New California Sea Grant Director

California Sea Grant is pleased to announce the selection of its new director, Dr. James E. Eckman, a biological oceanographer and longtime senior science administrator at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia.

“Jim Eckman brings a fine mix of stellar leadership skills and excellent research credentials that will enable Sea Grant to continue its upward momentum,” says Scripps Institution of Oceanography Director Dr. Tony Haymet. “We look forward to a new era with Jim at the helm.”

Dr. Eckman comes to Sea Grant having led ONR’s flagship Marine Mammals and Biological Oceanography Program (and its predecessor programs) for the last 13 years. The marine mammal program, with an annual budget of about $14 million, supports basic and applied research related to understanding the effects of sound on marine mammals and the interactions between marine biota and sound or light.

“Jim’s personal research and management experience, and his interest in education and outreach make him an excellent fit for the California Sea Grant directorship position,” says Scripps professor Ron Burton, who was chair of the search committee. “We are delighted to have him.”

Dr. Eckman has also, in recent years, led ONR’s participation in the federal, multi-agency National Oceanographic Partnership Program, which coordinates the nation’s oceanographic research and education programs and promotes partnerships among academia, business and federal agencies.

Prior to working at ONR, Dr. Eckman was a professor at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia (1984-97) and held adjunct faculty positions at the University of Georgia in Athens (1988-99) and University of South Carolina in Columbia (1985-99). Much of his research activities during this time focused on benthic ecology and its relationship to the physical environment, particularly boundary layer flows and sediment transport.

“I genuinely miss an academic environment, and the stimulation of day-to-day contact with research, students and scientific colleagues,” Dr. Eckman says, explaining his interest in California Sea Grant, which is based at the world-renowned Scripps in La Jolla. “I have a sincere wish to apply my skills to research that can solve serious societal problems related to our oceans.”

Dr. Eckman earned his doctorate in oceanography in 1982 from the University of Washington, Seattle and then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, where he studied bay scallop recruitment and survival, with support from New York Sea Grant. For the last 25 years, he has participated in kelp ecology studies on the West Coast with colleagues at the University of Washington.

His official first day at the helm of California Sea Grant will be Jan. 3, 2011.