Henry Hooghiemstra (1948) studied biology at Amsterdam University and graduated in 1977 cum laude. He specialised in paleoecology and climate change under the supervision of professor Thomas van der Hammen. He obtained his PhD degree in 1984 cum laude. His thesis includes a reconstruction of vegetation change, floral evolution, and climatic change in the Northern Andes during the last million years. As a postdoc at Göttingen University (1983-1987) he worked in marine palynology and reconstructed the dynamic histories of the Western Sahara, the Sahel, the equatorial West African rainforest and the trade winds during the last 250,000 years. Field work was carried out in Senegal and Mauritania. Intensive contacts with paleoceanography at Kiel University and meteorology at Hannover University moved his field of interest to earth-sciences.
In 1992 he was appointed to full professor in Palynology and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Amsterdam and succeeded prof. Thomas van der Hammen. He published reconstructions of Holocene and Last Glacial dynamics of tropical ecosystems, including dry forest, savanna, rainforest, montane forest, and tropical alpine grasslands (páramo) maily in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador. In Tanzania and Mauritius he studied relationships between high plant diversity and the geological and paleoecological history of these biodiversity hotspots. He contributed to the IGBP project Pole-Equator-Pole (PEP1) transect through the Americas. Objectives of this project fuelled the development of 4 PhD projects and 1 postdoc project. In the frame of the International BIOME 6000 Project his research group developed a synthesis of paleoecological data between Mexico and Patagonia. Vegetation maps of selected time-slices were reconstructed and served to calibrate climate model output. This initiative fuelled 1 postdoc project and produced many papers and a wealth of understanding how climate change is driving vegetation change in different ecosystems. He contributed to the International QUEST Project focussing on vegetation dynamics in the tropics during events of rapid climate change. He contributed to island biogeography with paleoecological projects on de dodo in Mauritius, and the impact of the landing of Columbus and subsequent occupation of Hispaniola (Dominican Rupublic). He contributed to an understanding of the mechanisms of rapid evolution in the Northern Andes with the documentary film ‘Sky Islands; a time travel through the Andes’. The 2nd version of this documentary received in 2020 and 2021 at national and international film festivals 12 awards.
Throughout his career he worked on the development of long Pleistocene climate records from deep sedimentary basins in Colombia. In the Bogotá Basin he reconstructed the evolution of tropical floras, long-term vegetation developement, and climate change during the last 3 million years. In the Fúquene Basin he integrated biotic and abiotic change and produced a record of climate driven environmental change with an unprecedented detail of 60-years steps in time contributing to an underrstanding of the anatomy of an ice-age cycle He elaborated comparisons with climate records from marine sediments and Greenland and Antarctic ice cores at centennial time-scales.
Up to retirement (in 2013, effectively 2014) he was lecturing in 5 different courses: Palaeoecology, Tropical Ecology, Biodiversity and Global Change, Future Planet Studies, and Big History. He was a frequent lecturer at congresses. After retirement he continues his activities as a guest at the University of Amsterdam. His list of publications include some 180 papers in international peer-reviewed journals, some 20 book chapters, some 30 disciplinary papers, and some 15 popular papers. Currently he is a member of the editorial board of the Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology and Caldasia. He served in many selection and advisory committees of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Netherlands Foundation for Scientific Research in the Tropics (WOTRO), and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). He served the KNAW Foresight Committees on Biogeology (2003) and Archaeology (2007). He was during two terms a member of the Board of WOTRO. He was a member of over 110 PhD committees in the Netherlands, UK, Belgium, France, Sweden, Spain, Mexico and Colombia. He is a regular peer reviewer for some 15 international journals. In 1988 he received the Silver SASQUA Medal, in 1999 he was appointed fellow of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Scieces (KNAW), and in 2014 he received the van Waterschoot van der Gracht Award.