UW News

February 16, 2011

Virginia Armbrust named director of UW School of Oceanography

News and Information

A marine microbiologist who studies phytoplankton – organisms that are responsible for 40 percent of the photosynthesis on the planet – has been named director of the University of Washingtons School of Oceanography.

Virginia Armbrust

Virginia Armbrust

Professor Virginia Armbrust, UW faculty member since 1996, will lead a school with 50 faculty and 100 staff. In fiscal 2009 the schools faculty brought in $16 million in research grants and contracts, and in late 2009 the school was awarded a $126 million contract over 5 1/2 years for construction of the regional cable component of the National Science Foundations Ocean Observatories Initiative.

The schools 274-foot research vessel, the Thomas G. Thompson, is one of only five such specialized ships in the U.S. academic fleet. It serves UW and other U.S. researchers and is used as many as 45 days a year for student expeditions on Puget Sound and throughout the Pacific Rim.

The UW is the only U.S. institution to offer both graduate and undergraduate degrees in oceanography and currently has about 75 graduate students and 95 undergraduate majors.

Pending approval by the UW Board of Regents, Armbrusts appointment is to become effective Friday, Feb. 18.

“Ginger is well known for her innovative approaches to oceanographic sciences, and we are extremely fortunate to have her assume leadership of our School of Oceanography,” said Lisa Graumlich, dean of the UW College of the Environment, of which the School of Oceanography is a part. “Gingers passion for teaching and her deeply collaborative approach to science exemplify core values of our college. We are excited to welcome her into her new role.”

Armbrust, co-director of the Pacific Northwest Center for Human Health and Ocean Studies, is known internationally for the development and use of molecular tools to study marine phytoplankton. Phytoplankton generate about half the oxygen humans breathe, form the base of the food web in the seas and remove the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Because of phytoplanktons importance in mediating global warming, scientists want to understand how changes in the environment affect phytoplankton abundance.

During her 14 years at the UW, Armbrust has taught classes that include Introduction to Oceanography, taken by non-majors and majors alike, and twice has received her colleges Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award. She is the Lowell and Frankie Wakefield professor of oceanography and a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator in marine microbiology. Her lab includes 22 faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduates, and currently receives money from sources such as the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

She earned her bachelors degree in human biology from Stanford in 1980 and her doctorate in biological oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1990. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis from 1990 to 1995.

The School of Oceanographys previous director, Russell McDuff, will return to the faculty to conduct research and establish a new teaching program in oceanography drawing on the capabilities of the UWs eScience Institute.

“Russ has been an incredible leader for the School of Oceanography,” Graumlich said. “While were sad to see him leave his position as director, we share his excitement about his new ventures. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Russ into the future.”


For more information:

Armbrust, 206-616-1783.

Web links

School of Oceanography

About Armbrust

Research vessel website

College of the Environment

Armbrusts laboratory