NOAA chief Lubchenco to depart in early 2013

“Through an emphasis on transparency, accountability, integrity, innovation, team work and effective communication, we have made significant progress on multiple fronts from providing the nation with life-saving weather forecasts to leveling the playing field for fishermen to streamlining regulations,” Lubchenco said.

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Her announcement is part of what could be a larger turnover of President Obama’s environment and energy team.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and Energy Secretary Steven Chu might head for the exits, while Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that he’s “thinking hard” about whether to stick around.

Lubchenco’s long message to staff, reprinted in full here by The Washington Post, said the agency has made progress in tackling many “big challenges” in areas including over-fishing, weather forecasts and warnings and strengthening science policy.

She said progress included: “Creating a new generation of climate services to promote public understanding, support mitigation and adaptation efforts, enable smart planning, and promote regional climate partnerships.”

NOAA also played a role in federal modeling and tracking of the oil that spewed from BP’s ruptured Gulf of Mexico well in 2010.

Elsewhere in her memo to staff, she lauded the agency’s work to craft a more cogent ocean policy.

She noted that NOAA helped create the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy that “recognizes the value of a healthy marine environment, emphasizes collaboration between regions and the federal government and coordination across federal agencies to achieve healthy oceans, coasts and Great Lakes.”

Lubchenco, in announcing her departure, noted her family lives far away.

“As many of you know, my home and family are on the West Coast. I’m deeply grateful for the support and love of my family, but as wonderful as Skype is for staying in touch, it is not a viable long-term arrangement!,” she wrote in the email to staff.

Lubchenco got her Ph.D. in ecology from Harvard University and a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Washington. She was a professor at Harvard and later at Oregon State University until President Obama selected her for the NOAA post.

The Senate confirmed her in March of 2009.