Susan K. Avery, PhD


Susan K. Avery, PhD

Susan K. Avery is President Emerita of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, having served in the leadership role there from 2008‐2015. During that period she led the development of an intermediate strategy for the institution to attain fiscal stability based on an external and internal landscape analysis. Implementation included structural changes in operations (fiscal and administrative), selective investments in new areas, including the Center for Marine Robotics; a new building for ocean observatories; an ocean informatics program, and strategic hiring in climate and coastal research. She oversaw the completion of major technology projects (Ocean Observatories Initiative, design and construction of the submersible Alvin replacement, and acquisition of a new ship, RV Neil Armstrong), and she brought focus to increased work on the application of excellent ocean science to societal issues. Major examples include: Deepwater Horizon (2010); the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti (2010); the successful search for the Air France 447 aircraft (2011); and the measurement of oceanic radionuclides from the Fukushima reactor melt‐down (2011). She spurred development of new funding resources through a restructured philanthropic development office, a revitalized Board and Corporation, numerous carefully constructed partnerships, and enhanced outreach through events that opened the doors of the institution to the local and regional community. Dr. Avery has given scientific presentations to a wide variety of lay and professional audiences, including TEDx Boston. She has been active in Congressional outreach, including testimony and briefings; active in US and international consortia dedicated to ocean research, observing, and application; and worked with the Governor’s committee to develop the Massachusetts Green Economy plan.

Prior to joining WHOI, Dr. Avery served on the faculty at the University of Colorado, Boulder from 1982‐2008. She served as director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, where she facilitated new interdisciplinary research efforts spanning the geosciences and incorporating social and biological sciences. She also helped establish a successful K‐12 outreach program and the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research – efforts to make CIRES research more applicable, understandable, and accessible to the public. From 2004‐2007 she served in interim positions as vice chancellor for research and dean of the graduate school, as well as provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Avery 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 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Climate Change Science Program to help formulate a national strategic science plan for climate research.

Dr. Avery earned a doctorate in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois in 1978. 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 is the author or co‐author of more than 90 peer‐reviewed articles and has interests in scientific literacy and the role of science in public policy and decision support. She has served on many national and international boards, committees, commissions, and program review committees, and is active in professional societies. Her current service includes the UN Science Advisory Board; the National Research Council Global Change Research Program Advisory Committee; the NOAA Science Advisory Board; the NASA Science Advisory Committee; and the Leadership Alliance External Advisory Board. She is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Meteorological Society, for which she also served as president. Currently she is a Senior Fellow with the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Awards and recognition include an honorary degree from University of Massachusetts; charter membership of the National Associate Program in the National Academy of Sciences; the Stearns Award from the University of Colorado for exceptional achievement; and an Alumni Achievement Award and Distinguished Ogura Lectureship in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Illinois.

Last updated: May 2, 2016