Hydraulic fracturing

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Video conference

In this interview, Marcia McNutt discusses: current position as President of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C.; mission, history, and structure of the NAS; NAS’s work on climate change and COVID-19; experience as a geophysicist; partnering with the National Academies of Engineering and Medicine; childhood in Minnesota; decision to study geophysics; graduate research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography; research on ocean island volcanism in French Polynesia and Hawaii; early use of magnetometers, gravity meters, and seismometers in oceanic plate tectonic observation; development of techniques to take gravity, bathymetry, or topography data on continent and use them in inversion to learn about topography; work directing Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI); time at US Geological Survey (USGS) under Ken Salazar; professorship at MIT and collaboration with Woods Hole; details of leading an oceanographic expedition in the Marquesas Islands; spearheading structural change at MBARI; MBARI-created autonomous device to identify microscopic ocean life without samples; MBARI-invented deep-sea laser Raman spectrometer; being the first organization to put AI on autonomous underwater vehicles to map plumes; response to the Deepwater Horizon spill; fracking; the National Water Census; decision to become editor-in-chief of Science; procedures as editor; career evolution; becoming president of NAS; transition from the Obama to Trump administrations; opinions on geo-engineering; Decadal survey; Koshland Science Museum and LabX; efforts to nominate and elect younger scientists and underrepresented minorities to the Academy; making recommendations to Congress; collaborations with the private sector; communication with the public; and the 2018 Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s report on sexual harassment in academia. Toward the end of the interview, McNutt reflects on her career as both scientist and leader and the importance of integrity in research.