The Oceanography Society (TOS) recently announced that UMCES' Horn Point Laboratory alumna Deborah Bronk, President and CEO of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, has been elected as their newest president. Her term will begin in 2023 and run for two years.
“The next decade will be a critical one for the ocean in terms of climate change. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment in history,” Bronk said. “I am a firm believer in the importance of scientific societies to advancing the scientific enterprise.”
The Oceanography Society works to promote the broad understanding of oceanography, facilitate consensus building, and inform the public about ocean research, innovative technology, and educational opportunities. Founded in 1988, the professional organization publishes the scientific journal Oceanography and is currently helmed by Andone Lavery, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Bronk joined Bigelow Laboratory in 2018 as its president and CEO and will remain in that role throughout her work with TOS. She has conducted more than 50 research cruises and field studies in freshwater and marine environments that stretch from pole to pole during her three decades of experience as an oceanographer. In December 2020, she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and recognized for her substantial research advances on the marine nitrogen cycle and for leadership in the ocean science research community.
Bronk believes that scientific societies, including TOS, play an important role for women in the field, and she hopes her leadership can help foster a more diverse community. Her graduate advisor was UMCES Horn Point Laboratory Professor Pat Glibert. Glibert is the current President of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). Recognized by their peers, Bronk and Glibert are leading the geosciences at a critical time.
“The physical sciences are still dominated by men, so it is not uncommon for women in marine science or oceanography departments to have few women colleagues,” she said. “Science societies can fill that gap by providing a sense of community and peers in similar situations.”
Bronk hopes that her new role will allow her to take the lessons she has learned at Bigelow Laboratory and pass them along to the community.
“We have no disciplinary silos and a flat governance structure with minimal bureaucracy that empowers scientists to think creatively about both their science and how the institute enables it,” she said. “I firmly believe that Bigelow Laboratory’s unique model is an important one for U.S. science today.”
As president-elect, Bronk plans to listen to the needs her colleagues believe are most pressing, while she works to help them consider new approaches to the progress that is urgently needed. Because the impacts of climate change and the need for science-based action are rapidly growing, Bronk believes her presidency comes at a critical time for the discipline.
“If we are going to adapt to and mitigate climate change, we desperately need to expand federal research support to facilitate technology transfer that gets research discoveries into the market at scale,” she said. “The coming decade will be critical for the ocean because we are reaching tipping points in marine ecosystems around the world on issues like biodiversity, invasive species, and sea ice melting. The time to act is now!”