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Alumnus appointed to national commission on oil spill

William & Mary alumnus and former Virginia Institute of Marine Science faculty member Donald Boesch has been appointed to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the White House announced yesterday.

The commission is tasked with providing recommendations on the prevention and mitigation of future offshore drilling spills.

Donald Boesch (Courtesy of University of the Maryland Center for Environmental Science)

"These individuals bring tremendous expertise and experience to the critical work of this commission," said President Barack Obama in a White House press release. "I am grateful they have agreed to serve as we work to determine the causes of this catastrophe and implement the safety and environmental protections we need to prevent a similar disaster from happening again."

Boesch, who received his doctorate from William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 1971, is a pioneer in the study of the environmental effects of offshore energy development and biological oceanographer who has conducted research on coastal ecosystems along the Atlantic Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, Australia, and the East China Sea, according to a White House press release. A Louisiana native, he has studied multiple environmental problems of the gulf Coast and the long-term environmental effects of offshore oil and gas development. He edited 1987's "Long-Term Environmental Effects of Offshore Oil and Gas Development," and he has served as advisor to many state and federal agencies and national, regional and international programs.

He currently serves as a professor of marine science and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. Boesch also serves as vice chancellor for environmental sustainability for the University System in Maryland. He is the chair of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council and a member of the National Academies Committee on America's Climate Choices. Previously, Boesch worked as the executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and professor of marine science at Louisiana State University.

"As one of the nation's leading authorities on coastal environmental issues, Don Boesch will bring valuable scientific expertise and practical knowledge to the work of the Commission," said University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan in a press release. "Moreover, as a native of the Louisiana Gulf Coast, he knows the region well and the impact this catastrophe will have on the people and the ecology of Louisiana and the surrounding states."

Boesch received his undergraduate degree from Tulane University, and he was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Queensland, Australia. Following that appointment, he served as a faculty member at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.