Dr. Robert Max Holmes, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, has been appointed Program Director of the Arctic System Science Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for up to two years. Dr. Holmes’ responsibilities will include grant management, making funding recommendations, and helping to chart the future direction of the Arctic System Science Program and NSF arctic research priorities in general. “Although we will miss Max’s day-to-day presence here at home,” said WHRC President Eric A. Davidson, “we are honored to lend him to NSF to strengthen their program. This is a key time for arctic research because of the rapid and pervasive effects of climate change there, which will likely also affect how fast the rest of the world warms.”
Dr. Holmes has been working in the Arctic for the past decade, analyzing the discharge and chemistry of large rivers and striving to understand how disturbances such as climate change impact the rivers and alter the transport of materials from land to ocean. Working with an international team of scientists on the Arctic Great Rivers Project, Dr. Holmes has been collecting water samples from the six largest rivers in the Arctic and transporting them to Woods Hole for chemical analysis.
The team has made fundamental advances in understanding land-ocean interactions in the Arctic and has “set the baseline” against which to judge future changes in the Arctic. The work illustrates varying components of the Arctic System, such as how the thawing of permafrost soils due to climate change contributes to the carbon transported by rivers from the land to the ocean. Dr. Holmes’ work on the biogeochemistry of large arctic rivers is leading to fundamental advances in the understanding of both land and ocean in the Arctic.
Dr. Holmes is an earth system scientist who received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University. He has been with WHRC since 2005 and has broad interests in the responses and feedbacks of coupled land-ocean systems to environmental and global change. Most of his current research focuses on large rivers and their watersheds and addresses how climate change and other disturbances are impacting the cycles of water and chemicals in the environment. Dr. Holmes has several ongoing projects in the Arctic (field sites in Russia, Canada, and Alaska) and has begun working in Africa and Asia (Congo, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Yangtze watersheds). He has also studied desert streams in the southwestern United States, stream/riparian ecosystems in France, and estuaries in Massachusetts. He is strongly committed to integrating education and outreach into his research projects, particularly by exposing K-12 and undergraduate students to the excitement of scientific research.