I have a keen eye for the relevance today of the past, and I like to explore new fields, often in interdisciplinary contexts.
I began as a medieval historian with a specialism in the Vikings in Ireland – an interest which I have kept alive through my career. In 1982 I was recruited at Aalborg University as research coordinator of the by then largest ever Scandinavian history project which also became the subject of my Dr.Phil. thesis on maritime connections in the Kattegat and Skagerrak, defended at Aarhus University. From there my journey went to the Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg where I was responsible for the new permanent national fisheries exhibition, and eventually founded the Centre for Maritime and Regional History.
I developed my research in maritime history into a specialism in marine environmental history, and I am one of the pioneers of an interdisciplinary combination of marine science and history. From 2000 the American A. P. Sloan Foundation, EU and national research councils provided a total of 15 million US dollars in support of a ten-year research plan of which I was the global chair. The History of Marine Animal Populations project was featured in Nature (October 2006) and continues as the Oceans Past Initiative. OPI has some 100 associate researchers around the world. In May 2014 I received funding from the European COST programme to develop an Oceans Past Platform that will increase collaboration between historians in the broadest sense of the word and marine scientists.
Another strong interest of mine is in research policy and curriculum development. With two colleagues I will be publishing shortly the Humanities World Report 2015 which is an attempt at a truly global review.
I believe that the humanities have a major and unfulfilled role to play in understanding human motivation and behaviour as we grapple with the challenges of global environmental change in the 21st century. In 2013 I received funding from the A W Mellon Foundation to develop a Forum on the New Human Condition which brings humanities scholarship in dialogue with senior executives in the private and public sectors.
I have written three books, co-authored another seven, and published more than one hundred research papers. Recent publications can be viewed here.