Following summer holidays spent fossicking on mine dumps in Cornwall, Richard realized that he had a passion for geology and mineral deposits, so he enrolled as an undergraduate at the Royal School of Mines (aka Imperial College, London) to study mining geology, graduating in 1980. Richard then went straight to work as an exploration geologist, very briefly for Falconbridge and then for Cominco for seven years, spending time on exploration programs, largely in Europe—the UK, France, Italy, and latterly Turkey, where Cominco opened up a successful period of exploration discovery in that country. Exploration in what might be considered as vacation destinations brought with it a range of significant but quite different challenges from those encountered when exploring in more remote places. More specifically, Richard was able to see, as an early career, junior geologist, the importance of respectful engagement with local communities and how important it is to develop both respect and mutual interests for all parties right from the start.
Richard's quest for understanding how mineral deposits formed drew him back to undertake a Ph.D. degree in London, spending time unraveling the processes of gold formation in Zimbabwe. This was supported by a bursary from Rio Tinto and involving much time underground mapping the faces of a deep, hot, and narrow gold mine, at the same time developing enormous respect for the production side of the minerals business. Deciding that research had now become a passion, he moved down the road to the Natural History Museum (NHM) in 1991 and since then has remained there to build a mineral deposit research program for the NHM centered around the large ore collection that at the time had no curator and not much active applied research. Between 1991 and 2013, he developed the ore deposit research program at the NHM that has grown to become the currently successful home of the LODE and CERCAMS research groups. Richard's research has always been focused toward the minerals industry, with work funded through a mixture of academic and industry sources, building projects very much around the integration of strong academic output matched by practical outcomes for both industry and society. Richard has more than 90 publications in international journals, continues to teach the ore deposit module at Imperial College (RSM), where he is visiting professor, and has an adjunct role at the rival Camborne School of Mines, Cornwall. During his career, he has supervised many successful M.Sci. and Ph.D. students, with successful placement of many of those into leading industry and academic roles in economic geology.
Since 2013 Richard has been head of earth sciences at the NHM, still managing to keep an active research and undergraduate teaching portfolio. More recently, he spent time as the museum's acting director of science, helping to craft its new strategy and work on the new science plan.
Richard has been an SEG member since 1992 and has served on the Lindgren Award Committee from 2007 to 2010, as Regional Vice President for Europe 2012 to 2014, and as Chair of the Committee on Committees in 2015. He is also a former council member of the Geological Society of London and has served as a regional vice president for the Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits (SGA) between 2005 and 2009. Richard has also had roles with the EU Raw Materials Programme from 2012 to 2017.