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Professor Keith S Richards MA PhD

Professor Keith S Richards MA PhD

Emeritus Professor of Geography and Fellow of Emmanuel College

(Note to potential graduate applicants: Having retired, I am no longer able to act as a lead supervisor for PhD students)

Research interests include river channel forms and processes; drainage basin hydrological and sediment production and transfer processes; modelling fluvial, hillslope and hydrological systems; river management, river and floodplain restoration, and inter-relationships between hydrological and ecological processes in floodplain environments; water resource management and water-energy-land resource interactions (the so-called "nexus"); governance and environmental systems; science studies and the environment sciences; environmental science and policy.



  • 1984-2014: Lecturer, Reader, Professor, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
  • 1998-2002: Director, Scott Polar Research Institute
  • 1978-1984: Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, University of Hull


  • MA Jesus College, University of Cambridge
  • PhD Jesus College, University of Cambridge


  • 2015: David Linton Medal, British Society for Geomorphology
  • 2013: Founder's Medal, Royal Geographical Society
  • 2013: Elected Fellow, British Society for Geomorphology
  • 2005: Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts
  • 2002: Chartered Geographer, Royal Geographical Society


Most of my research is conducted within the thematic group dealing with Environmental Systems and Processes, particularly the Terrestrial and Coastal Environments Theme. It has been fairly wide-ranging, from glacial hydrology to arid zone hydrology via studies of fluvial processes in small Alpine braided rivers to large Himalayan rivers. The "water" group has been innovative in using terrain modelling methods, photogrammetry, computational fluid dynamics and discrete element modelling in the investigation of hydraulic, sediment transport and channel morphology in studying fluvial, hillslope and basin-scale processes. An additional interest has been the interaction of fluvial, hydrological and ecological processes in floodplain environments, including the roles of channel migration dynamics as a control of floodplain biodiversity, the roughness effects of woody riparian vegetation, and hydrological influences on floodplain ecology.

Completed and current research projects include:

  • interactions of fluvial processes and floodplain ecology and the restoration of European floodplain forest ecosystems (more details can be found on the FLOBAR website)
  • regional projects on flood hydrology in northern Thailand; catchment sediment delivery in the Xihuanshui basin, southern Gansu, China; historical mapping of fluvial changes in west Bengal and Bangladesh
  • the Cambridge Arsenic Project - an interdisciplinary analysis of the causes, consequences and remediation prospects of arsenic in groundwater sources
  • the Foreseer project, supported by BP, which is concerned with water-energy-land resource interactions (the "nexus"), and the visualisation of future scenarios for California, China, and (in the EPSRC-funded WholeSEM project (Whole Systems Energy Modelling), for the UK (these are collaborative projects in the University, based in the Department of Engineering.
  • polycentric water governance and the introduction of ecologically-based water quality assessment, particularly in Europe and China, and as represented in the RiBaGo project
  • the relationship between environmental science and environmental policy, and especially the role of inter-disciplinary knowledge (as in the ESF-funded RESCUE project.



  • Ravenscroft, P., Brammer, H. and Richards, K., 2009. Arsenic pollution: a global synthesis, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Richards, K.S., 2003. Introduction to morphometry. p.37-38. doi:10.4324/9780203430590.

Journal articles


  • Taherzadeh, O.A., Bithell, M. and Richards, K., 2018. When defining boundaries for nexus analysis, let the data speak. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2018.06.012.


  • Twongyirwe, R., Bithell, M., Richards, K.S. and Rees, W.G., 2017. Do livelihood typologies influence local perceptions of forest cover change? Evidence from a tropical forested and non-forested rural landscape in western Uganda. Journal of Rural Studies, v. 50, p.12-29. doi:10.1016/j.jrurstud.2016.12.009.


  • Song, C., Ke, L., Richards, K.S. and Cui, Y., 2016. Homogenization of surface temperature data in High Mountain Asia through comparison of reanalysis data and station observations. International Journal of Climatology, v. 36, p.1088-1101. doi:10.1002/joc.4403.


