Sonya Legg named director of Center for Ocean Leadership

Legg joins COL from Princeton University, where she is Associate Director of the Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System

Jun 6, 2023 - by Staff

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) has chosen Dr. Sonya Legg to serve as the first permanent director of its new Center for Ocean Leadership (COL). Legg, who comes to UCAR from Princeton University, will begin working at COL over the summer and fully step into her new role on September 5. She will lead COL’s mission to support ocean science, education, and monitoring in partnership with the ocean science and technology community as part of UCAR Community Programs (UCP). 

"We are thrilled to welcome Sonya to UCP as the leader of the Center for Ocean Leadership," said UCP Director Bill Kuo. "She has an excellent track record of helping early-career professionals hone their skills and has demonstrated a clear commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the ocean science community."

Sonya Legg.
Dr. Sonya Legg.

Legg brings with her 30 years of experience at oceanographic research centers, most recently as the Associate Director of the Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System at Princeton. She is currently serving on the Scientific Steering Group of the World Climate Research Programme CLIVAR project and as an associate editor of the Journal for Advances in Modeling the Earth System. Legg has also served as co-chair of MPOWIR (Mentoring Physical Oceanography Women to Increase Retention), a mentoring program committed to improving gender balance in the oceanography field.

"Sonya is a connector," said UCAR Board of Trustees Chair Shuyi Chen. "I am confident she will bring together different voices in the growth and development of the center and of the study of Earth as an interconnected system."

Legg earned a bachelor’s in physics from Oxford University and a PhD in dynamical meteorology and physical oceanography from Imperial College. Following postdoctoral research at the University of Colorado and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the latter as a NOAA Climate and Global Change postdoctoral fellow, she worked as a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for seven years before moving to Princeton University.

"I am honored and excited to step into this new role," Legg said. "I look forward to serving and supporting the oceanographic community as well as enhancing connections between oceanography and atmospheric sciences."

UCP became the new home for the programs managed by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in October 2022, when the consortium dissolved. Since then, Andrew Rosenberg, who chaired the hiring committee for the director role, has been interim director of COL. He will remain in this position until Legg steps into the permanent role.

"I am thrilled to support Sonya as she builds COL’s work on behalf of the ocean community," Rosenberg said. "COL is a convener, connector, and advocate for ocean science and technology. Sonya has the experience and many new ideas on how to move the Center forward."

Legg will work with current and future COL affiliates, bringing together a range of interagency and community committees and working groups. Some 86 science institutions and consortia from the academic, nonprofit, and industry sectors recently reaffirmed their affiliation with UCAR COL. 

"Sonya will bring a unique ability to advance ocean research, innovation, education, and sound policy as she moves into this leadership position at COL," said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. "I look forward to supporting her as she elevates the importance of the ocean — inclusive of its physics, biology, chemistry, and geology — in the coupled Earth system. With new abilities to observe and predict the atmosphere-ocean-land system, we can better aid decision makers and stakeholders in the face of growing environmental threats."

UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of 122 North American colleges and universities focused on research and training in Earth system science. UCAR manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research on behalf of the National Science Foundation.

The Center for Ocean Leadership is a consortium of the leading ocean science and technology institutions from academia, aquaria, and industry.

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