Schaal will chair advisory group leading National Academy of Sciences’ new Gulf of Mexico program

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has appointed Barbara A. Schaal, PhD, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, as chair of an advisory group that will lead NAS’ new Gulf of Mexico program.


Schaal, the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in the Department of Biology, is the outgoing vice president of NAS.

The $500 million, 30-year Gulf of Mexico program was established as part of the settlements of federal criminal complaints against British Petroleum and Transocean Ltd. following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, which resulted in 11 deaths, 17 injuries and the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

The program will focus on human health, environmental protection and oil system safety in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S.’s Outer Continental Shelf, and will fund and carry out studies, projects and activities in research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring.

The advisory group, which will serve for one year, will help create a strategic vision and guide the program’s development and implementation.

The 24-member group draws on the science, engineering and health expertise of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering (NAE), Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.

The group includes people with experience in academia and industry, as well as people with deep connections to the Gulf region.

“The advisory group brings distinction, expertise from diverse disciplines, and a wide range of experience to the task of defining the program,” said NAS President Ralph J. Cicerone. “With Dr. Schaal’s leadership and her familiarity with the National Academy of Sciences and its values, we’re confident that the program’s design will be based on scientific merit and integrity.”

The advisory group will articulate the program’s mission, goals and objectives — including preliminary thinking about metrics to measure its impacts — and outline how the program will operate in the first three to five years.

The program will be run under the auspices of the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the NAS and NAE.

Schaal is a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is one of three science envoys for 2012-13 appointed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.