Marcia K. McNutt
As nominee for the position of
Director of the
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
October 8, 2009
Chairman Bingaman, Senator Murkowski, distinguished members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I am honored to come before you as President Obama's nominee for Director of the US Geological Survey. I am excited about this opportunity to join Secretary Salazar's team at the Department of the Interior, especially now, when the nation's need for timely information on natural hazards, environmental and climate change, and water, energy, biological, and other natural resources has never been greater.
My inspiration for dedicating my life to the Earth sciences comes from having lived in some of the most beautiful landscapes that
I majored in Physics at
Once I arrived at graduate school at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I switched fields from Physical Oceanography to Marine Geophysics because plate tectonics was revolutionizing the geosciences. With the vast majority of plate boundaries under the ocean, marine geophysicists would be the ones to put the pieces of the theory together. Entering the field at that time was like becoming a biologist right after
I credit the US Geological Survey for giving me my first "real" job after receiving my PhD. I spent three wonderful years in the Office of Earthquake Studies in
The majority of my career has been spent at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I served on the faculty in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences for 15 years, and was eventually awarded an endowed chair. I enjoyed being surrounded every day by some of the brightest young minds in the country, engaging them in forefront research problems, and watching them grow intellectually each day. My favorite part about MIT was serving as a freshman advisor and hearing the personal stories of the students each September. Many represented the first generation in their families to attend college. Whether they had come from the barrios of
My research took me and my students all over the planet: to the islands of French Polynesia, the Tibet Plateau, Iceland, Siberia, and
My most recent posting for the last 12 years has been as the President and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, better known as MBARI. MBARI is an oceanographic research institution founded by David Packard and privately funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. With its emphasis on peer relationships between scientists and engineers and encouragement of high-risk research and technology development, MBARI is best described as a "NASA for the oceans," albeit at a smaller budget scale. This latest position has given me ample experience in leadership, management, and administration, as well as considerable opportunity to familiarize myself with issues and opportunities in environmental chemistry and biology.
In looking back at my time at MBARI, I believe I have left a mark on several aspects of institute operations. First, teamwork. Across science, engineering, marine operations, outreach programs, and administrative areas, everyone functions as a well-oiled team. To a person, everyone understands that the reason we exist is to support the research mission and to make it progress smoothly and flawlessly. Second, our mission. I helped redirect MBARI from a broadly constituted portfolio in basic research to a more targeted set of socially relevant topics such as ocean acidification, eutrophication, methane hydrates, and harmful algal blooms, nearly a decade before they became common buzzwords. Finally, the staff. I am proud of the people I have hired, their work ethic, and their commitment to Packard's founding vision of how a different kind of institution can truly make a difference.
You may all be wondering why I would consider leaving such a scientific paradise and relocating from my beloved Pastures of Heaven at this time. This nation is facing important decisions concerning future uses of its precious resources: water, energy, and environment. We are increasingly at economic risk from natural hazards. The challenges associated with climate change must be better understood. Submarine areas under
So, in summary, these are the skills and qualities I would hope to bring to the leadership of the US Geological Survey, if confirmed:
-The capacity to be inspired by the natural world
-A love for science outside
-An appreciation for the culture of the US Geological Survey
-A history of association with some of the finest research institutions in the nation
-The ability to recognize and nurture excellence
-High ethical standards
-An aptitude for leadership
-Experience in team building
-A track record for asking the right scientific questions
Thank you for the opportunity to come before you, and I look forward to this challenge, should you confirm me for this position.