R. Max Holmes Ph.D.

  • President and CEO
Robert Max Holmes

Dr. R. Max Holmes is motivated by a vision of science that connects people with each other and the natural world, and which makes a positive impact in society. He joined Woodwell Climate Research Center as a scientist in 2005 and served as Deputy Director for five years prior to becoming President and CEO in 2021. His own research has spanned the globe—from the Siberian Arctic to the tropical Amazon—focusing on how climate change and other disturbances impact water and chemical cycles in the environment. He is also interested in the vast quantities of ancient carbon held in Arctic permafrost, which may be released as permafrost thaws, exacerbating global warming.

Dr. Holmes is a sought-after speaker at venues ranging from Davos to Mountainfilm Festival. He has been featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes, and quoted by top new outlets including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Independent. He previously served as director of the US National Science Foundation’s Arctic Systems Science Program, and was elected National Fellow of the Explorers Club in 2015.

We are seeing rapid, dramatic change in our world. We can’t just keep being traditional scientists. We have to constantly ask ourselves: what can we do differently to make a difference?
Dr. Max Holmes taking water samples from wooden canoe.

Dr. Holmes remains active in Science on the Fly, an initiative that unites the fly-fishing and science communities to study and protect rivers around the world. He continues to lead multiple large river research networks, including the Arctic Great Rivers Observatory and the Cape Cod Rivers Observatory, and co-directs the Global Rivers Observatory.

The solutions to climate change should be political, but they should also be non-partisan. We are all passionate about this work, but we are also fiercely independent in our search for solutions.


Science on the Fly

Founded by the Woodwell Climate Research Center and Fishpond, Science on the Fly seeks to further our understanding of changing watersheds around the world through long-term, world-class river science.
Mackenzie River near Tsiigehtchic. June 2003. Photo by Max Holmes.

Arctic Great Rivers Observatory

Since 2003, ArcticGRO has provided essential data about the biogeochemistry and discharge of the largest Arctic rivers.
Quashnet River

Cape Cod Rivers Observatory

The Cape Cod Rivers Observatory, an initiative of Woodwell Climate, along with several partners, focuses world-class river science on these hidden treasures of Cape Cod.
Amazon river photo by Chris Linder

Global Rivers Observatory

Advancing the understanding of how climate change, deforestation, and other disturbances are impacting river chemistry and land-ocean connections.

Selected Publications

Increasing alkalinity export from large Russian Arctic rivers

Drake, T. W., et al. (2018). Environmental Science and Technology.


Increasing river discharge to the Arctic Ocean

Peterson, B. J., et al. (2002). Science.