Dr. S.A. 'Shirley' Pomponi is a marine scientist, and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University. Dr. Pomponi has led numerous research expeditions worldwide. She has discovered many deepwater sponges from which chemicals with pharmaceutical properties have been identified. She joined the all-women NASA Extreme Environment Operation, or NEEMO 23 crew led by ESA Asstronaut Sam Cristoforetti and tested new equipment and working protocols for the International Space Station and future deep space missions to the moon and Mars. Shirley has also made more than 300 dives in the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles—piloted by her husband, Don Liberatore.
Dr. Pomponi currently chairs the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board, serves on the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel, the BIOFlorida board of directors, and the U.S. committee for the Census of Marine Life. Throughout her career, she has held numerous positions in establishing federal ocean policy, including an appointment to the President’s Panel on Ocean Exploration in 2000. Dr. Pomponi received her Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the University of Miami in 1977.