URI associate dean to be science policy advisor to President Obama

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – July 15, 2009 – Kate Moran, associate dean of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, has been appointed to a two-year term as senior policy analyst to provide guidance to President Barack Obama on issues related to oceans, the Arctic, and climate change.

(See video of Moran from the 2008 URI Honors Colloquium on Global Environmental Change)

Her appointment in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President starts July 20. Her office will be located across the street from the White House.

“I’ll be doing a lot of putting out fires,” said Moran, who will return to URI after her two-year stint in Washington. “When the executive office needs feedback or information about legislation, policy or science on these topics – often on very short notice – they’ll turn to our team to provide those answers. I’ll also be working with various agencies to help deliver on issues that are important to the president.”

Moran has been a leading voice in communicating the threat the world faces from global climate change. She has spoken locally, nationally and internationally on the subject, and she has written articles for newspapers and other publications in an effort to educate skeptics about the importance of taking immediate action.

“I’m passionate about doing something about climate change, and I know that the way the world changes is through policy,” said Moran, a resident of North Kingstown. “The president is right on about climate change and energy; he understands the major damage climate change will cause; and with his selection for energy secretary, we are on the right path to moving us toward renewable energy.”

Moran’s research focuses on marine geotechnics and its application to the study of paleoceanography and seafloor stability. She led an international research expedition to collect core samples from deep beneath the seafloor near the North Pole that revealed a 55 million-year record of climate changes in the Arctic. The technically challenging expedition required two icebreakers to keep ice at bay while a third ship remained in one spot for days at a time as it drilled into the seafloor. She also led the first research expedition to find the source of the earthquake that caused the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Her work on these research expeditions resulted in her appearance in hundreds of television, radio and newspaper stories around the world, as well as in documentaries about the tsunami expedition for BBC and the Discovery Channel.

“This is a spectacular move for Kate, whose commitment to the application of science to environmental issues is well known,” said David Farmer, dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography. “This appointment will give her extraordinary opportunities for putting her energy, insight and passion toward meeting the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.”

“Dr. Moran is more than just an academic expert – she has proven herself to be a vigorous, successful, and savvy advocate for the environment and public good,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who supported Moran’s application for the position. “Kate possesses a strong sense of purpose and the utmost integrity, and will be a great asset to the new administration.”

Moran teaches undergraduate courses in ocean engineering and graduate level courses in marine geotechnics, coastal measurements, and numerical modeling in ocean sciences. She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in ocean engineering at URI, and a Ph.D. in civil engineering at Dalhousie University.

View news coverage of this announcement via Google News.

Pictured above

Kate Moran, URI photo by Nora Lewis