WASHINGTON, D.C. - Building on a new commitment to improved marine protection and management, the U.S. Department of State has chosen Jane Lubchenco as the first Science Envoy for the Oceans.
Officials today named the fourth cohort of the U.S. Science Envoy Program, which was begun by President Obama in 2009. For the first time, one of the eminent scientists involved in the initiative has a specific focus on the world's oceans.
Lubchenco is the University Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University and former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is an international expert on marine ecology, environmental science and climate change.
"This new focus on the oceans is a strong statement by the Secretary of State and President Obama about the importance of our oceans to people around the world," Lubchenco said. "They understand that science-based understanding, policy and management hold the key to a healthy, productive and resilient ocean, people and communities."
Three other science envoys were also announced to focus on various nations and areas of expertise, including Geraldine Richmond, presidential chair and professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon.
In this program, these "envoys" travel internationally as private citizens, but will also advise and share their insights with the White House, U.S. Department of State and the U.S. science community about science-based collaboration, innovation and economic growth.
Lubchenco said her appointment builds on progress made earlier this year at the Our Ocean Conference led by Secretary of State John Kerry.
Noting that she was "deeply honored to be named to the position," Lubchenco said she hopes to work with international colleagues to identify opportunities for science-based policies, building scientific capacity and exchanging findings.
"Around the world, the ocean is changing," Lubchenco said. "Climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution are all critical concerns. But we believe it's possible to identify smart, science-based approaches that can help cope with many of these challenges."
Science might help transform small-scale fisheries that are essential to the livelihoods and food security of millions of people into more sustainable and profitable fisheries, Lubchenco said. Marine protected areas could more effectively serve as "fish banks" to replenish fisheries, while also protecting habitats and biodiversity. And various steps could be taken to buffer against the forces of climate and other environmental changes.
"We haven't yet decided on specific projects or regions," Lubchenco said, "but we're going to explore all the ways in which science can help create a healthy ocean, healthy people and a prosperous economy.
Lubchenco, who does research in the Department of Integrative Biology of the OSU College of Science, also said the new position will fit well with the Marine Studies Initiative at OSU, and provide opportunities for faculty and students to become more involved in new research and initiatives.
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Jane Lubchenco, Lubchenco@oregonstate.edu