Dr. Elizabeth Jewett selected to lead NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program

Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Jewett, a NOAA scientist with diverse science and management experience in ocean acidification and coastal hypoxia (low oxygen) research programs, will be the first director of NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program.

Established by Congress in 2009, the Ocean Acidification Program will plan and oversee a long-term coastal and open ocean monitoring program, lead research on the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and the socioeconomic implications of these impacts. It will also provide educational opportunities to learn about this threat through national public outreach and coordinate activities with other agencies, nongovernmental groups and the international community.

Ocean acidification is a change in the chemistry of the ocean that results in seawater becoming more acidic because the ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increase in ocean acidity makes it difficult for many ocean plants and animals to make or maintain their shells or skeletons. According to NOAA’s Ocean and Great Lakes Acidification Research Plan, a more acidic ocean has the potential to seriously threaten the health of the world’s oceans and the significant economic benefit they provide to humans.

Jewett has led the nation‘s only two national hypoxia research funding programs as Hypoxia Research Program manager at the Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research in NOAA’s National Ocean Service. In this role, she has strived to make the funded science relevant to the management of coastal ecosystems, especially in the Chesapeake Bay and northern Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, she has taken leadership roles in NOAA-wide and interagency organizations focused on ocean acidification and its effect on ecosystems.

“NOAA is fortunate to have Dr. Jewett take on this important leadership role in our ocean acidification program,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “The ocean is becoming more acidic at rates not seen for at least 20 million years, due primarily to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This program will help us understand the changes underway and their consequences.”

A founding member of NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Steering Committee, Jewett has led NOAA-wide meetings of scientists and policymakers to conceive and develop NOAA’s first comprehensive ocean acidification research plan. For the past two years, she has represented NOAA on the ocean acidification interagency working group (under the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology) where she helped develop an ocean acidification strategic research plan for the nation. She also has many years of experience working in nongovernmental organizations.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be the first to lead and coordinate NOAA’s dynamic ocean acidification research and monitoring work,” Jewett said. “We now need to expand NOAA’s capacity and efforts to better understand and respond to this very serious threat to the world’s ocean, estuaries and Great Lakes.”

In addition to NOAA’s current research on ocean acidification, which includes monitoring open ocean and coastal conditions and studying the response of coral reefs, fish, crabs, shellfish and algae to the changing ocean chemistry, the new NOAA-wide program will coordinate and expand capabilities needed to assess regional and national ecosystem and socioeconomic impacts of increased ocean acidification and develop adaptation strategies and techniques for conserving marine ecosystems.

As director, Jewett will coordinate the ocean acidification work of 70 scientists from across NOAA, as well as extramural efforts led by NOAA’s academic partners. She will also represent NOAA on the interagency working group of the Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology of the National Science and Technology Council, coordinating federal activities on ocean acidification to better understand and address how a more acidic ocean will affect life on the planet.

“Dr. Jewett has a clear vision for a NOAA and national ocean acidification strategy and program, and she is experienced in coordinating interagency working groups representing diverse organizations,” said NOAA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Research Craig McLean. NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program will be based in Silver Spring, Md., as a part of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research.

Jewett earned a Ph.D in biology at the University of Maryland, a Master of Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a B.A. at Yale University. She is an adjunct professor of biology at George Washington University and has authored a number of peer-reviewed publications and important interagency research assessments and plans, including the recently released Scientific Assessment of Hypoxia in U.S. Coastal Waters. Jewett will assume her new role beginning the week of May 22.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

NOAA News, 16 May 2011. Article.