Virginia Burkett is the Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change, International Programs.
Dr. Virginia Burkett was the Chief Scientist for Global Change Research at the USGS during 2006-2014 and served as the USGS Associate Director for Climate and Land Use Change during 2015-2017. She was appointed Co-Chair of the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2016 and served as Chair during 2017-2019. Burkett is the United States’ alternate representative to the Executive Committee of the international Group on Earth Observations, which coordinates the collection and delivery of satellite and in-situ Earth Observations from 108 nations.
During 1990-2006 Burkett served as Chief of the Wetlands Ecology Branch at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana, and subsequently the Associate Regional Chief Biologist for the USGS Central Region. She was the Co-Chair of the Strategic Science Planning Team that developed the 10-year science strategy for the Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area in 2009.
Prior to her federal service, Burkett was Secretary/Director of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, where she had formerly served as Deputy Secretary. She has also directed the Louisiana Coastal Zone Management Program and served as Assistant Director of the Louisiana Geological Survey.
Burkett has published extensively on the topics of global change and low-lying coastal zones. She has been appointed to over 80 Commissions, Committees, Science Panels, and Boards.
2017–Present: Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change, Office of International Programs, USGS. Coordinate USGS global change research within the CLU mission area and among other USGS mission areas. Lead collaboration with other federal agencies, universities, NGOs and other countries to support the assessment of climate change and its impacts around the world.
2015–17: Associate Director, USGS Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area. Responsible for scientific programs, finances, facilities and human resources within the Mission Area.
2014–2015: Acting Associate Director, USGS Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area. Responsible for leading the Mission Area with about 700 staff members and its associated Programs and field Centers. Led the first assessment of progress in meeting the goals of the Mission Area Science Strategy.
2006–2015: Chief Scientist for Global Change Research, USGS Climate and Land Use Change Mission Area. Coordinated USGS global change research 2006-2010. Chaired the first global change research planning team for the USGS and served as a member of the Secretary of Interior’s Global Change Task Force. Led the preparation of the inaugural 10-year Science Strategy for the Mission Area.
1990–2006: Wetland Ecology Branch Chief and subsequently Forest Ecology Branch Chief, National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, Louisiana, and Associate Central Region Chief Biologist, USGS.
Education and Certifications
1993-1996: School of Forestry, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, Doctor of Forestry, 8/96, Major - Forestry; Minor - Applied Statistics
1973-1975: Department of Biology, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana, Master of Science, 5/75, Major - Botany (Honors)
1970-1973: Department of Biology, Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana, Bachelor of Science, 5/73, Major-Zoology, Minor-Chemistry (Honors)
1968-1969: University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Affiliations and Memberships*
Louisiana Governor’s Climate Initiatives Task Force, Member, and Co-Chair of the Science Advisory Group to the Task Force
U.S. Global Change Research Program, Member of Executive Steering Committee for USGCRP 2022-2031 Strategic Plan, Plan Co-Author
Federal Steering Committee for the Fourth National Climate Assessment, Member
International Activities Working Group of the U.S. Group on Earth Observations, Co-Chair
U.S. Climate Security Advisory Committee
National Academies’ Climate Security Roundtable
Latin America and Caribbean Initiative for Climate Risk Assessment Capacity Exchange, Co-Lead
Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, Editorial Board
Carbon Balance and Management, Editorial Board
Regional Environmental Change, Senior Editor, 2012-2022
Honors and Awards
Diversity Award, U.S. Department of the Interior, awarded by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, for leadership on the USGS Civility and Inclusion Council, 2021.
Diversity Award, USGS, to the USGS Civility and Inclusion Council for work to enhance diversity and inclusion across the USGS and foster a harassment-free workplace, 2020.
“Shoemaker Communication Award, for Women of the U.S. Geological Survey in STEM and related careers, a collection of products (book, poster, postcards, videos), 2020.
Blue Pencil Award, National Association of Government Communicators, for Women of the U.S. Geological Survey in STEM and related careers, 2020.
Diversity Award, USGS, 2015, for “individual leadership and contributions to enhance diversity across the USGS”.
National Conservation Achievement Award for Science, presented at the National Wildlife Federation's awards gala in Washington, D.C., 2011.
Regional Director’s Conservation Award, presented by Sam Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, Georgia, 2008.
Special Act Award, USGS, National Wetlands Research Center, 2006 and 2007.
Group Achievement Award, for co-authoring Wildlife and Climate Change, presented at annual meeting of The Wildlife Society, 2005.
Meritorious Service Award, from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, 2003.
Minority Student & Faculty Enhancement Award, Southern University, National Urban & Community Forestry Conference for Minority & Underserved Communities, USDA Forest Service, 2003.
Taking Wing Award from Ducks Unlimited and the USDA Forest Service, North American Wildlife Management Conference, for the Southern Forested Wetlands Research Initiative, 2000.
Special Act Award, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, for global change research program management and synthesis, 1997.
Outstanding Service Award, presented by the Project Wild Facilitators of Louisiana, 1990.
Public Service Award, Louisiana Operation Game Thief, Baton Rouge, 1990.
National Achievement in Maintaining Energy Excellence Award, National Association of Desk and Derrick Clubs (for the Louisiana Rigs to Reefs Program), Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1987.
Best Publication Award, Conservation Category, presented by the Louisiana Wildlife Biologists Association, Baton Rouge, 1987.
President's Public Service Award (a national conservation achievements award), presented by The Nature Conservancy, Washington, D.C., 1986.
Outstanding Public Service Award (for wetland conservation achievements), presented by the Louisiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Alexandria, Louisiana, 1984.
Best Project Award, presented by the Louisiana Chapter of the American Planning Association for the Louisiana Atlas of Floodplains and Flooding Problems, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1982.
*Disclaimer: Listing outside positions with professional scientific organizations on this Staff Profile are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of those professional scientific organizations or their activities by the USGS, Department of the Interior, or U.S. Government