Richard joined the staff of the Geography Department from the UK as a biogeographer specialising in the effects of human activities on contemporary vegetation communities, particularly forests. Over the years his biogeographical interests broadened to include the investigation of the impacts human activities on soil systems. At the same time he developed an interest in environmental management and especially strategies and methods to avoid or reduce human impacts on the environment.
Richard has strong research and teaching interests in impact assessment (in all its forms). His is the co-ordinator for the AppSc Environmental Management undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, and also looks after the Environment & Society minor. In 2003-4 Richard served as President of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) and was on the Board of Directors for 3 years in all. He is still closely involved with the Association and its work worldwide in advocating for, and supporting capacity building in impact assessment. From 2006, Richard has served as the national convener (chair) of the New Zealand Association for Impact Assessment (NZAIA, an affiliate of IAIA. In 2013 NZAIA signed an MoU with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, based in Apia, Samoa, to provide advice and voluntary effort for the SPREP programme to build EIA, SEA and IEA capacity across the Pacific. This work got underway in July 2013, and will run for 2-3 years.
Richard is also a member of the Thematic Working Group on Health Impact Assessment (TWG-HIA), set up by the Asia/Pacific offices of the WHO and UNEP to help develop HIA in countries in South and East Asia, from Mongolia to the Philippines. The group brings together senior government staff from each country in the region, plus 3-4 academics, to plan activities to promote institutionalisation of HIA, and the development of training and support resources.
Richard is still active in the study of soils and human impacts, with emphasis, on the one hand, on heavy metal contamination and soil properties, and, one the other hand, the impact of land use activities on soil properties The links between scientific understanding and decision-making processes in environmental planning and management is a constant thread running through all his research and teaching activities.