A former Oregon State University professor is stepping down from a top post in the Obama administration.
When Jane Lubchenco was appointed administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2009 she was the first woman to hold that position. She made the move to Washington, D.C., leaving behind her position as professor of marine biology at OSU.
In a letter released Wednesday, Lubchenco thanked her NOAA colleagues, saying: “I am immensely proud of all we have accomplished in the last four years and know full well that we have been able to do so much only because of your impressive talent and dedication.”
The administrator went on to say that the past three years living and working on the opposite coast from her family had proved a challenge.
“I’m deeply grateful for the support and love of my family,” she wrote, “but as wonderful as Skype is for staying in touch, it is not a viable long-term arrangement!”
Lubchenco says she plans to leave at the end of February. In her announcement, she identified accomplishments NOAA has made during her time at the helm:
Ending over-fishing, rebuilding depleted stocks, and returning fishing to profitability;
Strengthening the nation’s environmental satellite infrastructure;
Helping create the first National Ocean Policy that recognizes the value of a healthy marine environment, emphasizes collaboration between regions and the federal government and coordination across federal agencies to achieve healthy oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.
Putting more money and policy emphasis toward the resilience of coastal communities through more strategic and better integrated conservation and restoration efforts;
Better serving recreational anglers and boaters by convening a saltwater sport fishing summit and developing a recreational fishing action agenda;
Supporting the role of science in the administration. She pointed to initiating the first Scientific Integrity Policy, doubling the number of senior scientific positions, establishing a new Council of Fellows, and reinstating the Chief Scientist position;
Responding to disasters that included the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/radiation/marine debris catastrophe, hurricanes Irene and Isaac and superstorm Sandy.
No successor was immediately announced for Lubchenco, who has held the job since 2009. She became well-known to the public for her role in response to the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010.
Her agency was accused of accepting for too long the oil company’s low estimates for the amount of oil leaking. It also was criticized for a report saying that by August of that year most of the spilled oil was gone, or at least not visible. The agency said much of it had dispersed naturally, had burned or was removed.
Still, Lubchenco was praised Wednesday by the Ocean Conservancy. “Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA were quick to respond to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring that the Gulf region, including the marine ecosystem, is restored,” said interim president and CEO Janis Searles Jones.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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