Margaret Leinen was appointed the eleventh Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego in July 2013. She also serves as UC San Diego’s Vice Chancellor for Marine Sciences and Dean of the School of Marine Sciences. She joined UC San Diego in October 2013.
Leinen is an award-winning oceanographer and distinguished national and international leader in ocean science, global climate and environmental issues. Her research in paleo-oceanography and paleo-climatology focuses on ocean sediments and their relationship to global biogeochemical cycles and the history of Earth’s ocean and climate.
Leinen leads UC San Diego’s ocean, earth, atmospheric and climate science research and education programs at Scripps Oceanography, the foremost environmental research institution addressing the pressing environmental problems facing our planet. Scripps Oceanography provides the knowledge necessary to address these challenges, teaches the next generation of science leaders and partners with government, non-profits and the private sector to translate knowledge to action.
Leinen enhances Scripps and UC San Diego through her impressive career in academic research and administration, federal research administration, and non-profit startups. She served for seven years at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as Assistant Director for Geosciences and Coordinator of Environmental Research and Education. During that time she also led government-wide planning for climate research through the US Global Change Research Program, and co-led government planning for ocean research. While at NSF, she presided over and directly influenced the development of some of the most consequential programs in marine, atmospheric, and earth science including EarthScope and the Ocean Observatories Initiative.
Prior to joining Scripps, she served as Vice Provost for Marine and Environmental Initiatives and Executive Director of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, a unit of Florida Atlantic University. At the University of Rhode Island, she was Vice Provost for Marine and Environmental Programs and Dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography.
She is the founder and served as president of the Climate Response Fund, a non-profit organization that works to foster discussion of climate engineering research and to decrease the risk that these techniques might be called on or deployed before they are adequately understood and regulated. She also spent two years as the Chief Science Officer of Climos, Inc., a startup focused on green technology for climate mitigation.
Leinen currently serves as a member of the Executive Planning Group of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and is a member of the distinguished Leadership Council of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. She is the Vice Chair of the Research Board of the $500 million Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. From 2016-2018 she served as a U.S. Science Envoy focusing on ocean science in Latin America, East Asia, and the Pacific. She has served as President of the American Geophysical Union, Chair of the Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Science Section of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and President of The Oceanography Society. She serves on the boards of the National Council for Science and the Environment and Science Counts. She also served as vice chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and on the board on Global Change of the National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences.
Leinen is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union and The Oceanography Society. She has been awarded Distinguished Alumni Awards from all three universities she attended as a student: University of Illinois, Oregon State University, and University of Rhode Island. In 2020, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Leinen received her doctorate in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island (1980), her master's degree in geological oceanography from Oregon State University (1975), and her bachelor's degree in geology from the University of Illinois (1969).