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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Names New President and Director

October 12, 2007

The Board of Trustees of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) announces that Dr. Susan K. Avery has accepted the position of president and director of the institution. Avery becomes the ninth director in WHOI's 77-year history, and the first woman to hold the position.

Avery is an atmospheric physicist with extensive experience as a leader within scientific institutions. She comes to WHOI from the University of Colorado at Boulder (UCB), where she most recently served as interim dean of the graduate school and vice chancellor for research. From 1994-2004, Avery served as director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), a 550-member collaborative institute between UCB and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Avery was the first woman and first engineer to lead CIRES.

Avery will be formally introduced to WHOI staff and students on October 17. She will officially assume the office early in 2008, succeeding James R. Luyten, who has served as acting president and director since June 2006, and Robert B. Gagosian, who served from 1993-2006.

“Susan Avery is an atmospheric scientist and an engineer with a reputation as an effective leader and spokesperson for the geosciences,” said Newton Merrill, chairman of the WHOI Board of Trustees. “She understands and appreciates the rewards and challenges of fieldwork, and she appreciates the value of creative partnerships between scientists and engineers. She is renowned for her skill in bringing together researchers from different backgrounds to approach scientific problems in new ways. She possesses the right combination of scientific leadership, experience administering a large academic research organization, and strategic planning abilities to lead WHOI into the future.”

The selection of the president and director was made by the Executive Committee of the WHOI Board of Trustees, based on the recommendations of a search committee that included four members of the Board and four WHOI senior staff members.

Avery has been a member of the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder since 1982, most recently holding the academic rank of professor of electrical and computer engineering. Her research interests include studies of atmospheric circulation and precipitation, climate variability and water resources, and the development of new radar techniques and instruments for remote sensing. She also has a keen interest in scientific literacy and the role of science in public policy. She is the author or co-author of more than 80 peer-reviewed articles.

A fellow of CIRES since 1982, Avery became its director in 1994. In that role, she facilitated new interdisciplinary research efforts spanning the geosciences and including the social and biological sciences. She spearheaded a reorganization of the institute and helped establish a thriving K-12 outreach program and a Center for Science and Technology Policy Research—efforts to make CIRES research more applicable, understandable, and accessible to the public.

Avery has helped form an integrated science and assessment program that examines the impacts of climate variability on water in the American West. She also worked with NOAA and the Climate Change Science Program to help formulate a national strategic science plan for climate research. Recently she served on two National Research Council panels: One produced a decadal plan for earth science and applications from space, and the other provided strategic guidance for the atmospheric sciences at the National Science Foundation.

Avery is a fellow of both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and of the American Meteorological Society, for which she also served as president. She is a past chair of the board of trustees of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

Avery earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Michigan State University in 1972, a master's in physics from the University of Illinois in 1974, and a doctorate in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois in 1978.

“We look forward to working with Susan to advance ocean sciences and to continue the long tradition of innovation, excellence, and discovery that are the hallmarks of WHOI research and education,” Merrill said.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment.