University of Idaho Professor to Co-Lead National Science Group

Thursday, January 12 2012

Washington, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently appointed University of Idaho College of Natural Resources Professor of Conservation and Science Advisor to the Director of the National Park Service Gary Machlis as co-leader of the Department of the Interior’s Strategic Sciences Group.

The specialized scientific group will develop future scenarios and provide rapid, interdisciplinary scientific assessments during environmental crises or disasters affecting America’s natural resources.

“I am honored to co-lead the Strategic Sciences Group with my colleague Dr. David Applegate of the U.S. Geological Survey,” said Machlis. “We have an opportunity to create a fast response scientific team that can support local and national decision makers, help respond to emergencies and accelerate recoveries.”

During an environmental crisis affecting Department of the Interior resources, the Secretary of the Interior may direct the Strategic Sciences Group to activate a crisis science team or teams, including scientists from government, academic institutions, non-government organizations and the private sector as appropriate. The group may also be directed to assist other federal, state, local or tribal agencies, as well as international assistance as necessary, subject to applicable authorities and availability of appropriations.

“Dr. Machlis is particularly well positioned to play this leadership role. He has a distinguished career as a scientist, teacher and policy expert,” said University of Idaho Provost Douglas Baker. “While on loan from the University of Idaho to the National Park Service, Dr. Machlis has served as its chief science advisor and has led other efforts to apply scientific approaches to natural disaster scenarios around the world.”

“Experience shows us that these science-based scenarios and assessments are key to an effective, strategic response to all kinds of disasters immediately after they occur, and contribute greatly to mid-term recovery and long-term restoration,” said Salazar.

The group will help ensure that preparedness, response and recovery efforts undertaken by the Department of the Interior and its bureaus will be guided by the best available science and lessons learned from past events, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Hurricane Katrina. Machlis led the experimental Department of the Interior Strategic Sciences Working Group during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“Dr. Machlis’ appointment is just one example of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources’ international engagement in important natural resource issues,” said Kurt Pregitzer, CNR dean. “He and other CNR faculty members are also leading science education efforts in Haiti to help the nation recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, support future development and improve the lives of all Haitians.”

The Department of the Interior Strategic Sciences Group was established by Secretarial Order signed by Secretary Salazar Jan. 3, 2012.
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