NCSE 2020 Keynote and Plenary Speakers

Tuesday, January 7, 2020: Conference Day 1

Dr. Marcia McNutt
President, National Academy of Sciences

Marcia McNutt

Marcia McNutt (B.A. in physics, Colorado College; Ph.D. in Earth sciences, Scripps Institution of Oceanography) is a geophysicist and the 22nd president of the National Academy of Sciences. From 2013 to 2016, she was editor-in-chief of Science journals. McNutt was director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 2009 to 2013, during which time USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. For her work to help contain that spill, McNutt was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard’s Meritorious Service Medal. She is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Geological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Association of Geodesy. McNutt is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society, UK, and the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1998, McNutt was awarded the AGU’s Macelwane Medal for research accomplishments by a young scientist, and she received the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her contributions to deep-sea exploration.


Kaitlin Yarnall
Senior Vice President and Chief Storytelling Officer, National Geographic Society

Kaitlin Yarnall Photo

As senior vice president and chief storytelling officer at the National Geographic Society, Kaitlin Yarnall is responsible for expanding the organization’s impact through all forms of storytelling, including photography, journalism, film, and public experiences. Yarnall oversees a creative team that produces impact-driven media and identifies key partnership, grant making, and fellowship opportunities with creative talent to further amplify the Society’s mission. 

Over the course of her career at National Geographic, Yarnall has assumed a variety of management roles including deputy director of National Geographic Labs, executive director and deputy creative director at National Geographic magazine, and director of cartography. She began her career at the National Geographic Society in 2005 as a cartographer.

Yarnall has been a keynote speaker at conferences around the globe and has addressed the UN General Assembly, Scandinavian royals, and rock concert stadiums. She specializes in storytelling, data visualization, information graphics, cartography, and visual narratives, and has written extensively on these subjects.

She sits on the board of directors for Media Impact Funders.

Yarnall earned an M.A. in geography from the George Washington University and a B.A. in geography and Spanish literature from Humboldt State University.


John H. Chafee Memorial Lecture on Science, Policy, and the Environment


Alex Beehler, Assistant Secretary of the United States Army Installations, Energy and Environment, U.S. Army

Alex Beehler Photo

In his role as the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, Mr. Beehler is the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army for all matters related to Army installation policy and oversight, and coordination of energy security and management. In addition, he is responsible for policy and oversight of sustainability and environmental initiatives; resource management, including design, military construction, operations, and maintenance; Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC); privatization of the Army real estate portfolio and installations’ Safety and Occupational Health programs. Before joining IE&E, Mr. Beehler served in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment. He was also the first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) of the Department of Defense. Mr. Beehler has extensive experience in private industry as well as environmental and regulatory affairs. He served in the Department of Justice, at the Environmental Protection Agency and on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Beehler has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a law degree from University of Virginia.

Dr. Tim Gallaudet, USN Ret., Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Deputy NOAA Administrator

Tim Gallaudet Photo

Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 5, 2017, as the assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere for the Department of Commerce in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Dr. Gallaudet was previously a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, where his most recent assignment was Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command.

During his 32 years of military service, Dr. Gallaudet has had experience in weather and ocean forecasting, hydrographic surveying, developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, and assessing the national security impacts of climate change. He has led teams of Navy sailors and civilians performing such diverse functions as overseeing aircraft carrier combat operations, planning and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts, assisting Navy SEAL Teams during high visibility counter-terrorism operations, and developing the Navy's annual $52 billion information technology, cyber security, and intelligence budget. Dr. Gallaudet holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and master's and doctoral degrees from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, all in oceanography.


Dr. Gerald Geernaert, Director, Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, U.S. Department of Energy

Photo of Gary Geernaert

Gerald (Gary) Geernaert is Director, Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  He oversees and directs basic scientific research at DOE National Laboratories and Universities, involving atmospheric, climate, and environmental sciences. In addition, he is the federal official responsible for two DOE scientific user facilities, i.e., the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) research facility and the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL). Besides his DOE duties, Geernaert serves as Vice-Chair and/or as DOE principal to four science interagency subcommittees under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), that in turn is part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

Before joining DOE in 2010, Dr. Geernaert was Director, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) during 20022010; Director of Research, Atmospheric Environment Department, Danish National Environmental Research Institute during 19942002; and before that a Research Scientist and later program manager at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Office of Naval Research. 

Dr. Geernaert earned a B.S. degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of California, Davis, and a Ph.D. degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Washington. 

Earlier in his career, he taught science policy at the University of Copenhagen, and throughout his career conducted research at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Danish National Environmental Research Institute, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. He has written and published four technical books and over 100 journal articles and reports throughout his career. Geernaert is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Dr. James Green, Chief Scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Photo of James Green

Dr. James (Jim) Green is Chief Scientist at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Iowa and worked at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center from 1980 to 1985 in the Solar System Division. Green was a safety diver in the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator supporting NASA’s manned spaceflight program making over 150 dives. In 1985, Jim transferred to the Goddard Space Flight Center and was the Deputy Project Scientist on the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration mission and the Global Geospace Science Missions WIND and POLAR.

From 2006 to 2018, Jim was the Director of the Planetary Science Division (PSD) at NASA Headquarters. Under his leadership several missions have been successfully executed, including the New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto, the MESSENGER spacecraft to Mercury, the Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, the Grail A and B spacecraft to the Moon, the Dawn spacecraft to Vesta and Ceres, and the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars just to name a few. Over his career, Jim has received numerous awards, including the Arthur S. Flemming award for outstanding individual performance in the federal government, and Japan’s Kotani Prize in recognition of his international science data management activities. He has written over 115 scientific articles in refereed journals about heliophysics and planetary science and over 50 technical articles on data systems and networks. In 2015, Jim was a part of the NASA involvement with the film “The Martian.”


