Katherine Richardson

Katherine Richardson


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

Current positions:

Professor in Biological Oceanography, Section for Biodiversity, Globe Institute , Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences and Leader, University of Copenhagen’s Sustainability Science Centre (sustainability@science.ku.dk).

Adj. Senior Researcher, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay, Maine, USA

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 Research Foundation. Current research foci include 

  • Climatic control of marine ecological processes, including predicting the influence of climate change on aquatic productivity, quantifying the role of biological processes, including biodiversity, on 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
  • Formation and productivity in deep chlorophyll maxima (DCM)

I also am a core researcher in an international research team focusing on identifying “Planetary Boundaries”, i.e. identifying how much of specific Earth System Services that can “safely” be appropriated by humans.

In 2009, I was Chairman of the Scientific Steering Committee for a large international scientific conference, CLIMATECHANGE: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions (www.climatecongress.ku.dk) hosted by the International Alliance of Research Universitites (IARU) and in 2014, I was chair of the Scientific Steering Committee for the IARU hosted congress Global Challenges: Achieving Sustainability (https://sustainability.ku.dk/sustainability-lectures/previous/iarucongress2014/)

I am currently co-editor in chief of Marine Ecology Progress Series


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:

2019 – Member, The International Advisory board of Deutsche Allianz für Meeresforschung (DAM)

2019 - Member, Advisory board for Alfred-Wegener-Instituts-Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar-und Meeresforschung (AWI)

2019 - Member of Scientific Advisory Board of the Ocean Sustainability Bergen and SDH 14

2019 - Member of Scientific Committee (SC) of the Volvo Environment Prize

2018 – Member of Advisory Board of BANOS CSA

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

2017- Member Expert Panel appointed by UN Secretary General to prepare the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report

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

2013-2016 Advising groupmember of Horizon 2020 Challenges 5

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

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

2013: Chairperson DanBIF Governing Board and Head of the Danish Delegation to GBIF

2012 - 2015 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

2012 – Member Scientific Advisory Board, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

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

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 - 2015 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).


2019 – Chairperson, Advisory board for Landbrug og Fødevarer

2019 - Member of "Innovations Fondens Klimapanel"

2019 - Member of "Finans Danmarks Rpdgivende Forum for Bæredygtig Omstilling"

2018 – Member of “2030-panelet” under “Folketingets Tværpolitiske Netværk for Verdensmålene” at parliament.

2018 – Member of ”SDG High Level Advisory Board”

2018 – Member of Board of Directors at GEOOPS

2017 – Member of the National Bioeconomy Panel

2017 – Ambassador for “Naturmødet”

2015 – Board member, Sydfyns Elforsynings Almennyttige Fond (SEAF)

2015 - Member of the Climate Panel, Copenhagen Municipality

2015 - Member of the Government’s Climate Council (the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building)

2015 - Chairperson of The Education Minister’s Advisory Panel on Secondary Education (Rådet for Ungdomsuddannelser)

2014 – Member of Scandinavian Culture Collection of Algae and protozoa (SCCAP)

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 Chairperson; Chair from 2017, Danish Centre for Marine Research (Dansk center for havforskning); Elected chairperson 2017

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 - 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 Universityies of Aarhus and Copenhagen and I have, in that time, supervised or co-supervised

  • 18 PhD candidates (1 still in progress) and
  • > 30 Masters students.

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

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

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

  • Marine biology
  • Marine Ecology
  • Microbial Ecology and
  • Environmental Studies
  • Conservation Ecology
  • Applied Marine Biology

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 hold on the order of 100 lectures annually on my research for scientific and non-scientific gatherings both in Denmark and internationally. My non-scientific audiences range from school children to political fora and formal gatherings. Over the past 5 years, I have held over 10 invited international lectures at various scientific fora.

Press and Electronic media: I frequently give interviews to the press on my research and, especially, climate change and sustainability related issues. I am experienced in television and radio appearances. Over the past 5 years, I have given 34 television/radio interviews. 

Popular Science – books and articles: Over the past 10 years, I have authored or co-authored the following scientific publications aimed at a general audience (plus ~ 4 blogs/articles per year in newspapers and other printed outlets):

Richardson, K. 2019. Agenda 2030 afspejler en udvikling i forståelse af bæredygtig udvikling. In: Special Issue of the magazine ‘Kognition & Pædagogik’.

