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NOAA physical oceanographer to lead NOAA ocean exploration and research office
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NOAA physical oceanographer to lead NOAA ocean exploration and research office

Alan Leonardi, Ph.D., a physical oceanographer and meteorologist who has served as deputy director of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab (AOML), has been named director of NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER). Leonardi is slated to begin on Oct. 6.

“Leading the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research requires someone with a special set of leadership, communication, science and technology skills, and we are fortunate to find such a person in Alan,” said Craig McLean, NOAA’s acting assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research provides foundational science to help address current and emerging management issues associated with the deep ocean. Its personnel, technology, infrastructure, and missions provide scientists and managers access to  high priority, yet largely inaccessible, areas of the global ocean. A key element of OER is the Okeanos Explorer Program. It combines America’s ship for ocean exploration, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, with shore-based, high-speed networks and infrastructure for live communications, including HD video of the seafloor, to scientists and other audiences ashore. It is the only federal program dedicated to systematic telepresence-enabled exploration of the world ocean.

“I am excited to be joining the NOAA OER team to help advance new and emerging underwater technologies to explore the deep ocean,” said Leonardi. “It’s a great honor to be on a team charged with putting valuable environmental intelligence into the hands of citizens, resource managers, businesspeople and other scientists to address our nation’s current and emerging ocean science and management needs.”

Since 2010, Leonardi has served as deputy director of AOML, a NOAA Research laboratory in Miami, Fla. In this position, he has managed the day-to-day operations of a laboratory that supports 160 oceanographers, hurricane researchers, environmental scientists, and support staff dedicated to improving our knowledge of the oceans, ecosystems, and tropical cyclones.

Career highlights also include more than 16 years of combined research, teaching, science leadership and managerial experience in various government, academic and private industry arenas. During this time, Leonardi has been awarded research fellowships from the Naval Research Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; has served as guest speaker and lecturer in national and international scientific meetings, symposia and academic programs; and been awarded the Department of Commerce Silver Medal for his leadership in fostering a partnership with Google, Inc. to collect and make accessible oceanographic data for the general public and the scientific community on Google’s popular Google Earth platform.

Leonardi earned his doctorate and a Master of Science degree in physical oceanography from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin.

Leonardi will take over from OER deputy director John McDonough, who has served as the acting director of OER since May 2013. During that time, McDonough has directed several important expeditions around our nation’s coasts, focused the program’s mission on providing foundational science to address ocean management issues and worked to strengthen and build important private and public partnerships for NOAA and OER.  

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs at NOAA Research at 301-734-1123 or by email at

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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


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