Dr. Steven Kappes, Agricultural Research Service Associate Administrator for National Programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture 

Steven Kappes Photo

Dr. Kappes became the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Associate Administrator for the Office of National Programs in August 2016. The Office of National Program sets the research direction and develops budgets for the ARS research portfolio which includes plants, animals, natural resources, human nutrition, insects, and microbial pathogens. The Office of National Programs also includes the international research program. Currently, Dr. Kappes is leading the ARS Big Data Initiative. He has served as a senior advisor for Animal Protection and Production in the USDA, Office of the Chief Scientist. He has worked with USDA agencies on issues related to animal health and production, herbicide resistance, and biosafety and biocontainment in high and maximum biocontainment laboratories. Previously he co-chaired a U.S. Government Interagency Biosafety Taskforce and was a co-chair of the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Foreign Animal Disease Threats. Dr. Kappes received his B.S. and M.S. from South Dakota State University and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Cynthia Lodge, Deputy Director, U.S. Geological Survey

Cynthia Lodge Photo

Cindy Lodge is currently serving as the Deputy Director, assisting the Director in leading the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and managing the business operations of the bureau. Prior to her Deputy Director role, Cindy served as the Associate Director of the Office of Budget, Planning and Integration in the Office of the Director of the USGS. She is the Bureau's chief adviser for all matters related to strategic budgetary and financial strategies, budget formulation, presentation and advocacy; guidance and oversight for budget execution, internal controls, and working capital funds; leadership and oversight for the Bureau's Strategic Plan and supporting the Department of the Interior's Strategic Plan; leadership for performance management and enterprise risk management; and reports to these activities to the Department of Interior,  Office of Management and Budget and Congress.


Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Office of Research and Development Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 

Jennifer Orme Zavaleta Photo

Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Ph.D., is the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science for the Office of Research and Development (ORD) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency’s Science Advisor. Dr. Orme-Zavaleta has been with EPA since 1981, working in the areas of human health and ecological research, risk assessment, policy and regulation development, strategic planning, and program implementation. The focus of her experience includes the evaluation of risks to human and ecosystem health, and the influence of environmental change on human health in response to a variety of stressors including synthetic organic and inorganic chemicals, radionuclides, microorganisms, and vector-borne disease. Dr. Orme-Zavaleta received her B.A. in Zoology from Ohio Wesleyan University, M.S. in Zoology and Toxicology from Miami University, and Ph.D. in Wildlife Science and Public Health from Oregon State University.

 Lynn Scarlett, Chief External Affairs Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Lynn Scarlett Photo

Former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Lynn Scarlett serves on the CEO management leadership team as Chief External Affairs Officer at The Nature Conservancy, overseeing all global public policy influence and corporate engagement, as well as serving as the Conservancy’s Global Climate Strategy Lead. In these roles, Scarlett directs all public policy strategies in the United States and the 79 countries in which TNC operates. Scarlett also served at Interior as the Acting Secretary of the Interior in 2006. While Interior’s Deputy Secretary, Scarlett initiated, chaired the Department’s Cooperative Conservation Working Group and its first-ever Climate Change Task Force, and oversaw development, with the U.S. Geological Survey, of the Department’s first guidance on adaptive management. She is author or co-author of publications on climate change adaptation; ecosystem services; large landscape conservation; and science and decision-making. She chairs the Science Advisory Board of NOAA, recently co-chaired the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives Council of the U.S. Department of the Interior and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Sustainability Roundtable. She serves on the Board of Advisors of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she also completed her Ph.D. coursework and exams in political science and political economy.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020: Conference Day 2

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski
President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Portrait of Freeman Hrabowski

Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) since 1992, is a consultant on science and math education to national agencies, universities, and school systems. He was named by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. He also chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced the report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads (2011). His 2013 TED talk highlights the “Four Pillars of College Success in Science.”

Named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME (2012) and one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report (2008), he also received TIAA-CREF’s Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence (2011), the Carnegie Corporation’s Academic Leadership Award (2011), and the Heinz Award (2012) for contributions to improving the “Human Condition.” More recently, he received the American Council on Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2018) and was named a recipient of the University of California, Berkeley’s Clark Kerr Award (2019). UMBC has been recognized as a model for inclusive excellence by such publications as U.S. News, which the past 10 years has recognized UMBC as a national leader in academic innovation and undergraduate teaching. Dr. Hrabowski’s most recent book, "The Empowered University," written with two UMBC colleagues, examines how university communities support academic success by cultivating an empowering institutional culture.



Plenary 3: International Perspective

Hannele Pokka, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Environment, Finland

Hannele Pokka Photo

Hannele Pokka serves as Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of the Environment. She is the highest-ranking public servant within the Ministry. Ms. Pokka is also Docent of Environmental Law at the University of Lapland. Previously, she has served as governor of the Province of Lapland and the Minister of Justice. From 1979 to 1994, Ms. Pokka was a Member of Parliament. She has special interest and expertise in Arctic issues and has held the position of chair of the Barents Regional Council and the Northern Forum. Hannele Pokka holds a doctoral degree in environmental law. She is an honorary doctor of environment and forestry at the University of Eastern Finland (previously, University of Joensuu).