Executive Director and Professor
Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium
Nancy Rabalais has been instrumental in bringing national attention to the problem of Gulf of Mexico hypoxia (=oxygen depleted waters) related to excess Mississippi River nutrients, particularly nitrogen, and similar areas worldwide. Her research on this topic began in 1985 and continues. As a result, the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy oversaw a scientific assessment of the hypoxia issue and the linkages with nutrient loadings of the Mississippi River. A Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force of federal, state and tribal members, developed and implemented a Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan to coordinate and support nutrient management and hypoxia related activities in the watershed and Gulf. Subsequent assessments by the EPA Science Advisory Board confirmed the existing and new science supporting nutrient mitigation within the Mississippi River watershed, and a 2008 Action Plan is now underway. She conducts similar studies of effects of nutrient enrichment in other estuaries. She gives seminars and presentations concerning the hypoxia and nutrient overload issues across the U.S. and globally, and has testified at Senate and House Committee hearings. In the summer of 2005 (shortly before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit), she was appointed executive director of LUMCON, where she has been since 1983.
Dr. Rabalais was a Member, then Chair, of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council (2000-2005) and has served on numerous NRC committees. She is currently Co-Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee, Land-Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone, IGBP; Member, SCOR Working Group on Natural and Human-Induced Hypoxia and Consequences for Coastal Areas; Science Advisor, Björn Carlson Foundation for the Baltic Sea 2020; Chair, Executive Board, NOAA's Coastal Restoration and Enhancement through Science and Technology; Member, Council for UNOLS, the University-Naval Oceanographic Laboratory System; Member, Trustees of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership; Member, Board of Directors, GCOOS, Gulf of Mexico Regional Association for IOOS; Member, National Sea Grant Program National Review Panel, and member of the NSF Advisory Committee to the Environmental Research and Education Directorate.
Dr. Rabalais is an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, a Past President of the Estuarine Research Federation, and a National Associate of the National Academies of Science. She received the 2002 Bostwick H. Ketchum Award for coastal research from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and several research and environmental awards for her work on the causes and consequences of Gulf hypoxia. In 2008 she received the Ruth Patrick Award from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography and the National Water Resources Institute Clarke Prize for her and her colleagues work on defining hypoxia and its environmental significance.
She obtained her B.S. and M.S. in Biology from Texas A&I University, Kingsville, and her Ph.D. in Zoology from University of Texas in 1983. She is an author of 3 books, 29 book chapters, and over 90 peer-reviewed publications. Her paper entitled "Nutrient Changes in the Mississippi River and System Responses on the Adjacent Continental Shelf" in Estuaries 1996 is the journal's second most-cited paper between 1992 and 2005. With her collaborators Gene Turner and Dubravko Justić, she was a co-author of a paper in Environmental Science & Technology in 2008 that received the ES&T Best Environmental Paper for 2008 Award.