NOAA 2000-528
Contact: Jana Goldman


Ronald Baird, director of the National Sea Grant College Program, received a Presidential Rank Award today for his accomplishments in helping position the United States as a world leader in marine research and the sustainable development of coastal resources.

"Throughout his career, Ron has compiled a distinctive record of outstanding accomplishments," said D. James Baker, NOAA administrator. "This is a fitting recognition of the work he has done and the major innovations he continues to bring to Sea Grant and NOAA as a whole."

The Presidential Rank Award recognizes a small group of career senior executives. Winners are selected for their ability to deliver great service, foster partnerships and community solutions to achieve results, and continuously strive to work efficiently and effectively. Baird received a Meritorious award; there is also a Distinguished category.

Baird, who was named Sea Grant director in 1996, provided crucial leadership in putting the Sea Grant reauthorization legislation back on track after it stalled in Congress for two years. His efforts resulted in the legislation passing with near unanimous support.

He worked to more fully integrate Sea Grant research with NOAA's science programs, strengthening ties between NOAA laboratories and the 30 Sea Grant programs. In the first year, 66 proposals, all involving joint teams of NOAA/university researchers, competed for funding.

"Ron has a vision for Sea Grant and how it fits into NOAA," said Dave Evans, assistant administrator for oceans and atmosphere. "He also has the ability to share that vision and motivate people to make it happen."

A report from the Office of the Inspector General found that the Sea Grant program, under Baird's direction, successfully implemented all of the recommendations suggested by the National Research Council in its 1994 review of the program. During Baird's tenure, Sea Grant has reached out to minority-serving institutions to enhance their marine education programs. Among his other accomplishments, Baird crafted a national strategic plan for Sea Grant and urged each individual program to create a similar plan. National problems, such as marine invasive species and shellfish disease, have received more attention because of Baird's efforts to increase research and outreach efforts on these areas.

Baird streamlined organizational and administrative processes, and the National Sea Grant office now has a staff one-third smaller than a decade ago. He continues to create partnerships, such as one with the American Fisheries Society to work on fish habitat issues. His many outreach accomplishments include a series of Sea Grant-sponsored media briefings on topics including Pfiestria outbreaks, the spread of aquatic nuisance species, and emerging opportunities in marine biotechnology.

A member of several advisory boards, Baird also has contributed to many ocean-related journals and publications. From 1990-95, he was a member of the National Sea Grant Review Panel. Baird also was a businessman and educator in addition to being an ocean scientist. He received his doctorate in biological oceanography from Harvard University in 1969.

There are 30 Sea Grant programs located in coastal states throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, managing projects at more than 200 universities and affiliated institutions.