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Donald F. Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and a Louisiana native, has been called upon by President Barack Obama to suggest how to avoid another oil-spill disaster like the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

Boesch was one of five panelists tapped by the White House for its oil spill commission, which is to be headed by former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator William K. Reilly.

Head of the UM environmental labs since 1990, Boesch has studied coastal ecosystems around the world, and has researched the long-term impacts of offshore oil and gas development.  He came to Maryland from Louisana State University, where he was a professor of marine science and the first executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium.  He's also chairman of the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council and a member of the National Academies of Science Committee on America's Climate Choices.

Boesch's selection drew praise from Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md, who called him "one of our nation's most prominent biological oceanographers."  A Wall Street Journal blog, though, characterized him as one of at least two commission members with "an environmental bent" and speculated on whether the oil industry felt the panel was "tipped against them."

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Others named to the panel were Frances G. Beinecke, president of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council; Terry D. Garcia, a vice president for the National Geographic Society and former deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Cherry Murray, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Fran Ulmer, chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Obama created the panel by executive order in May and tasked it with recommending changes in federal laws, regulations, industry practices and government agencies to minimize the risk of future catastrophic offshore spills.  It has six months to submit its report.

(2008 Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston)

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