NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco Mary Schwalm/AP

NOAA head set to step down in February 2013

Lubchenco says she will return to her family and academia.

The administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has announced that she will leave the agency at the end of February 2013.

In an email to NOAA staff on Wednesday morning, Jane Lubchenco said that she was planning to return to her family and academia on the West Coast. She cited many of NOAA’s recent accomplishments and thanked employees for their talent and dedication to the agency’s mission.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this administration by leading NOAA,” Lubchenco said in a statement.

Outside groups praised Lubchenco’s work, and said that she had been instrumental in tackling climate change and ocean acidification. Janis Searles Jones, the interim president of Ocean Conservancy, an environmental non-profit, told The Washington Post that NOAA under Lubchenco’s leadership had a “pivotal role” in addressing major crises such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and other calamities in the Gulf Coast.

The Washington Post noted that Lubchenco’s departure adds to the growing number of leadership vacancies at NOAA that President Obama must fill. In May, former National Weather Service head Jack Hayes resigned after mishandling appropriated funds.

Prior to joining the agency in 2009, Lubchenco was a professor at Oregon State University, teaching and researching environmental science and marine ecology.