Jacksonville University honors Dr. Marcia McNutt as the 2022 Marine Science Pioneer Award winner

October 27, 2022

The Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute selected geophysicist Dr. Marcia McNutt, President of the National Academy of Sciences, as the 2022 Marine Science Pioneer honoree. 

Each year, the Institute selects a prominent figure in the field of marine science whose research and dedication to life-learning has shaped and inspired advancements in the world around us. Dr. McNutt participated in discussions with students, presented at a public luncheon, and received her award during her visit to the Jacksonville University campus on Oct. 27.

Dr. A. Quinton White, Executive Director of the Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute said the award is given to those “who have made a difference in marine science, who have broken the mold and broken the glass ceiling.” 

Dr. McNutt was the perfect fit for the recognition.

“This is a marine pioneer award, and pioneer to me means going to a place no one has ever been before and seeing things for the first time,” Dr. McNutt said, who delivered a lecture titled “The Many Dimensions of Ocean Exploration at the Pioneer Award luncheon. “I am honored to have received this award from Jacksonville University, and I feel like I’m now part of the JU family.”

Past winners have included deep sea archeologist Bob Ballard, who is most famously known for the discoveries of the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1985; Chris Fischer, founder of OCEARCH and expedition leader on shark tracking and apex predators; Edie Widder, co-founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association and the first researcher to film Giant Squid and deep sea researcher Dr. Dawn Wright, who created the first geographic information system data model for ocean and coastal science.

Dr. Melinda Simmons, Jacksonville University Associate Professor of Marine Science, nominated Dr. McNutt for the honor after crossing paths with her at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, where McNutt was President and CEO for 12 years.

“During this time, I saw firsthand what true leadership could and should be,” Dr. Simmons said. “Dr. McNutt has been honored with many awards and has achieved many feats in her field, but what impresses me most are the positive impacts she has made even in the midst of chaos.”

McNutt and students

Dr. McNutt is a geophysicist and president of the National Academy of Sciences. From 2013 to 2016, she served as editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals. Prior to joining Science, she was director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 2009 to 2013. During her tenure, the USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and Japan, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Dr. McNutt led a team of government scientists and engineers at BP headquarters in Houston who helped contain the oil and cap the well. For her contributions, she was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard’s Meritorious Service Medal.

Before joining the USGS, Dr. McNutt served as president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, in Moss Landing, California. During her time at MBARI, the institution became a leader in developing biological and chemical sensors for remote ocean deployment, installed the first deep-sea cabled observatory in U.S. waters, and advanced the integration of artificial intelligence into autonomous underwater vehicles for complex undersea missions.

Dr. McNutt began her academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics and directed the Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science & Engineering, jointly offered by MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She is a veteran of more than a dozen deep-sea expeditions, on most of which she was chief or co-chief scientist.

Dr. McNutt received a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College and her doctorate in Earth sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her honors include membership in the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from Colorado College, the University of Minnesota, Monmouth University, and the Colorado School of Mines. In 1988, she was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Macelwane Medal for research accomplishments by a young scientist, and she received the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her contributions to deep-sea exploration.

Dr. McNutt served as president of the American Geophysical Union from 2000 to 2002. She was chair of the Board of Governors for Joint Oceanographic Institutions, responsible for operating the International Ocean Discovery Program’s vessel JOIDES Resolution and associated research programs. She is a fellow of AGU, the Geological Society of America, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and International Association of Geodesy.

Marcia McNutt, Tim Cost and Quinton White


Katie Garwood


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