  • Bajželj, B., Fenner, R.A., Curmi, E. and Richards, K.S., 2015. Teaching sustainable resource management using an interactive research tool. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, v. 17, doi:10.1108/IJSHE-02-2014-0022.
  • Konadu, D., Sobral, M.Z., Allwood, J.M., Richards, K.S., Kopec, G.M., McMahon, R.A. and Fenner, R.A., 2015. Not all low-carbon energy pathways are environmentally “no-regrets” options. Global Environmental Change, v. 35, p.379-390. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.10.002.
  • Konadu, D.D., Mourão, Z.S., Allwood, J.M., Richards, K.S., Kopec, G., McMahon, R. and Fenner, R., 2015. Land use implications of future energy system trajectories - the case of the UK 2050 Carbon Plan. Energy Policy, v. 86, p.328-337. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2015.07.008.
  • Qin, Y., Curmi, E., Kopec, G.M., Allwood, J.M. and Richards, K.S., 2015. China's energy-water nexus – assessment of the energy sector's compliance with the “3 Red Lines” industrial water policy. Energy Policy, v. 82, p.131-143. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2015.03.013.
  • Song, C., Ke, L., Huang, B. and Richards, K.S., 2015. Can mountain glacier melting explains the GRACE-observed mass loss in the southeast Tibetan Plateau: From a climate perspective?. Global and Planetary Change, v. 124, p.1-9. doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2014.11.001.
  • Twongyirwe, R., Bithell, M., Richards, K.S. and Rees, W.G., 2015. Three decades of forest cover change in Uganda’s Northern Albertine Rift Landscape. Land Use Policy, v. 49, p.236-251. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.07.013.


  • Bajželj, B. and Richards, K., 2014. The Positive Feedback Loop between the Impacts of Climate Change and Agricultural Expansion and Relocation. Land, v. 3, p.898-916. doi:10.3390/land3030898.
  • Bajželj, B., Richards, K.S., Allwood, J.M., Smith, P., Dennis, J.S., Curmi, E. and Gilligan, C.A., 2014. The importance of food demand management for climate mitigation. Nature Climate Change, v. 4, p.924-929. doi:10.1038/nclimate2353.
  • Bithell, M., Richards, K.S. and Bithell, E.G., 2014. Simulation of scree-slope dynamics: Investigating the distribution of debris avalanche events in an idealized two-dimensional model. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, v. 39, p.1601-1610. doi:10.1002/esp.3548.
  • Bithell, M., Richards, K.S. and Bithell, E.G., 2014. Simulation of scree-slope dynamics: investigating the distribution of debris avalanche events in an idealized two-dimensional model. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, v. 39, p.1601-1610. doi:10.1002/esp.3548.
  • Keylock, C.J., Lane, S.N. and Richards, K.S., 2014. Quadrant/octant sequencing and the role of coherent structures in bed load sediment entrainment. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, v. 119, p.264-286. doi:10.1002/2012JF002698.
  • Khan, A., Richards, K.S., Parker, G.T., McRobie, A. and Mukhopadhyay, B., 2014. How large is the Upper Indus Basin? The pitfalls of auto-delineation using DEMs. Journal of Hydrology, v. 509, p.442-453. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2013.11.028.
  • Song, C., Huang, B., Ke, L. and Richards, K.S., 2014. Remote sensing of alpine lake water environment changes on the Tibetan Plateau and surroundings: A review. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, v. 92, p.26-37. doi:10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2014.03.001.
  • Song, C., Huang, B., Ke, L. and Richards, K.S., 2014. Seasonal and abrupt changes in the water level of closed lakes on the Tibetan Plateau and implications for climate impacts. Journal of Hydrology, v. 514, p.131-144. doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.04.018.


  • Curmi, E., Richards, K., Fenner, R., Allwood, J.M., Kopec, G.M. and Bajželj, B., 2013. An integrated representation of the services provided by global water resources.. Journal of environmental management, v. 129, p.456-462. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.07.031.
  • da Silveira, A.R. and Richards, K.S., 2013. The Link Between Polycentrism and Adaptive Capacity in River Basin Governance Systems: Insights from the River Rhine and the Zhujiang (Pearl River) Basin. ANNALS OF THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN GEOGRAPHERS, v. 103, p.319-329. doi:10.1080/00045608.2013.754687.

