Rick’s interest in diatoms stemmed from his research in the late 1960s as a PhD student in Coleraine assessing how diatoms preserved in the sediments of Lough Neagh could be used as indicators of eutrophication. He continued his research on eutrophication as a Royal Society Research Fellow in Uppsala, Sweden. At UCL in the mid- 1970s he founded the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC). With his research team he helped to develop a range of palaeolimnological methods to understand how lake ecosystems change through time in response to human activity, most notably nutrient enrichment, acid deposition and climate change. His work on the causes of lake acidification and subsequently on the recovery of surface waters from acidification has been his dominant research interest. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2006.
Rick is now Emeritus Professor in Environmental Change at UCL. Since retiring he has been Editor-in-Chief of Biology Letters and a Trustee of the FBA. He is a strong advocate of the importance of high quality, long-term monitoring of freshwater ecosystems, especially the UK Upland Waters Monitoring Network, that he helped to create in 1988. He believes the FBA has a central role to play in promoting the science of freshwater ecology and, through its Fellows, bridging the gap between researchers and practitioners to understand and manage freshwater ecosystems more effectively. He now lives on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales where he co-ordinates the work of his local Environment Group and supports the activities of the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust.