Skip to content

Holding Court: Richard T. Holmes

Holmes photo in Hubbard BrookHolding Court is an interview series that features the authors of the new books on display in the King Arthur Flour café in Baker-Berry Library.

Summer is here, with plenty of opportunities in the Upper Valley and northern New England for outdoor activities.  As such, we are kicking off the summer edition of Holding Court with the work of a researcher who has spent much of his working life out of doors.  In this week's edition, we talk with Richard T. Holmes, co-author (with Gene E. Likens) of Hubbard Brook: A Story of a Forest Ecosystem.  Holmes, Research Professor of Biology and Ronald and Deborah Harris Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus, and Likens, a former colleague at Dartmouth (now at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY) have been involved in a 50-year long study of the Hubbard Brook Forest in New Hampshire.

What is your book about?

The book describes and synthesizes the results of 50 years of ecological research conducted in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. This multidisciplinary project, initiated at Dartmouth but expanded to include investigators from throughout the US and abroad, is one of the longest running and most comprehensive investigations of forest ecosystems anywhere. The findings have led to a greater understanding of the process that inform environmental issues, including the impacts of acid rain and other atmospheric pollutants, water quality, sustained forest growth, land use and forestry practices, effects of climate change, and wildlife conservation.

Where do you get your ideas?

From decades of working in the forest at Hubbard Brook, listening to colleagues and students present and discuss their research findings, and reading many of the more than 1700 scientific papers published from research at this site.

What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?

Trying to understand the processes and mechanisms that underlie the functioning of a forest ecosystem. My focus has been primarily on factors and mechanisms that determine the abundance and population dynamics of birds inhabiting the forest. Being a field biologist, my research gets me out-of-doors to study and appreciate natural systems. Having access to such outdoor laboratories is essential!

What do you think the library of the future will look like?

I hope it will still contain lots of books, and they will be accessible to everyone.

What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?

Follow your interests and see where they take you.

And finally, what do you read for fun?

I like biographies and accounts of travel and exploration, as well as historical fiction. I just finished reading The Wizard and the Prophet by Charles Mann, a fascinating account of two scientists who were very influential in the development of environmentalism as we know it today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *