oceanography Committee, ICES
(Chairperson 1989-1992)

1985-1989: Chairperson, ICES Working Group on Phytoplankton Ecology

1983: Lecturer on a UNESCO course on phytoplankton productivity (Santiago, Chile).

2017 - Member of the National Bioeconomy Panel

2017 - Ambassador for "Naturmødet"

2015 - Member of the Climate Panel, Copenhagen Municipality

2015 - Member of the Climate Council of the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building (Klimarådet af det Danske Klima-, Energi- og Bygningsministerium)

2014 - Chairperson of the Council of Youth Education (Rådet for Ungdomsuddannelser)

2013 - Member of reference group on 'Vedvarendes Energis' project "Hurtig omstilling til vedvarende energi - ud af den forsile blindgyde"

2013 - Chairman Danish Biodiversity Information Facility

2013 - Member of the Research Policy Committee on Interdisciplinary Marine Research

2012 - Board member Global Lightning Protection Services, Herning

2012 - Board member in Concito

2011 - Chairperson of the Committee on Trees and Environment (Fonden for Træer og Miljø)

2010-2016 Board Member, DHI (Danish Hydraulic Institute), Copenhagen

2009 - Vice Chairman, Danish Centre for Marine Research, Copenhagen

2008-2010: Chairperson, the Danish Government's Commission on Climate Change Policy

2007 - Member of the Board, Aage V. Jensen Natur Fond, Copenhagen

2006-2013 Chairperson, Steering Committee for "Blue Reef project" an EU supported nature restoration project in the ocean.

2005-2009: Chairperson, Advisory group to the Danish Education Minister on the reform of gymnasium education

2005-2009: Member of the Board: Danish Fund for Advanced Technology (Højteknologifonden)

2004-2005: Chairperson, Karakterkommission (Commission for examining the grading scale used in Danish education)

2000-2002: Vice Chairman, Danish Council for Research Education

2000-2001: Vice Chairman, Wilhjelmudvalget (Committee to propose to the Danish Government an action plan for meeting the commitments of the Biodiversity Convention)

1996 - 2003: Member, The Danish Research Council (Danmarks Forskningsråd): Vice chairman 1996 - 2002; Chairman: 2002 - 2003

1995-1996: Chairperson, Working group responsible for preparing input concerning Natural Sciences to the Danish national research strategy

1995-1996: Chairperson, the Danish Research Council for the Natural Sciences ("Statens Naturvidenskabelige Forskningsråd")

1993: Consultant for Øresundskonsortiet

1992-2002: Member of Research Council for Developing Countries("Rådet for Ulandsforskning". Udenrigsministeriet)

1992-1993: Member of a Danish/Swedish Committee to recommend a monitoring program to record any environmental effects of the Bridge over the Øresund.

1991-1995: Member Research Council for the Natural Sciences ("Statens Naturvidenskabelige Forskningsråd")

1991-2006: Member of Board of Directors, Danish Environmental Research Institute (Danmarks Miljøundersøgelser)

1991-1996: Member of advisory board to the Environmental Ministry's Marine Research Program 90

1991-1996: Chairperson, Subgroup on Marine and Freshwater. Strategic Environment Research Program ("Strategisk Miljøforskningsprogram")

1991: Member of "Expert panel". Consensus Conference on nitrogen and phosphorus in the aquatic environment

1990 - present: Member of diverse steering groups for International scientific Meetings and Evaluation Groups

1989-2000: Member of "Miljøklagenævnet"

Teaching and supervision at the University level:

1984 - 1998: Guest lecturer in phytoplankton ecology and biological oceanography, University of Copenhagen; external examiner for a number of Ph.D. and Masters Degree examinations at the University of Copenhagen and other Scandinavian Universities; External supervisor for 4 PhD students (Danish Technical University and the University of Wales, UK) and several Masters students (University of Copenhagen).

Since 1998, teaching and graduate student supervision have been a part of my official job responsibilities the University of Aarhus and I have, in that time, supervised or co-supervised

• 11 PhD candidates (three are still in progress) and 
• > 25 Masters students.

I have had responsibility for the development and execution of undergraduate courses (and examinations) on the following topics:

• Phytoplankton Physiology
• Biodiversity
• Dynamics of the open ocean (biological oceanography)

In addition, I have been a contributing lecturer/examiner in courses on.

• Marine biology
• Marine Ecology
• Microbial Ecology and
• Environmental Studies

I have received no formal pedagogical training. However, student evaluation of my teaching has been uniformly positive. Copies of these evaluations are on file at the Dept. of Biology, University of Aarhus.

