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Overview:

Located within the Department of the Interior, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is an independent fact-finding agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. Originally founded in an effort to map and survey the U.S. territories, today’s USGS program areas include biology, geography, geology, geospace and water. As a federal agency with a mandate for objective scientific study, the USGS often finds itself in the crossfire of political debates over global warming, nuclear waste and nature/wildlife conservation.

more
History:
The USGS was established in 1879 through an appropriations bill, which included a brief section providing for a new agency, the United States Geological Survey, in the Department of the Interior. The new agency stemmed from a National Academy of Sciences report that Congress commissioned in 1878 to come up with a plan for surveying and mapping U.S. Territories. The Academy recommended that a pre-existing Coast and Geodetic Survey be transferred from the Treasury Department to the DOI, renamed “Coast and Interior,” take on additional responsibility for geodetic, topographic and land-parceling surveys—and that the USGS be established as an independent organization within the department to study geological structure and economic resources (Specifically, it was charged with “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.”)
 

 

 

 

more
What it Does:
 
 
Natural Resources: Minerals, Energy
 
Established in 2006, this new office consolidates The National Map, Geospatial One-Stop, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee.
 
 
 
 
 
USGS partners include “more than 2,000 agencies of State, local and tribal government, the academic community, other Federal allies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector:”

USGS and Fish & Wildlife Service: Future Challenges

more
Controversies:
Yucca Mountain
Three USGS scientists were involved in e-mail exchanges about falsifying documents on Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project. Evidence of fabricated data surfaced in 2005, as the Department of Energy (DOE) was preparing its application for a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to store more than 70 thousand tons of the most hazardous radioactive waste at the controversial site. Interested in Yucca Mountain since the late 1980s, the DOE had conducted extensive research of the site, and USGS was brought in to help determine its safety as a waste repository. The USGS employees in question, contracted hydrologists studying water flow through the mountain, falsified documents regarding water data during a quality assurance phase of the project from1998-2000. Water data are particularly important for determining viability of the site because safety depends on water levels inside the storage area—and how long it takes for water to filter from the mountain rock to the surrounding water bodies. The data in question were manipulated in favor of a positive safety rating for the DOE’s plans.
 
A 1996 study by Los Angeles National Laboratory in New Mexico had indicated that water takes only a few decades to flow through the mountain, raising concern that the waste storage containers could erode and leak nuclear waste into the water system. The DOE maintains that subsequent studies (including USGS models) have shown that water movement through the site is much slower, and therefore makes it safe for storage. In 1998, more than 200 public interest organizations petitioned the DOE to disqualify the site and “declare it unsuitable for further consideration as a high-level nuclear waste repository.” The petition was based in part on a finding of chlorine-36 at elevated levels deep inside the mountain, indicating a rapid water flow.
 
As reported by the press in April 2005, the DOE admitted that documents regarding the safety of water infiltration at Yucca Mountain had been fabricated. The e-mail scandal elicited FBI and DOI investigations, but no criminal charges, and was subsequently downplayed by the government. But the tainted body of work USGS had invested in the Yucca Mountain project called into question the scientific basis for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application, and the DOE invested an additional $13 million to redo the research. The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (an independent committee charged with assessing YM progress, which reports to Congress) subsequently reported that the second body of research was not nearly as sound as the work it replaced.
Yucca Mountain research leaves doubt: Reworked prediction on water criticized (by Steve Tetrealt Stephens, Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Report Downplays Yucca Mountain Email Scandal (Environmental News Service)
Yucca Mountain data fabricated (by Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today)
 
Declassification Committee
Bush Plan Could Axe Scientists' Access to Sensitive Data (by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Treehugger)
 
Censorship/Global Warming
Amid federal investigations into allegations that the Bush Administration attempted to muzzle government scientists with regard to global warming, the press reported a clampdown on the USGS in 2006.
 
2002 Caribou
In 2002 the USGS issued a warning that oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve would harm the Porcupine Caribou herd. One week later it issued a contradictory statement assuring that the Caribou would not be affected, eliciting criticism for the Bush Administration which is perceived to have pressured the agency in what many see as a routine compromise of scientific integrity.

