Former VIMS scientist Suzette Kimball was sworn in on January 8 as the director of the United States Geological Survey, the chief science agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“I am pleased the Senate voted to confirm Dr. Suzette Kimball to this important leadership post in the Administration,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Kimball’s confirmation. “As a geophysicist and veteran of decades in public service, Dr. Kimball is eminently qualified to lead the USGS.”
Kimball was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama in January 2014. She had been acting director of the USGS since February 2013 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 18, 2015.
Jewell noted that some of the responsibilities of the USGS range from mapping and LANDSAT satellite images used by people around the world, to helping communities understand and prepare for natural events such as flooding, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.
Kimball earned a bachelor of arts in English and geology from William & Mary in 1973 and later returned as the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Resource Management and Policy and associate marine scientist at VIMS. While at VIMS, Kimball worked closely with Shoreline Studies head Scott Hardaway and now emeritus professor Carl Hobbs on issues related to shoreline erosion, sand mining, and beach replenishment.
“USGS plays a critical role for our nation and the world. Dr. Kimball’s commitment to providing impartial information on some of the Earth’s most complex scientific systems will ensure that this important work continues,” Jewell said. “During her time at USGS, she has proven to be a collaborative leader as well as an effective advocate for science in guiding smart decision-making.”
Kimball served as USGS deputy director from 2010 to 2013; as the associate director for geology from 2008 to 2010; as the director of the eastern region from 2004 to 2008; and as the eastern regional executive for biology from 1998 to 2004.
Before her involvement with the USGS, Kimball served the National Park Service as southeast associate regional director and regional chief scientist from 1993-1998.
While at VIMS, says Hobbs, “Suzette was actively involved in studying the sand resources off Virginia Beach as they might be used for nourishment in Sandbridge and Dam Neck. She participated in and ran several cruises on the R/V Bay Eagle to obtain sub-bottom profiles, side-scan sonar images, and sediment samples from offshore. She was a good colleague and a contributing member to the larger VIMS community.”
Kimball received her doctorate in environmental sciences/coastal and oceanographic processes from the University of Virginia in 1983, where she also taught as an assistant professor of environmental sciences. Kimball holds a master's degree in geology/geophysics from Ball State University as well.
Kimball has authored more than 75 technical publications on coastal-ecosystem science and coastal-zone policy. She has also been appointed to numerous professional offices, including serving on the National Academy of Science Roundtable on Science & Technology for Sustainability.
Kimball becomes the second W&M alumna to lead a major federal science agency, joining Ellen Stofan ’83, NASA’s chief scientist.