Public outreach:

Lectures: I am frequently invited to give lectures on my research for scientificand non-scientific gatherings (> 50 per year in recent years). My non-scientific audiences range from school children to political fora and formal gatherings.

Press and Electronic media: I frequently give interviews to the press on my research and, especially, climate change related issues.

Popular Science - books and articles: Since 2005, I have authored or co-authored the following scientific publications aimed at a general audience:

Richardson, K. 2016. Vores afhængighed af havet er enorm – og har mange dimensioner. In Hildebrandt, S. (red.), Bæredygtig global udvikling: FNs 17 verdensmål i et dansk perspektiv. Jurist og Økonomforbundets Forlag, København, pp. 333-352.

Richardson, K. 2009. Climate Change and Life on Earth. In: 100 places to remember before they disappear. Co + Life A/S.

Rahmstorf, S. & K. Richardson. 2008. Our Threatened Oceans. Haus Publishing, London.

Richardson, K. 2008. Broer og naturen i danske farvande. In: Landet, vandet og broen. Sund & Bælt Holding A/S, Copenhagen, pp 38-51.

Rahmstorf, S. & K. Richardson 2007. Wie bedroht sind die ozeane? Biologische und physikalische Aspekte. Forum für Verantwortung. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag 280 pp.

Richardson, K. 2005. Oceaner af vand . In: Viden om Vand. Kaufmann, I. & Keiding, S. R. (eds.). Aarhus Universitetsforlag. 176 pp. (a textbook for gymnasium students)

Richardson, K., Mouritsen, L.T. 2006, "På vej mod et surt hav - udledning af CO2 ændrer verdenshavene", Aktuel Naturvidenskab, vol. 5, s. 4-7.

Lund-Hansen, L.C., M.H. Nielsen, A. Bruhn & K. Richardson. 2005 "Havets græsmark vokser ujævnt - om strøm og algevækst i Lillebælt" Aktuel Naturvidenskab vol 3, 15-18.

Richardson, K., Mouritsen, L.T. & Sørensen, L.L. 2006. The marine carbon cycle from North to South along the Galathea route -an on going project investigating the global carbon cycle. IMBER Update December 2006.

Awards and Honours:

  • Marshall Fellowship, 1976
  • Ridder af Dannebro, 2010
  • Ellen og Hans Hermers Legat, 2015
  • Galathea Medal (awarded for the Galathea 3 Expedition)

Editorial and Evaluation Activities:  

I am a review editor for Marine Ecology Progress Series and review scientific articles on an ad hoc basis for a number of scientific journals including, Marine Ecology Progress Series, Limnology and Oceanography, Deep Sea Research, and Journal of Plankton Research. In addition, I am frequently asked to sit on evaluation panels for academic positions, especially for Scandinavian Universities, where there is a requirement of having both genders represented in evaluation panels.

External Funding:

I have consistently since the mid-1990s, maintained external funding (primarily from Danish Research Councils and EU). In total, this funding exceeds 15 million DKK. For most of these grants, I was the responsible grant holder. The largest of these externally funded projects was the Galathea project in 2006-7, with a total of over 6 million DKK from external sources including the Danish Research Council, Villum Kann Rasmussen Foundation, Nordea Foundation and Knud Højgard Foundation. Currently, I receive most of my funding from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, and two projects funded by the Strategic Research Council of Denmark. I have currently 3 PhD students.

Cruise Participation:

I have participated in >60 research cruises starting in 1975 (RV KNORR - WHOI). From 1979 - 1981, I sailed often aboard the RV Prince Madog (University of Wales) and was chief scientist on a number of occasions. Since 1983, I have participated (often as chief scientist) cruises aboard the Danish Fisheries Research Vessel, Dana. I was responsible for the largest research project on the Danish Galathea3 expedition, was on board for a total of approximately 3 months and was the overall cruise leader on one leg (Sydney to the Solomon Islands, December 2006). In May, 2008, I joined an American team of researchers on the RV KNORR studying plankton-mediated carbon flow in the North Atlantic.In August 2008, I was chief scientist on a cruise aboard RV Dana from Greenland to Denmark examining ocean-atmosphere flux of COand carbon turnover in surface waters. I am scheduled to participate in a cruise in the Greenland Sea in August-September 2012.


>170 publications, >90 papers in international peer-reviewed journals (incl. 2 in Nature and 2 in Science), 4 scientific books, 7 peer-reviewed book-chapters, and > 80 other publications.

Research ID Citation metrics (08/15): 92 publications: cited 4485 times (excluding self-citations), average number of citations per item 60.61; H index 31.

ID: 1053678