Paula Bontempi Acting Deputy Director, Earth Science Division NASA
AIAA SciTech Forum 2020
Dr. Paula Bontempi has been a biological oceanographer for 25 years. She began her career as a research intern at the New England Aquarium as an undergraduate at Boston College, later entering the fields of phytoplankton taxonomy and physiology in the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University. Research on phytoplankton taxa and coupled physical and biological drivers of global and regional phytoplankton spatial patterns led to interests in marine bio-optics and ocean color remote sensing. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography in 2001 with a Ph.D., spending time during her studies as a research fellow at the SACLANT Lab in La Spezia, Italy, in Friday Harbor, Washington, and as a summer intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She moved from the faculty at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Marine Science to NASA Headquarters in 2003. Dr. Bontempi spent over 16 years as the program manager for Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry at NASA Headquarters, as well as the Lead for NASA’s Carbon Cycle and Ecosystems Focus Area and the agency’s Carbon Cycle Science research lead, before becoming the Earth Science Division’s Acting Deputy Director in 2019. She is Program Scientist for MODIS-Terra and Aqua, Suomi NPP, PACE, NAAMES (EV-S), HICO, CORAL (EV-S), and the former SeaWiFS mission. She has been honored to be invited to teach the Earth Science module of NASA’s astronaut training class over the last several years.