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Polly A. Penhale, Ph.D. FN ‘91


For twenty-five years, Polly Penhale has helped shape the way science is conducted in the Polar regions. She has been at the crossroads of research, education, conservation and advocacy, working both nationally and internationally to preserve the Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems while facilitating valuable scientific research.

Penhale began her career as a marine biologist, earning an M.S. and Ph.D. at North Carolina State University. She spent the next ten years doing research in a number of oceans and coastal regions, including coastal Alaska, the Caribbean, Florida, and the Chesapeake Bay. In 1986, she moved to the National Science Foundation, where she became the program manager for Polar Biology and Medicine.

Penhale has been involved in U.S. polar research ever since. As program manager, with responsibility for reviewing Antarctic research proposals and making final funding decisions, she has been one of the most important influences on American Antarctic research. Her workshops and meetings have encouraged scientists to brainstorm innovative ways to conduct science on the continent. In 1990, she was instrumental in establishing the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program at Palmer Station, bringing a program dedicated to conservation and the preservation of biodiversity to the Antarctic.

Dr. Penhale is currently Acting Head, Office of Polar Environment, Health and Safety. She has been the U.S. Representative to the Committee for Environmental Protection, Antarctic Treaty, and a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste