Dr. Karl A. Erb will retire from government service in April 2012 concluding over 13 years as Director of the Office of Polar Programs (OPP). Dr. Erb is widely recognized for his contributions to the international polar research community and for his leadership in the construction and operation of National Science Foundation (NSF) research facilities in the Arctic and Antarctic, which provide state-of-the-art capabilities to the frontiers of polar science and engineering.

Dr. Karl A. Erb
Dr. Karl A. Erb

Prior to his career with the NSF Dr. Erb was well known for his research in experimental nuclear physics. He served on the Yale University faculty from 1972 to 1980 and on the staff of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee from 1980 to 1986. Dr. Erb came to NSF in 1986 as a Program Officer in the Physics Division. From 1989 to 1992 he served in the White House Office of Science and Technology as Assistant and Associate Director for Physical Sciences. Dr. Erb returned to NSF in 1993 as Senior Science Advisor to the NSF Director, during which time he oversaw the review process leading to construction of a new research station at the South Pole.

In 1998 Dr. Erb was appointed Director of the OPP. During his tenure, construction was completed on major research facilities in the Antarctic, including the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and the IceCube Nutrino Observatory; and in the Arctic, including upgraded NSF research facilities at Toolik Field Station in Alaska and Summit Station in Greenland. He also led U.S. efforts during the International Polar Year (IPY 2007-2009), strengthening coordination with other agencies and expanding international partnerships in support of polar research.

Dr. Erb served as U.S. representative to the International Arctic Science Committee Regional Board from 1999 to 2006 and as the elected President of the Council of Managers of the National Antarctic Programs from 2001 to 2003. In recognition of his work building international partnerships to facilitate research projects, Dr. Erb was named the first recipient of the New Zealand Antarctic Medal in 2006 and was invested as Chevalier in the French Legion of Merit in 2007. He is recognized for his leadership on national and international polar research boards and was named Presidential Rank Distinguished Senior Executive in 2005 in acknowledgement of “sustained extraordinary accomplishment in management of programs of the U.S. Government and for leadership exemplifying the highest standards of service to the public.”

Dr. Erb plans to stay involved in the polar research community and is currently Chair of the Science Advisory Board of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland.

Dr. Kelly Falkner will serve as Acting Head for OPP effective 1 April 2012. Further information is included in this issue of Witness. See: Staffing Changes.