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D. James Baker, former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) during the Clinton administration, has landed a job as
president and CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He took
office on May 20.
Besides promoting the national and international profile of the science museum, the oldest natural history institution in the Western Hemisphere, Baker will be working with scientists to help them gain additional funding through scientific agencies such as the National Science Foundation and to raise the museums endowment of private donations.
An avid adventurer who grew up in Long Beach, Calif., Baker is the co-inventor of a precision deep-sea pressure gauge for measuring ocean currents and has led the strategic planning for four ocean-observing satellites. After stepping down from NOAA in February 2001, Baker traveled with his wife for five weeks through India, where they visited the facilities of the governments space department. Baker is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a long-time member of the American Geophysical Union. He is also a member of the Smithsonian Institution Commission in Washington overseeing the scientific guidelines for, among other things, how the Smithsonian should optimize its financial resources. While funding is always an issue, Baker says, he adds that he intends for the Philadelphia institution to maintain ultimate control over how funds are used, a point of controversy for Smithsonian funding. I think its an issue that has to be worked out with each donor, but as a whole the Academy of Natural Sciences has final say over the exhibits and how funds are used. Most donors are comfortable with that agreement.
Baker says he looks forward to leading the Academy because of its involvement in public outreach. My goal is to use the Academys museum and public outreach programs to teach the public about the impacts humans have on the environment and to understand the changes we are making. Im now working with the environmental research labs in Philadelphia and on Chesapeake Bay to develop watershed exhibits that show how people are part of the local and regional watershed.
In 2004, the Academy of Natural Sciences will host a touring exhibit celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The museum currently holds the plants Meriwether Lewis and William Clark collected along their way to the West Coast and back. Using the plants, the exhibition will help show us what the United States looked like at the time of Lewis and Clark. With that we will have satellite data, as a way to teach the public how things have changed, Baker says. The idea is to also show what the United States might look like in the future and how to live in a sustainable way.