Caribou study charges energy debate

(by Lisa M. Pinsker, Geo Times)

more
Suggested Reforms:
Budget

 

more
Debate:
USGS Research/ Peak Oil Debate
In layman’s terms, “peak oil” is the point at which global petroleum reaches its maximum production rate - after which will follow an inevitable decline of the finite resource. The term was coined by M. King Hubbert, a U.S. geologist who first used the theory in 1956 to accurately predict that U.S. oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. According to Hubbert’s model, the production rate of an exhaustible resource will follow a bell-shaped curve based on limits of exploitability and external (market) pressures. Hubbert’s theory has given way to storm of debate over when and how global reserves will be exhausted—a debate that, though scientific, is also largely based on political and economic variables.
The Peak Oil Debate and Oil Companies (by Sohbet Karbuz, Energy Bulletin)
 
“Pessimists”
Many geologists argue the peak oil period is already happening, or will be within a few years - and that, once production peaks, prices will balloon and lead to economic (and social, environmental, political) Armageddon. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) is a prominent proponent of this argument.
 
“Optimists”
On the other side of the debate, many economists and political scientists believe that there will be a smooth transition to alternative fuel sources or increased investment in production that will rise to meet demand. The US Energy Information Agency, International Energy Agency and Cambridge Research Associates are prominent proponents of this school, and argue no peak is visible before 2030 - emphasizing the importance of socio-economic, political and technological forces over the doom of an inevitably diminishing natural supply.
 
Conservative groups tend to adopt a political outlook on the oil peak debate, debunking the impending crisis and arguing that supply will meet demand at reasonable prices for at least another generation. Focus among conservative groups tends to be more on neoliberal market reforms and the political regimes of countries with oil reserves - and how industrialized nations can exploit them. (See Reason Magazine article, below).
Future Oil and Gas Resources of the World: A Coming Supply Crisis? (by Thomas S. Ahlbrandt, The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System)
 
USGS
In 2000 the USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000 gave peak-oil detractors something to celebrate: data indicating that the industry could discover another 650 billion barrels of oil - possibly in West Africa or the Artic - by the year 2025.
 
Long dismissed by proponents of the peak-oil theory, the USGS forecast has also fallen out of favor with the industry. Writing for the Guardian in October 2007, David Straham reported that industry experts at the very private Hedberg research conference the year before - organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and attended by tech experts from all the biggest companies and state-owned operations - challenged the USGS figures “on the basis of their companies” more detailed proprietary data. The consensus was that future oil discovery would total 250 billion barrels (about a third of the USGS figure).
Global Petroleum Reserves - A View to the Future (by Thomas S. Ahlbrandt and J. McCabe, Geotimes)
Arctic not a refuge for oil (by Carolyn Gramling, Geotimes)
 
Background

Resources for oil peak debate at Hubbert Peak

more

Comments

Acep 10 months ago
This comment is my own pesonral opinion, not that of any agency of the Federal government. The PEER allegations are false and misleading. The contain distortions, false conclusions, factual errors and outright lies.Readers are encouraged to download the Plume Team final report from the DOI Deepwater Horizon website. If they do that they will note each team member was allowed to include, uncensored, a description of the methods that they used and the results they found. Each team member was given opportunity to comment and suggest changes on the conclusions. The conclusions include the consensus estimate of the majority of team members, including some members who used non-standard imaging techniques. Copies of the report were provided to high-level government officials to aid in making response decisions but also made available to the public. While the answers may not fit the political agenda of PEER, they were a honest attempt by some of the country s leading experts on fluid flow to provide a timely answer under emergency conditions.PEER , in my opinion, has shown itself to be an illegitimate voice for the environment. Responsible environmental organizations check their facts first before seeking publicity.Bill Lehr
sandra buskirk 5 years ago
I am trying to find out information on some geologic maps i found on areas of Arizona.Some were done by a man John H. Maxson in 1966 and 1967 and also one mapped, edited, and published by the Geological Survey in 1954. Someone is interested in these and i would like to find out if any of these might have any value before i just give them away.

