The director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Marcia McNutt, is stepping down from her post on 15 February and heading back to California.
McNutt was seen as part of the Obama administration's scientific "dream team": a group of prominent researchers who had agreed to come to Washington early in the president's first term. Another member of that group, Jane Lubchenco, is leaving next month as director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
McNutt, a geophysicist, had been president and CEO of California's Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for 12 years before joining the survey in 2009. In an e-mail sent out on Friday  to staffers entitled "Early Edition of the Monday Message: All Good Things Must Come to an End," McNutt noted that she wanted to remain until the launch of the long-awaited Landsat 8 satellite, scheduled for 11 February.
Deputy Director Suzette Kimball has been named acting director. It is likely to be months before McNutt's successor is in place, given that the position requires Senate confirmation.
There is speculation that McNutt may be a candidate to head the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, whose director, Tony Haymet, announced his departure last month.