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Department of Geography


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.


[Publications will load automatically from the University’s publications database…]


  • 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)