The Board of Directors of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) announced the upcoming retirement of its Executive Director, Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, and the national search the organization is undertaking for its next leader.
Dr. Kirkpatrick, who has served as Executive Director of GCOOS since 2014, has been instrumental in raising the profile of the observing system nationally, bringing new assets to the Gulf of Mexico, broadening the scope of the organization to include biological aspects of ocean monitoring, and in advancing the regional association’s organizational foundation and partnerships.
During her extraordinary tenure, GCOOS created the organization’s first Strategic Plan and began using it as a guiding framework. GCOOS also led the way nationally in implementing stronger data security protocols and standards, ensuring that the organization was providing accurate and timely data to its users, and expanding the products it delivered to a wider range of audiences.
Some of Dr. Kirkpatrick’s key accomplishments include:
- Leading the effort for GCOOS is become a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE) through the U.S. IOOS Program Office. Certification means that GCOOS has implemented specific practices in regards to data collection, governance, and management and that data undergoes a strict QC process so it can be deemed reliable by all users.
- Leading the submission of the next grant application to the U.S. IOOS Program Office. This five-year, $30 million proposal involves numerous partners from across the Gulf states.
Taking an active role in the U.S. and Gulf glider community efforts, serving on the steering committee for two U.S. glider workshops and supporting the creation of a formal Glider User Group (UG2).
- Supporting the development of GANDALF, a dashboard for piloting and tracking autonomous vehicles. This tool initially focused solely on missions in the Gulf of Mexico, but its ease of use and visual tracking capabilities have made it a favorite for glider operators across the U.S., including along the East Coast and even in Alaska.
- Development of the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast, a beach-level forecast predicting red tide impacts designed to protect public health and lessen economic impacts on coastal businesses initially deployed in Florida but expanding to other Gulf states, including Texas;
- As part of the national IOOS Association “fill the gaps” campaign, GCOOS also received funding to expand the number of observing assets in the Gulf, including two new high-frequency radar stations at the mouth of the Mississippi River — which are providing critical information on ocean currents for safer ship navigation. Another key aspect of Barb’s tenure were the new and stronger partnerships she developed with other Gulf-focused organizations, including the National Academies Gulf Research Program and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, as well as partnerships with the private sector, including Fugro USA, Shell and others.
The GCOOS Board of Directors is undertaking a national search for its next leader to build on the momentum established during Dr. Kirkpatrick’s tenure and guide the organization forward, and hopes to draw new leadership from one of the five Gulf states. Dr. Kirkpatrick will continue to be involved in GCOOS, leading ongoing projects related to harmful algal blooms supported through federal grants, and in ensuring a smooth transition to its next leader. She has not yet set a retirement date.