Ross Woods was born and grew up in a small farming community in New Zealand, just south of Christchurch.
He graduated from the University of Canterbury with degrees in Mathematics (BSc (Hons) 1984) and Operations Research (MComm (Hons) 1986).
In 1986 he was hired by the Hydrology Centre at the Ministry of Works as a research scientist. His office was transferred to the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), and then to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). From 1993-6 he was granted study leave to work on a PhD at the University of Western Australia, under Siva Sivapalan. In 1996 he returned to NIWA, and remained there until 2013, working on research and consulting projects.
Ross joined the University of Bristol in January 2013.