Richardson, K. 2019. De livsvigtige mikroalger. In: Vild med viden. Fokusserie 2: Tang. Bruhn, A., Holdt, Susan., Høslund, S., Krause-Jensen, D., Mouritsen, L., Pedersen, F.M., Rasmussen B.M., Richardson, K. Volume: 12. Forlaget Epsilon.

Richardson, K. 2019. Jorden i det antropocæne. In: Globale Mål - Visionen om bæredygtig udvikling. Hildebrandt, S. and Josephsen L. Djøf forlag.

Richardson, K. 2017. Bæredygtighed: begrebet der til stadighed er under forandring' Kaskelot, nr. 216.

Richardson, K 2016, Galathea 3 bygger videre på arven fra Galathea 2. Geografisk Orientering, vol 46, nr. 5, s. 16-18.

Richardson, K. & R. Dyball. 2016. Needed: New Knowledge for Sustainable Development. Solutions Journal, 7(3): 1-3.

Richardson, K., Dyball, R. & W. Steffen. 2016. How will future historians tell the story of how we are tackling climate change today? Solutions Journal 7(3): 86-93.

Rahmstorf, S & K. Richardson. 2016. Wie bedroht sind die Meere? (Chapter in a German book on sustainability)

Richardson, K. 2016. Vores afhængighed af havet er enorm – og har mange dimensioner. Chapter in a book on the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) in a Danish context.

Richardson, K. (2012) Grøn lov og Praksis Forord samt et kapitel “Grøn lovgivning som løftestang” (Forlaget Andersen)

Richardson, K., W. Steffen, H.J. Schellnhuber, J. Alcamo, T. Barker, D.M. Kammen, R. Leemans, D. Liverman, M. Munasinghe, B. Osman-Elasha, N. Stern & O. Wæver. 2009. Synthesis Report: Climate Change, Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions. University of Copenhagen, Denmark. https://climatecongress.ku.dk/pdf/synthesisreport (peer reviewed)

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

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)

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.

Prizes and Honours:

1976: Marshall Fellowship

2004: Frøken Marie Lønggaards Rejselegat for kvinder (travel fellowship for women)

2011: Ridderkors, (Danish order: Knight of the Dannebrog)

2015: Ellen og Hans Hermers Legat

2016: Galathea Medal (awarded for the Galathea 3 expedition)

2019: Ebbe Muncks Hæderspris


Editorial and Evaluation Activities: 

I am co- Editor in Chief for Marine Ecology Progress Series. In addition, I 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.

External Funding:

I have consistently since the mid-1990s, maintained external funding (primarily from Danish Research Councils and EU). In total, this funding exceeds 25 million DKK. For most of these grants, I was the responsible grant holder. The largest single externally funded project 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 am grant holder for the following active grants:

  • Villum Foundation: Building Bridges to Catalyze Sustainable Development (included funding for the 2014 sustainability science congress, Global Challenges: Achieving Sustainability) 2013-2016, 5.7 million DKK
  • Danish Center for Marine Research: The impact of localized VERtical MIXing over the nutricline on plankton diversity, primary production and ecosystem structure 2016, 3.6 million DKK (ship time)
  • Kann Rasmussen Foundation: Modelling the biodiversity planetary boundary and embedding results into policy (includes funding to 1 post-doc), 2015-2017, 1.7 million DKK
  • Carlsberg Foundation: Purchase of a VMP-250 Internal Recording Coastal Vertical Turbulence Profiler system 2016; 0.470 million DKK
  • Villum Foundation: Do sub-mesoscale oceanographic features represent important dispersal barriers for phytoplankton species distributions and diversity? (includes funding for 1 PhD student and 1 post-doc) 2016-2019; 3.5 million DKK

Cruise Participation:

I have participated in >70 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 CO2 and carbon turnover in surface waters and participated in another cruise in the Greenland Sea in August-September 2012. In 2014, I participated on a cruise to the Sargasso Sea and, in 2016. I led a cruise in the North Sea.

Publications and bibliometric data:

>200 publications, >100 papers in international peer-reviewed journals (incl. 2 in Nature and 2 in Science), 4 scientific books, 7 peer-reviewed book-chapters, and > 100 other publications.

Web of Science Citation analysis (Sept. 2017) found 102 publications: cited 6878 times (excluding self-citations), average number of citations per item 84.91; h-index 34 (ResearcherID).




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