New Professor of Arctic Ecosystems Research - meet David N. Thomas

David N. Thomas started working on the Viikki Campus in November 2020 but he first visited University of Helsinki already in 1986 as a marine ecologist at Tvärminne Zoological Station as part of his PhD, studying populations of green seaweeds.

Professor David N. Thomas is certainly no stranger to Finland – since his PhD studies in Tvärminne he also worked for the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) for several years.

“The theme of land-river-estuary-coastal water was one that brought me to the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) from 2009 to 2014 as an Academy of Finland distinguished professor (FiDiPro). A team of us studied the effects of land use in Finland on the biogeochemical and microbial activities in Finnish catchments and coastal waters,” says Thomas.

Thomas knew he wanted to be a marine biologist from around the age of thirteen.

“I was inspired, like many, by the pioneering television documentaries of Jacques Cousteau and visionary articles in National Geographic Magazines. Also, as a family we tended to holiday by the sea and those times ensured this was a route I would try to follow,” Thomas looks back.

During Post doc work at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany, Thomas started working on Arctic and Antarctic algae and made his first trips to the Antarctic & Arctic to study the ecology and chemistry of organisms living on and in sea ice.

He then carried on this work at Bangor University in the UK, where he also became interested in the biological and related chemical changes as water passes from soils, through catchments and estuaries before entering coastal waters.

“My aim with my new appointment at University of Helsinki is to carry on these themes and build up a group studying the Arctic land-freshwater-coastal continuum. As the Arctic undergoes such profound change there is a critical need for us to understand these fundamental processes, make the measurements modelers need to be able to predict what future changes are going to take place,” Thomas says. 

“We then need to be able to communicate our findings and predictions to stakeholders and policy makers in a way that there is no ambiguity.

What could be more topical and exciting than to be working on Arctic research?

“Since our findings are so pertinent for understanding what global climate change is doing and helping to inform how society can respond. Understanding the fundamental ecology underpinning Arctic is paramount to understanding the consequences of that such change will inevitably bring about. There are so many colleagues in the University of Helsinki and other research institutions in Finland who are experts in Arctic matters. I am so looking forward to helping these colleagues develop the Arctic research agenda in Finland,” Thomas emphasises.

On top of his current post at the University of Helsinki, Thomas is also an Honorary Professor at his past academic home, Bangor University. He still has an ongoing project (2019-2022) there looking at plastics in aquatic systems as being vectors for microbes and the ecology of those microbial assemblages (

David N. Thomas is part of the Ecosystems and Environment Research Programme and is located at Biocentre 3 on the Viikki Campus.  

David N. Thomas's CV in a nutshell

  • Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research & Impact, Bangor University, UK, 01.06.19 - 30.07.20 
  • Lecturer (1996), Senior Lecturer (1999), Reader (2003) Professor (2006) Head of School (2016-2019) in School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, UK, 01.07.96 - 31.10.20
  • Researcher, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Bremen, Germany, 01.01.96 - 30.06.96
  • Researcher, Inst. for Chemistry & Biology of the Sea, University of Oldenburg, Germany, 01.05.94 - 31.12.95 
  • Researcher, Alfred Wegener Inst. for Polar & Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany, 01.07.90 - 30.04.94  
  • Royal Society Research Fellow (European Exchange Programme), Department of Marine Botany, University of Bremen, Germany, 16.01.89 - 30.06.90 
  • PhD, NERC-funded in Department of Botany, University of Liverpool, UK, 01.10.84 - 18.03.88
  • BSc Environmental Biology, University of Liverpool, UK, 01.10.81 - 04.07.84