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1879
Annual Budget: $1.1 billion
Employees: 8,670
Official Website: http://www.usgs.gov/
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Kimball, Suzette
Director

 

Suzette Kimball, who has been acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) since February 2013, was nominated by President Barack Obama on January 9, 2014, to fill the job permanently. The USGS director is responsible for providing scientific information to understand the Earth, minimizing loss of life and property from natural disasters and managing water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

 

Kimball graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1973 with a degree in English while also completing the requirements for a geology degree. She went on to earn a master’s in geology and geophysics from Ball State University in 1981 and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1983. During this period, she was also a research coordinator and a research assistant at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia.

 

From 1983 to 1986 Kimball worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a coastal engineering research center chief and a program manager for barrier islands sedimentation studies. Subsequently, she served as co-founder and co-director of the center for coastal management and policy and as associate marine scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. 

 

Kimball joined the National Park Service (NPS) in 1991, again focusing on barrier islands. She was a research coordinator in the NPS global climate change program until 1993, when she was named southeast associate regional director of natural resource stewardship and science, holding this position until 1998, when she joined USGS.

 

Kimball’s first job there was as eastern regional executive for biology. She moved up the ranks, becoming director of the USGS Eastern Region in 2004 and being named associate director for Geology in 2008.

 

In 2010, Kimball was named deputy director of the USGS. In that post, she led USGS's international activities and represented all North American geological surveys on international mapping endeavors.

 

In summer 2012, Kimball was also named Interior's top official for scientific integrity.

 

She has written more than 75 publications on coastal ecosystem science and coastal zone policy.

 

Kimball is married to Curt Mason, a retired coastal oceanographer. Ironically, they live nowhere near the ocean. Instead, their home is one of the oldest houses in West Virginia, having been built about 1740. Kimball has three children and six grandchildren.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Secretary Jewell Lauds President’s Intent to Nominate Suzette Kimball to Serve as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S. Department of the Interior)

more
McNutt, Marcia
Previous Director

Marcia K. McNutt, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was confirmed by the U.S. Senate October 21, 2009. McNutt is a geological scientist whose oceanography work includes training with Navy SEALS in underwater explosives, going on fifteen ocean study voyages, researching volcanoes and studying the forces behind the uplift of the Himalayan mountains.

 
Born on February 1, 1952, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, McNutt was six years old when she decided she wanted to become an oceanographer after a visit to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She was valedictorian of her class at the Northrop Collegiate School (now The Blake School) when she graduated in 1970. After receiving a perfect score on her SAT’s, she attended Colorado College, earning her bachelor’s degree in physics, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in just three years.
 
A fellowship from the National Science Foundation allowed McNutt to study geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she earned a PhD in earth sciences in 1978.
 
From 1978-1979, she worked as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. This was followed by three years as a geophysicist helping the USGS predict earthquakes from its office in Menlo Park, California.
 
In 1982, she began a 15-year stint at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she became Griswold Professor of Geophysics and served as director of the Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, a cooperative effort between MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
 
In 1997, McNutt left MIT to take over leadership of  the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, managing more than 200 scientists, engineers, and marine technical and administrative staff, as well as a $30 million annual budget. While serving as president and CEO of the Monterey research institute until her appointment by President Obama, she also worked as a professor in the Department of Earth Science at the University of California-Santa Cruz and as a professor of geophysics at Stanford University.
 
 
She chaired the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration under President Bill Clinton, and has served on evaluation and advisory boards for institutions including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Stanford University, Harvard University and Science magazine.
 
After the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, 2010, President Obama chose McNutt to chair the Flow Rate Technical Group, the panel of scientists charged with estimating the flow of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
 
McNutt’s first husband died in 1988 and she hired a single mother with a daughter of her own to live in her house and care for her three daughters (two of them identical twins). In 1996 McNutt married Ian Young, a ship’s captain for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Their wedding took place in Tahiti and was a traditional Tahitian ceremony that included war canoes and fire walkers.
 
A scuba diver, McNutt once took a Navy Seals demolitions course to learn how to use underwater explosives that are used in ocean floor mapping. She also began driving a motorcycle when she was in graduate school.
 
