Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist and expert on overfishing and climate change, is President Barack Obama's choice to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lubchenco is the first woman to head the agency, which oversees ocean and atmospheric research and the National Weather Service. One of its divisions, the National Marine Fisheries Service, is responsible for recovering protected marine species such as whales, salmon and sea turtles.

John Byrne, a former Oregon State president who served as head of NOAA in the Reagan administration, called Lubchenco a world-class scientist. "It's been great for Oregon State to have her here," he said. "It's a science agency-it's a good signal from the Obama administration that they're behind that."

Lubchenco is a member of the Pew Oceans Commission that recommended steps to overcome damage to the oceans from overfishing, pollution, coastal development and climate change.

She is also founder of the Leopold Leadership Program, named for conservationist and author Aldo Leopold. It puts 20 scientists from colleges and universities through a communications boot camp.

Lubchenco is widely respected within the science community and has long spoken strongly of the need to protect marine ecosystems. She has also actively promoted the public's understanding of science, creating programs to educate scientists on how to communicate with the public.

"Her direct expertise in the many challenges currently facing our oceans-climate change, overfishing, marine debris-will set the agency on a course of progress," said Vikki Spruill, president and chief executive officer of the Ocean Conservancy.

She is a past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has also received numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Pew Fellowship, eight honorary degrees, the 2002 Heinz Award in the Environment, the 2003 Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, and the 2004 Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Lubchenco is also a co-founder of Climate Central, a website devoted to information and analysis on global warming for journalists, business, government and religious leaders.