NOAA Names First Woman to Direct National Geodetic Survey

Juliana P. Blackwell has been named the new director of NOAA’s Office of National Geodetic Survey where she will oversee NOAA’s responsibilities for the nation’s spatial reference system. She is the first woman to head the nation’s oldest federal science agency which was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807 as the Survey of the Coast.
“We’re delighted Juliana will be taking this important leadership post within the National Ocean Service. She brings a wealth of experience including 16 years with the National Geodetic Survey,” said John H. Dunnigan, assistant administrator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service, in announcing the appointment.

Blackwell moves into the director’s chair after serving for the past three years as chief of the National Geodetic Survey’s Observation and Analysis Division where she supervised a staff of 60 employees responsible for maintaining the nation’s spatial reference positioning system. Prior to that assignment she successfully managed NOAA’s height modernization program, which has improved the efficiency and accuracy of height information used in surveying, mapping and modeling nationwide. She also served as the National Geodetic Service’s deputy director since August.

Blackwell is a 1988 graduate of Tufts University where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. She received a master’s in business administration from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business in 2007.

Blackwell joined NOAA in 1990 as an officer of the NOAA Corps. In her NOAA Corps career she served on the NOAA Ship Ferrel as a junior officer, and as fourth officer on board the NOAA Ship Whiting where she managed hydrographic survey operations prior to joining the National Geodetic Survey full time in 1996.

Blackwell succeeds Dave Zilkoski who completes a 34-year federal career, all of it in service to NOAA and the geodetic survey. His NOAA service includes the past three years as head of NOAA’s Office of National Geodetic Survey.

Zilkoski is pleased with Blackwell’s selection noting that "Juliana brings both experience and a commitment to collaborative partnering with non-NOAA resources to enable NOAA to meet or exceed its goals."

Geodesy, the science of positioning and determining the size and shape of the planet Earth, has been used recently as issues of height elevations and subsidence are critical components of the rebuilding of the Gulf coast following the impacts of hurricanes in the past few years.

Blackwell and her husband, John, reside in Lovettsville, Va., with their three children.

About the The National Geodetic Survey and NOAA
The National Geodetic Survey is part of the National Ocean Service, which is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department. NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit

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