Marcia McNutt Biography (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)
Q&A: Marcia McNutt (Inkling Magazine)\

Marcia McNutt Interview (National Academy of Sciences)    

more
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

Located within the Department of the Interior, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is an independent fact-finding agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. Originally founded in an effort to map and survey the U.S. territories, today’s USGS program areas include biology, geography, geology, geospace and water. As a federal agency with a mandate for objective scientific study, the USGS often finds itself in the crossfire of political debates over global warming, nuclear waste and nature/wildlife conservation.

more
History:
The USGS was established in 1879 through an appropriations bill, which included a brief section providing for a new agency, the United States Geological Survey, in the Department of the Interior. The new agency stemmed from a National Academy of Sciences report that Congress commissioned in 1878 to come up with a plan for surveying and mapping U.S. Territories. The Academy recommended that a pre-existing Coast and Geodetic Survey be transferred from the Treasury Department to the DOI, renamed “Coast and Interior,” take on additional responsibility for geodetic, topographic and land-parceling surveys—and that the USGS be established as an independent organization within the department to study geological structure and economic resources (Specifically, it was charged with “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.”)
 

 

 

 

more
What it Does:
 
 
Natural Resources: Minerals, Energy
 
Established in 2006, this new office consolidates The National Map, Geospatial One-Stop, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee.
 
 
 
 
 
USGS partners include “more than 2,000 agencies of State, local and tribal government, the academic community, other Federal allies, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector:”

USGS and Fish & Wildlife Service: Future Challenges

more
Controversies:
Yucca Mountain
Three USGS scientists were involved in e-mail exchanges about falsifying documents on Nevada’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project. Evidence of fabricated data surfaced in 2005, as the Department of Energy (DOE) was preparing its application for a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to store more than 70 thousand tons of the most hazardous radioactive waste at the controversial site. Interested in Yucca Mountain since the late 1980s, the DOE had conducted extensive research of the site, and USGS was brought in to help determine its safety as a waste repository. The USGS employees in question, contracted hydrologists studying water flow through the mountain, falsified documents regarding water data during a quality assurance phase of the project from1998-2000. Water data are particularly important for determining viability of the site because safety depends on water levels inside the storage area—and how long it takes for water to filter from the mountain rock to the surrounding water bodies. The data in question were manipulated in favor of a positive safety rating for the DOE’s plans.
 
A 1996 study by Los Angeles National Laboratory in New Mexico had indicated that water takes only a few decades to flow through the mountain, raising concern that the waste storage containers could erode and leak nuclear waste into the water system. The DOE maintains that subsequent studies (including USGS models) have shown that water movement through the site is much slower, and therefore makes it safe for storage. In 1998, more than 200 public interest organizations petitioned the DOE to disqualify the site and “declare it unsuitable for further consideration as a high-level nuclear waste repository.” The petition was based in part on a finding of chlorine-36 at elevated levels deep inside the mountain, indicating a rapid water flow.
 
As reported by the press in April 2005, the DOE admitted that documents regarding the safety of water infiltration at Yucca Mountain had been fabricated. The e-mail scandal elicited FBI and DOI investigations, but no criminal charges, and was subsequently downplayed by the government. But the tainted body of work USGS had invested in the Yucca Mountain project called into question the scientific basis for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) license application, and the DOE invested an additional $13 million to redo the research. The Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (an independent committee charged with assessing YM progress, which reports to Congress) subsequently reported that the second body of research was not nearly as sound as the work it replaced.
Yucca Mountain research leaves doubt: Reworked prediction on water criticized (by Steve Tetrealt Stephens, Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Report Downplays Yucca Mountain Email Scandal (Environmental News Service)
Yucca Mountain data fabricated (by Brenda Norrell, Indian Country Today)
 
Declassification Committee
Bush Plan Could Axe Scientists' Access to Sensitive Data (by Jeremy Elton Jacquot, Treehugger)
 
Censorship/Global Warming
Amid federal investigations into allegations that the Bush Administration attempted to muzzle government scientists with regard to global warming, the press reported a clampdown on the USGS in 2006.
 
2002 Caribou
In 2002 the USGS issued a warning that oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Reserve would harm the Porcupine Caribou herd. One week later it issued a contradictory statement assuring that the Caribou would not be affected, eliciting criticism for the Bush Administration which is perceived to have pressured the agency in what many see as a routine compromise of scientific integrity.

