President and Director

Mark R. Abbott, PhD


Mark Abbott is the tenth director and president of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, effective Oct. 1, 2015.

Dr. Abbott was dean of College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State University. He worked with faculty and with the dean of the College of Science to create the new CEOAS, restructuring the college graduate degree curricula to reflect an integrated approach to Earth sciences. The new college has 200 graduate students, more than 600 undergraduates, 98 faculty, more than 150 technical and administrative staff, and a budget of more than $50 million.

As dean since 2001, Dr. Abbott implemented a comprehensive faculty hiring plan that brought in more than 25 new faculty, established a regular assessment and mentoring program for faculty, developed a college-funded postdoctoral research program that helps bridge the gap between graduate student life and a faculty career, restructured the college budgeting process to reflect strategic priorities, and helped lead the college to greatly exceed its strategic goals in the university’s first-ever capital campaign.

Dr. Abbott came to OSU as an associate professor in 1988, following six years as a member of the technical staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an assistant adjunct professor in the Marine Life Research Group at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1982 to 1988. He was appointed dean at OSU in 2001.

His research focuses on the interaction of biological and physical processes in the upper ocean and relies on both remote sensing and field observations. He is a pioneer in the use of satellite ocean color data to study coupled physical/biological processes. He advocated the inclusion of chlorophyll fluorescence bands in MODIS (the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on EOS Terra and Aqua) and developed next-generation ocean primary productivity algorithms that used chlorophyll fluorescence data to estimate the physiological health of upper ocean phytoplankton. He has deployed a wide variety of ocean color sensors in the upper ocean, including moored arrays at the Polar Front in the Southern Ocean and ocean drifters in the California Current as well as the Polar Front.

He was an investigator in ONR’s Coastal Transition Zone program as well as the Eastern Boundary Current program. He is presently funded by ONR to explore advanced computer architectures for use in undersea platforms.

Dr. Abbott has also advised the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation on issues regarding advanced computer technology and oceanography. He was also a member of MEDEA, which advised the federal government on issues of national security and climate change.

In 2006, Dr. Abbott was appointed by the President to a six-year term on the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation and provides scientific advice to the White House and to Congress. Dr. Abbott was appointed in 2008 by Oregon Governor Kulongoski as vice chair of the Oregon Global Warming Commission, which is leading the state’s efforts in mitigation and adaptation strategies in response to climate change.

In 2011, Abbott was the recipient of the Jim Gray eScience Award, presented by Microsoft Research and presented to a nationally recognized researcher who has made outstanding contributions to data-intensive computing.

He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Consortium for Ocean Leadership as well as the Board of Trustees for NEON, Inc., which is constructing the National Ecological Observatory Network for the NSF, and served as president of The Oceanography Society from 2013-2014. He also served on the Board of Trustees for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Abbott holds a B.S. in conservation of natural resources from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Davis.