Paula S. Bontempi

  • Dean
  • Biological Oceanography
  • Phone: 401.874.6222
  • Email:
  • Office Location: 112 Ocean Science and Exploration Center


An alumna of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography (Ph.D. ’01) and a biological oceanographer for more than 25 years, Paula Bontempi became dean of GSO in Augus, 2020. As dean, Bontempi has executive responsibility for the graduate school and its Narragansett Bay Campus, providing leadership, vision and oversight for its academic, research and public engagement activities.

Bontempi leads GSO at an exciting time in its history with work underway to revitalize the Narragansett Bay Campus, which includes the addition of new buildings, replacement of outdated facilities and preparation for the arrival of the new $125 million regional class research vessel Narragansett Dawn. Bontempi is presiding over other significant progress at the School, such as building a more diverse and inclusive GSO community, reimagining academic offerings – including online degrees and certificates – to meet the needs of today’s students, and fostering partnerships with global leaders in the public, private and academic sectors. She has a strong interest in mentorship and diversity, equity, inclusions, accessibility, and justice initiatives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Prior to joining GSO, Bontempi worked at NASA for 18 years as a program scientist for a large number of Earth observing satellite missions. She served as acting deputy director at NASA’s Earth Science Division, Science Mission Directorate of NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where she provided leadership, strategic direction and overall management for the agency’s entire Earth science portfolio, from technology development, applied science and research to mission implementation and operation. Previous to her appointment as acting deputy director, Bontempi was a physical scientist and program manager for ocean biology and biogeochemistry at NASA Headquarters.

Before joining NASA, Bontempi was an assistant professor of oceanography in the University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Marine Sciences.

Bontempi served as a member of the NASA Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Independent Study Team, a co-Chair of the NASEM study on Future Directions for Southern Ocean and Antarctic Nearshore and Coastal Research, and on the Leidos Climate Change Strategic Council. She is a Fellow and President Elect of The Oceanography Society and is from Upper Saddle River, N.J.


Ph.D., Oceanography University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, 2001
M.S., Oceanography, Texas A&M University, 1995
B.S., Biology, Boston College, 1992