▼ Show earlier journal articles …

Book chapters

  • Curmi, E., Richards, K., Fenner, R.A., Kopec, G. and Bajzelj, B., 2014. Balancing the needs of all services provided by global water resources, in The Global Water System in the Anthropocene Challenges for Science and Government, Springer.

▼ Show earlier book chapters …

Conference proceedings

  • Allwood, J., Konadu, K., Mourao, Z., Lupton, R., Richards, K., Fenner, R.A., Skelton, S. and McMahon, R., 2016. Integrated land water energy assessment using the Foreseer tool.
  • Bajzelj, B., Fenner, R.A., Curmi, C., Kopec, G. and Richards, K., 2013. Using a water, energy and land research model in undergraduate lectures: bridging the gap between research and teaching.
  • Kidson, R., Richards, K.S. and Carling, P.A., 2006. Power-law extreme flood frequency. FRACTAL ANALYSIS FOR NATURAL HAZARDS, v. 261, p.141-153.
  • Richards, K., Bithell, M., Dove, M. and Hodge, R., 2004. Discrete-element modelling: methods and applications in the environmental sciences.. Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences, v. 362, p.1797-1816. doi:10.1098/rsta.2004.1429.
  • Kidson, R., Richards, K.S. and Carling, P.A., 2002. Hydraulic model calibration using a modern flood event: The Mae Chaem River, Thailand. PALAEOFLOODS, HISTORICAL DATA AND CLIMATIC VARIABILITY: APPLICATIONS IN FLOOD RISK ASSESSMENT, p.171-176.
  • Lane, S.N., Bradbrook, K.F., Caudwell, S.W.B. and Richards, K.S., 1999. Mixing processes at river confluences: Field informed numerical modelling. ENVIRONMENTAL HYDRAULICS, p.345-350.
  • Lane, S.N., Bradbrook, K.F., Richards, K.S., Biron, P.A. and Roy, A.G., 1999. The application of computational fluid dynamics to natural river channels: three-dimensional versus two-dimensional approaches. GEOMORPHOLOGY, v. 29, p.1-20.
  • Hall, L.D., Amin, M.H.G., Dougherty, E., Sanda, M., Votrubova, J., Richards, K.S., Chorley, R.J. and Cislerova, M., 1997. MR properties of water in saturated soils and resulting loss of MRI signal in water content detection at 2 tesla. GEODERMA, v. 80, p.431-448.
  • LANE, S.N., RICHARDS, K.S. and CHANDLER, J.H., 1995. Within-peach spatial patterns of process and channel adjustment. RIVER GEOMORPHOLOGY, p.105-130.


  • Konadu, D.D., Fenner, R.A., Richards, K.S. and Allwood, J.M., 2017. UK water-energy nexus under climate change: Key issues and priorities.
  • Konadu, D.D., Mourao, Z.S., Skelton, A.C.H., Richards, K.S., Allwood, J.M. and Smith, P., 2016. Modelling energy systems: How much bioenergy feedstock can be grown sustainably in the UK?.


  • Variously in the Geographical Tripos Part IA (Land and Water); Part IB (Environmental Hazards, River Forms and Processes, Quantitative Methods); Part II Fluvial Processes
  • Field classes: Algarve, Arolla (Switzerland) - on many occasions

External activities

  • Editor, The Geographical Journal. (2015-2019)
  • Editorial Board of the Journal of River Basin Management; formerly Editor of Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
  • Founding Editor of the series Physical Geography and Environment for Routledge
  • Variously past Secretary, Vice Chairman, and Chairman of the British Geomorphological Research Group.
  • Member of NERC Committees (1990-1993, 1995-1998); member of NERC College (2004-2007); member of ESRC College (2010-)
  • Vice-President (Research) Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers (2004-2007)
  • President, Geography Section, British Association for the Advancement of Science (2006)
  • Chairman, sub-Panel for Geography and Environmental Studies, 2008 HEFC Research Assessment Exercise; Chairman, sub-Panel for Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology, 2014 HEFC Research Excellence Framework
  • Research assessor for DG XII of the European Commission, Belgian FNRS, Netherlands NWO, USA NSF, Estonia Research Assessment (2010)