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To Lead USGS, Obama Turns to Agency Veteran

Suzette M. Kimball


President Barack Obama today nominated coastal geologist Suzette Kimball to be the next director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Kimball is now the survey’s acting director. If confirmed by the Senate, Kimball would succeed Marcia McNutt, who resigned from the agency in February 2013 and now serves as the editor of Science.

Kimball has worked at USGS for more than 15 years. She joined the agency in 1998, after stints with the National Park Service, the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She earned a Ph.D. in the environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, specializing in the processes that shape coastal zones.

If confirmed, Kimball will inherit a $1 billion agency that has struggled with stagnating budgets. The director’s slot has "become a job of managing decline," former USGS Director Charles "Chip" Groat told Science last year.

Some Republican senators may not be thrilled with the pick. Early last year, 13 senators asked Obama to nominate an economic geologist for the job. “The benefits of restoring an emphasis on geological surveying at USGS would be significant,” they wrote in a letter to Obama. “Knowing how many mineral resources we have—and where they are located—can inform decisions about their development and help to attract investment for the same. An economic geologist is most likely to recognize these benefits, pursue them, and provide appropriate leadership as USGS director.”

*Correction, 10 January, 1:45 p.m.: A previous version of this story misquoted a letter sent by 13 senators to President Barack Obama.