Caribou study charges energy debate

(by Lisa M. Pinsker, Geo Times)

more
Suggested Reforms:
Budget

 

more
Debate:
USGS Research/ Peak Oil Debate
In layman’s terms, “peak oil” is the point at which global petroleum reaches its maximum production rate - after which will follow an inevitable decline of the finite resource. The term was coined by M. King Hubbert, a U.S. geologist who first used the theory in 1956 to accurately predict that U.S. oil production would peak between 1965 and 1970. According to Hubbert’s model, the production rate of an exhaustible resource will follow a bell-shaped curve based on limits of exploitability and external (market) pressures. Hubbert’s theory has given way to storm of debate over when and how global reserves will be exhausted—a debate that, though scientific, is also largely based on political and economic variables.
The Peak Oil Debate and Oil Companies (by Sohbet Karbuz, Energy Bulletin)
 
“Pessimists”
Many geologists argue the peak oil period is already happening, or will be within a few years - and that, once production peaks, prices will balloon and lead to economic (and social, environmental, political) Armageddon. The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) is a prominent proponent of this argument.
 
“Optimists”
On the other side of the debate, many economists and political scientists believe that there will be a smooth transition to alternative fuel sources or increased investment in production that will rise to meet demand. The US Energy Information Agency, International Energy Agency and Cambridge Research Associates are prominent proponents of this school, and argue no peak is visible before 2030 - emphasizing the importance of socio-economic, political and technological forces over the doom of an inevitably diminishing natural supply.
 
Conservative groups tend to adopt a political outlook on the oil peak debate, debunking the impending crisis and arguing that supply will meet demand at reasonable prices for at least another generation. Focus among conservative groups tends to be more on neoliberal market reforms and the political regimes of countries with oil reserves - and how industrialized nations can exploit them. (See Reason Magazine article, below).
Future Oil and Gas Resources of the World: A Coming Supply Crisis? (by Thomas S. Ahlbrandt, The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System)
 
USGS
In 2000 the USGS World Petroleum Assessment 2000 gave peak-oil detractors something to celebrate: data indicating that the industry could discover another 650 billion barrels of oil - possibly in West Africa or the Artic - by the year 2025.
 
Long dismissed by proponents of the peak-oil theory, the USGS forecast has also fallen out of favor with the industry. Writing for the Guardian in October 2007, David Straham reported that industry experts at the very private Hedberg research conference the year before - organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and attended by tech experts from all the biggest companies and state-owned operations - challenged the USGS figures “on the basis of their companies” more detailed proprietary data. The consensus was that future oil discovery would total 250 billion barrels (about a third of the USGS figure).
Global Petroleum Reserves - A View to the Future (by Thomas S. Ahlbrandt and J. McCabe, Geotimes)
Arctic not a refuge for oil (by Carolyn Gramling, Geotimes)
 
Background

Resources for oil peak debate at Hubbert Peak

more

Comments

Acep 10 months ago
This comment is my own pesonral opinion, not that of any agency of the Federal government. The PEER allegations are false and misleading. The contain distortions, false conclusions, factual errors and outright lies.Readers are encouraged to download the Plume Team final report from the DOI Deepwater Horizon website. If they do that they will note each team member was allowed to include, uncensored, a description of the methods that they used and the results they found. Each team member was given opportunity to comment and suggest changes on the conclusions. The conclusions include the consensus estimate of the majority of team members, including some members who used non-standard imaging techniques. Copies of the report were provided to high-level government officials to aid in making response decisions but also made available to the public. While the answers may not fit the political agenda of PEER, they were a honest attempt by some of the country s leading experts on fluid flow to provide a timely answer under emergency conditions.PEER , in my opinion, has shown itself to be an illegitimate voice for the environment. Responsible environmental organizations check their facts first before seeking publicity.Bill Lehr
sandra buskirk 5 years ago
I am trying to find out information on some geologic maps i found on areas of Arizona.Some were done by a man John H. Maxson in 1966 and 1967 and also one mapped, edited, and published by the Geological Survey in 1954. Someone is interested in these and i would like to find out if any of these might have any value before i just give them away.

