WASHINGTON (AP) — Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist and expert on overfishing and climate change, is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Lubchenco is the first woman to head the agency, which oversees ocean and atmospheric research and the National Weather Service.
One of its divisions, the National Marine Fisheries Service, is responsible for recovering protected marine species such as whales, salmon and sea turtles.
Obama announced her appointment Saturday along with three other top science officials and said the nation's policy on science would change. The Bush administration has been criticized for putting politics above science.
"It's time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology," Obama said.
The appointment was widely expected among scientists in Oregon.
John Byrne, a former Oregon State president who served as head of NOAA in the Reagan administration, called Lubchenco a world-class scientist.
"It's been great for Oregon State to have her here," he said.
"It's a science agency — it's a good signal from the Obama administration that they're behind that," he said.
Lubchenco told The Associated Press in October she was looking forward to a change in the White House.
"The Bush administration has not been respectful of the science," she said. "But I think that's not true of Republicans in general. I know it's not. I am very much looking forward to a new administration that does respect scientific information and that considers it very seriously in making environmental policies."
Lubchenco is a member of the Pew Oceans Commission that recommended steps to overcome damage to the oceans from overfishing, pollution, coastal development and climate change.
She is also founder of the Leopold Leadership Program, named for conservationist and author Aldo Leopold. It puts 20 scientists from colleges and universities through a communications boot camp.
Lubchenco is widely respected within the science community and has long spoken strongly of the need to protect marine ecosystems. However, her advocacy of marine reserves has made her something of a lightning rod in some Oregon circles.
Lubchenco has actively promoted public understanding of science, creating programs to educate scientists on how to communicate with the public.
"Her direct expertise in the many challenges currently facing our oceans — climate change, overfishing, marine debris — will set the agency on a course of progress," said Vikki Spruill, president and chief executive officer of the Ocean Conservancy.
She is a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has also received numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Pew Fellowship, eight honorary degrees, the 2002 Heinz Award in the Environment, the 2003 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, and the 2004 Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
Lubchenco is also a co-founder of Climate Central, a Web site devoted to information and analysis on global warming for journalists, business, government and religious leaders.
Lubchenco has a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Colorado College, a master's in zoology from the University of Washington, and a doctorate in marine ecology from Harvard University. She has taught at Oregon State since 1978.