June 3, 2011
Colloquium Speaker: Larry Robinson
Larry Robinson was confirmed by the United States Senate as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on May 6, 2010. He attended LeMoyne-Owen College in 1975, graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in chemistry from Memphis State University in 1979, and earned a Ph.D. degree in nuclear chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis in 1984. Prior to this appointment Robinson served as the Vice President for Research at Florida A&M University (FAMU). He held other administrative posts at FAMU including Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Interim Chief Executive Officer; and most notably, from 1997 to 2003 Robinson served as the director of FAMU’s Environmental Sciences Institute where he led efforts to establish B.S. and Ph.D. degree programs and conducted environmental chemistry research in coastal ecosystems. Since 2001, he served as Director of NOAA’s Environmental Cooperative Science Center housed at FAMU. In 2007, Robinson became the first African American to serve as Science Advisor to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) where he served until 2009. In 2008 Robinson was selected to serve on the Oceans Research and Resources Advisory Panel (ORRAP) and as a founding member of the National Science Foundation’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Science Technology Education Advisory Committee. Previously, Robinson served as a research scientist and group leader at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) during the period 1984 – 1997. Professionally, Dr. Robinson has served as chair of the Biology and Medicine Division of the American Nuclear Society; he is a charter member of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors; and treasurer and executive board member of the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Through volunteer and professional activities Dr. Robinson has been a staunch supporter of education at the post-secondary level and has shown a career-long commitment to increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Through his research efforts Robinson has served as major research advisor to several M.S. and Ph.D. degree recipients in Environmental Science at FAMU.
The Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill began as the nation was celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in April 2010. Although designated as a national environmental disaster, it is just one of the many stressors that have impacted the Gulf ecosystems over the years. A suite of stressors, both natural and manmade, have led to the degradation of the resources that millions of people depend on for their lives, livelihoods, and cultural heritage. By law, NOAA is the nation’s lead science agency for oil spills. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, NOAA as one of three Federal trustees for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process is helping to identify and quantify short- and long-term impacts to the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystems from the spill. The agency is working closely with the state trustees from the five affected states. NOAA’s role in oil spills, and specifically the Deepwater Horizon spill is five-fold: to conduct and share science, keep seafood safe, protect wildlife and habitat, assess damage, and restore the natural resources injured as a result of the spill. The NRDA data collection provides the scientific foundation for the tools and targets to restore the health of the Gulf, and in turn, provide the catalyst to recover Gulf communities and economies. The oil spill brought the Nation’s reliance on healthy oceans and coasts into sharp focus and reminding us that human lives, livelihoods, and cultures are closely tied to the health and wellbeing of our ocean and coastal ecosystems --- this is clearly demonstrated as the assessment and restoration activities in the Gulf Coast continue, one year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.