Leave a comment

captcha

Founded: 1879
Annual Budget: $1.1 billion
Employees: 8,670
Official Website: http://www.usgs.gov/
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Kimball, Suzette
Director

 

Suzette Kimball, who has been acting director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) since February 2013, was nominated by President Barack Obama on January 9, 2014, to fill the job permanently. The USGS director is responsible for providing scientific information to understand the Earth, minimizing loss of life and property from natural disasters and managing water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.

 

Kimball graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1973 with a degree in English while also completing the requirements for a geology degree. She went on to earn a master’s in geology and geophysics from Ball State University in 1981 and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1983. During this period, she was also a research coordinator and a research assistant at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia.

 

From 1983 to 1986 Kimball worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a coastal engineering research center chief and a program manager for barrier islands sedimentation studies. Subsequently, she served as co-founder and co-director of the center for coastal management and policy and as associate marine scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. 

 

Kimball joined the National Park Service (NPS) in 1991, again focusing on barrier islands. She was a research coordinator in the NPS global climate change program until 1993, when she was named southeast associate regional director of natural resource stewardship and science, holding this position until 1998, when she joined USGS.

 

Kimball’s first job there was as eastern regional executive for biology. She moved up the ranks, becoming director of the USGS Eastern Region in 2004 and being named associate director for Geology in 2008.

 

In 2010, Kimball was named deputy director of the USGS. In that post, she led USGS's international activities and represented all North American geological surveys on international mapping endeavors.

 

In summer 2012, Kimball was also named Interior's top official for scientific integrity.

 

She has written more than 75 publications on coastal ecosystem science and coastal zone policy.

 

Kimball is married to Curt Mason, a retired coastal oceanographer. Ironically, they live nowhere near the ocean. Instead, their home is one of the oldest houses in West Virginia, having been built about 1740. Kimball has three children and six grandchildren.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Secretary Jewell Lauds President’s Intent to Nominate Suzette Kimball to Serve as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S. Department of the Interior)

more
McNutt, Marcia
Previous Director

Marcia K. McNutt, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was confirmed by the U.S. Senate October 21, 2009. McNutt is a geological scientist whose oceanography work includes training with Navy SEALS in underwater explosives, going on fifteen ocean study voyages, researching volcanoes and studying the forces behind the uplift of the Himalayan mountains.

 
Born on February 1, 1952, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, McNutt was six years old when she decided she wanted to become an oceanographer after a visit to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She was valedictorian of her class at the Northrop Collegiate School (now The Blake School) when she graduated in 1970. After receiving a perfect score on her SAT’s, she attended Colorado College, earning her bachelor’s degree in physics, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, in just three years.
 
A fellowship from the National Science Foundation allowed McNutt to study geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she earned a PhD in earth sciences in 1978.
 
From 1978-1979, she worked as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. This was followed by three years as a geophysicist helping the USGS predict earthquakes from its office in Menlo Park, California.
 
In 1982, she began a 15-year stint at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she became Griswold Professor of Geophysics and served as director of the Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, a cooperative effort between MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
 
In 1997, McNutt left MIT to take over leadership of  the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, managing more than 200 scientists, engineers, and marine technical and administrative staff, as well as a $30 million annual budget. While serving as president and CEO of the Monterey research institute until her appointment by President Obama, she also worked as a professor in the Department of Earth Science at the University of California-Santa Cruz and as a professor of geophysics at Stanford University.
 
 
She chaired the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration under President Bill Clinton, and has served on evaluation and advisory boards for institutions including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Stanford University, Harvard University and Science magazine.
 
After the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 20, 2010, President Obama chose McNutt to chair the Flow Rate Technical Group, the panel of scientists charged with estimating the flow of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
 
McNutt’s first husband died in 1988 and she hired a single mother with a daughter of her own to live in her house and care for her three daughters (two of them identical twins). In 1996 McNutt married Ian Young, a ship’s captain for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Their wedding took place in Tahiti and was a traditional Tahitian ceremony that included war canoes and fire walkers.
 
A scuba diver, McNutt once took a Navy Seals demolitions course to learn how to use underwater explosives that are used in ocean floor mapping. She also began driving a motorcycle when she was in graduate school.
 
Marcia McNutt Biography (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)
Q&A: Marcia McNutt (Inkling Magazine)\

Marcia McNutt Interview (National Academy of Sciences)    

more