Dr. Russell Callender is the Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA's National Ocean Service. The National Ocean Service (NOS) is the nation’s most comprehensive ocean and coastal agency. Its mission is to provide science-based solutions through collaborative partnerships to address evolving economic, environmental and social pressures on our oceans and coasts. The agency observes, measures, assesses, and manages the nation’s coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes areas; provides critical navigation products and services; and conducts response and restoration activities to protect vital coastal resources.
As Acting Assistant Administrator, Dr. Callender provides strategic vision for NOS. He leads the implementation of activities that support NOS’s priorities of coastal resilience, coastal intelligence, and place-based conservation. He serves as the focal point for conveying the value of NOS products and services within NOAA and to the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget, and Congress. Dr. Callender actively establishes and grows partnerships with other federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industry.
Dr. Callender brings more than 20 years of science, policy, and management experience that includes senior positions in Sea Grant and two line offices in NOAA. These positions reflect progressively greater organizational complexity and programmatic scope. As NOS’s Deputy Assistant Administrator from 2013 to 2014, Dr. Callender oversaw the financial, administrative, and performance activities of an agency that includes more than 1,700 staff members located across more than 50 places around the country. He forged long-lasting change to better integrate NOS’s broad portfolio of activities. For example, the development of the NOS Roadmap represented the first ever integration of NOS activities and milestones under a unified approach to meet Department of Commerce, NOAA, and NOS priorities. He also initiated a number of activities to increase employee satisfaction covering areas from professional development to performance assessment.
From 2009-2012, Dr. Callender served as the Deputy Director and then Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. In this position, he oversaw a diverse portfolio of research, monitoring and assessments with a focus on forecasting, prevention, detection, control and mitigation of harmful algal blooms; contaminant monitoring and impact assessments on coastal ecosystems; understanding and assessing how sea level, ocean chemistry, and temperature changes impact coastal ecosystems; and geospatial mapping, modeling, and analytical capability to guide coastal planning. During this period he led major changes in NCCOS resulting in a new scientific mission focus, a new business model, and increased national relevance. Under his direction NCCOS played a key role in supporting NOAA’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, enhanced partnerships with EPA in the Great Lakes, and contributed to a bi-state integrated ocean and coastal mapping effort in Long Island Sound.
From 2003-2009, Dr. Callender was the Director of NOAA’s Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment. There he focused on chemical contaminant research and monitoring activities as part of the National Status and Trends Program. He supported NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program’s coral reef mapping and monitoring, marine protected area assessments for the National Marine Sanctuaries and National Estuarine Research Reserves, and coastal remote sensing applications. In this latter capacity he led the transition of a harmful algal bloom forecast in the Gulf of Mexico from a research product to a NOAA operational product. This was the first operational ecological forecast ever produced by NOS and is currently used by coastal managers. This effort was the precursor for NOAA’s current Ecological forecasting Roadmap.
He has also served as the Director of the Office of Scientific Support in NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), where he provided scientific and policy support to the OAR executive leadership team. His primary responsibility there was to serve as liaison to OAR’s laboratories, Cooperative Institutes, Sea Grant, the National Undersea Research Program, and the Office of Global Programs.
Dr. Callender has also served as the Assistant Director for the Virginia Sea Grant Program, managing a wide variety of marine and coastal research and outreach projects in the Chesapeake Bay and has worked for the Oceanographer of the Navy on issues ranging from logistics support in Antarctica to icebreaker requirements.
He received a Ph.D. in geology from Texas A&M University in 1992 with research expertise in deep sea benthic paleoecology and marine geology. His research experience was primarily based in the Gulf of Mexico and included ship and submersible-based exploration and research on deep-sea chemoautrophic communities. He has authored twenty-two peer reviewed publications in journals such as Earth and Planetary Science Letters; Historical Biology; Lethaia; and Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.