Margaret Leinen Selected for AGU’s 2019 Ambassador Award

Scripps Oceanography Director Margaret Leinen speaks at the unveiling of the new pier at Scripps's Nimitz Marine Facility on Point Loma in April 2016. Behind her are the boom arms of research platform FLIP. Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, used here with permission

Scripps Oceanography Director Margaret Leinen speaks at the unveiling of the new pier at Scripps’s Nimitz Marine Facility on Point Loma in April 2016. Behind her are the boom arms of research platform FLIP. Credit: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, used here with permission

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) congratulates its Research Board Vice Chair Dr. Margaret Leinen for receiving the 2019 American Geophysical Union’s Ambassador Award. The Ambassador Award honors a member’s outstanding contributions and achievements that extend beyond those recognized by traditional scientific discipline awards. The contributions and achievements include promoting discovery in Earth and space science, inspiring scientists to help improve lives around the world, leading scientific collaboration and innovation, and promoting a global talent pool.

“Margaret Leinen is a leader in every sense of the word,” said Dr. Rita Colwell, Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland and at Johns Hopkins University and Chair of the GoMRI Research Board. “She is brilliant in her management skills and successful in achieving goals, no matter how complex or difficult. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Margaret and congratulate her on this award. She is, indeed, an Ambassador!”

Dr. Leinen is the Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California (UC) San Diego and serves as the UC San Diego’s Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences and Dean of the School of Marine Sciences. She is an award-winning oceanographer, and her research in paleo-oceanography and paleo-climatology focuses on ocean sediments and their relationship to global biogeochemical cycles and the history of Earth’s ocean and climate. Her extensive national and international executive accomplishments span research administration from the federal level to non-profit startups related to ocean science, global climate, and the environment.

Fellow GoMRI Research Board Member Dr. John Farrington, Dean Emeritus at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, recalled attending numerous and varied national and international meetings and workshops with Dr. Leinen, “There is a laudable characteristic that Margaret brings to these meetings and that is an ability to interject herself into somewhat tense situations, capture the essence of the debate, and offer tractable solutions. She is a prime example of the approach – there is no end to what you can accomplish if you are not trying to get credit for yourself.”

Dr. Leinen has extensive science leadership experience, having served as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation and Coordinator of its Environmental Research and Education, Executive Director of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University and Vice Provost of its Marine and Environmental Initiatives, and Dean of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography and College of the Environment and Life Sciences. In 2016, Dr. Leinen was selected as a U.S. Science Envoy by the U.S. State Department.

Her science leadership also included President of the American Geophysical Union, President of the Climate Response Fund, Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Section, Chair of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans’ Working Group on Biological Observations, and Chair of Consortium for Ocean Leadership’s Members Nominating Committee.

Numerous organizations have benefited from her service on their Boards of Directors or Advisory Boards, including the National Council for Science and the Environment, the U.S. Science Advisory Committee, the AGU Board of Governors, the University of Rhode Island Foundation, ScienceCounts, Cleantech San Diego, California Ocean Science Trust, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology Institute of Oceanology, the Chinese Academy of Science, the Consortium for Ocean Research and Education, and the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences.

Dr. Leinen is the recipient of many scientific honors, including the Ambassador Award by the U.S. Geological Survey; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America; and the Distinguished Alumni Award at the University of Rhode Island, Oregon State University, and the University of Illinois.

The GoMRI community joins in the accolades of Dr. Leinen’s exceptional contributions to science and for her direction as the Vice Chair of the GoMRI Research Board.

By Nilde “Maggie” Dannreuther. Contact for questions or comments.


The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit

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