California Sea Grant has named James Eckman, a biological oceanographer and longtime senior science administrator at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., as its new director.
Eckman will be a familiar face to many in the Scripps Institution of Oceanography community, as he has led ONR’s flagship Marine Mammals and Biological Oceanography Program and its predecessors for the last 13 years. These programs have, among other things, funded studies of the behavioral and physiological effects of sound on marine mammals, including the SOCAL-10 Project.
"Jim brings a fine mix of stellar leadership skills and excellent research credentials that will enable Sea Grant to continue its upward momentum," says Scripps Director Tony Haymet. "We look forward to a new era with Jim at the helm."
An avid outdoorsman, baseball and blues fan, Eckman has also led ONR’s participation in the federal, multi-agency National Oceanographic Partnership Program, which coordinates the nation’s oceanographic research and education programs and promotes partnerships among academia, business, and federal agencies.
“Jim’s personal research and management experience, and his interest in education and outreach make him an excellent fit for the California Sea Grant directorship position,” says Scripps Oceanography Professor Ron Burton, who was chair of the search committee. “We are delighted to have him.”
Before his tenure with the Navy, Eckman was a professor at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia (1984-97), and held adjunct faculty positions at University of Georgia in Athens (1988-99) and University of South Carolina in Columbia (1985-99). Much of his research activities during this time focused on benthic ecology and its relationship to the physical environment, particularly boundary layer flows and sediment transport.
"I genuinely miss an academic environment and the stimulation of day-to-day contact with research, students, and scientific colleagues,” Eckman says, explaining his interest in California Sea Grant, which is housed at Scripps and serves the entire state of California. “I have a sincere wish to apply my skills to research that can solve serious societal problems related to our oceans.”
Eckman, 58, earned his doctorate in oceanography in 1982 from the University of Washington, Seattle, and then spent two years as a postdoctoral researcher at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, where he studied bay scallop recruitment and survival, with support from New York Sea Grant. For the last 25 years, he has participated in kelp ecology studies on the West Coast with colleagues at the University of Washington.