Robert Max Holmes Ph.D.

  • President and CEO
Robert Max Holmes

Dr. 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. This is reflected in the collaborative, community-based river research programs he has created, most recently Science on the Fly, an initiative that unites the fly-fishing and science communities to study and protect rivers around the world. His research spans the globe–from the Siberian Arctic to the tropical Amazon–and focuses 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 joined Woodwell Climate in 2005 and served as Deputy Director for five years prior to taking on his current role as President and Chief Executive Officer. 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.

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’ work has been featured in the New York Times and on 60 Minutes. He speaks frequently on climate-related topics, and has appeared at the Aspen Ideas Festival and Mountainfilm Festival. He previously served as the Director of the National Science Foundation’s Arctic System Science Program and in 2015 was named National Fellow of the Explorers Club.

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.