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Dr. Robert Detrick named new assistant administrator of NOAA research office
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Dr. Robert Detrick named new assistant administrator of NOAA research office

Robert Detrick, Ph.D, a marine geophysicist, was named the new head of NOAA’s research office today. Detrick will start as the assistant administrator of the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) on Feb. 13.

Christopher Loughner

Christopher Loughner

Christopher Loughner, an assistant research scientist at the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center/Cooperative Institute for Satellite Earth System Studies at the University of Maryland, and scientist at NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory.

“The person who heads this office guides the innovative and integral research that is the foundation of all we do at NOAA,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I am especially pleased that we have someone with Dr. Detrick’s experience heading our research efforts.”

In addition to heading OAR, Detrick will also will become the acting chair of the NOAA Research Council, and lead NOAA’s climate goal.

"I'm very excited about joining NOAA", said Detrick, who will leave as the director of the National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences to come to NOAA. "A healthy OAR is essential to the 'science' part of NOAA's mission. OAR’s research is critical to understanding changes in our weather, climate, oceans and coasts, and helps society make more scientifically informed decisions on how best to steward the Earth's environment."

Detrick has been director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences since November 2008, while on leave from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), where he was a senior scientist for more than 20 years and vice president for Marine Facilities and Operations.

Detrick’s research focused on aspects of marine geology. He lists more than 100 scientific publications on the seismic structure of mid-ocean ridges and oceanic crust, the size, depth, and properties of ridge crest magma chambers; and the nature of mantle flow beneath mid-ocean ridges and relationship to ridge segmentation and axial topography.

A Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, Detrick received the A.G. Huntsman Medal in 1996 which honors “marine scientists who have had and continue to have a significant influence on the course of marine scientific thought.” He participated in more than 30 major oceanographic cruises, 18 as chief scientist or co-chief scientist. He was co-principal investigator for WHOI's ocean bottom seismic instrumentation laboratory which builds and operates ocean bottom seismometers for the U.S. National Ocean Bottom Seismic Instrumentation Pool. He was senior principal investigator on WHOI’s NSF-funded project to build a replacement for WHOI's Deep Sea Research Vessel Alvin.

Detrick has served on and chaired committees and panels for various international and national organizations including the RIDGE Steering Committee (chair from 1992-1995), the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling Executive Committee of the Ocean Drilling Program (chair from 1996-1998) and the NSF Geosciences Advisory Committee (chair 2004-2005). He was a member of the Board of Governors of Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI) (1995-2007) and chaired the JOI Board from 2002-2004. He is a past president of AGU's Tectonophysics Section and is chair of the International Continental Drilling Program Assembly of Governors.

Detrick noted he is "very impressed by the caliber of research being conducted by and supported through OAR". He said he sees one of his roles is to be "an effective spokesperson for the importance and value of research to NOAA's mission."

He holds a bachelor's degree in geology and physics from Lehigh University (1971), a master’s degree from the University of California, San Diego in marine geology (1974), and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/WHOI joint program in oceanography (1978).

Since Richard Spinrad, Ph.D. left as assistant administrator in May 2010, Craig McLean, the deputy assistant administrator for OAR, has been acting assistant administrator. OAR has employees across the U.S., at both Polar Regions of the globe, and at the Equator.

“Craig has done a wonderful job in a challenging position,” Lubchenco said. “I’m grateful to him for his willingness to step up to the plate for longer than we expected; his leadership has been stellar and much appreciated.”

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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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