Barbara J. Ryan

GEO Secretariat Director


GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations striving to integrate and expand Earth observations — from soil and early-warning monitoring to satellite data — into resources that are readily available to guide policy decisions related to climate, energy, health and half a dozen other "societal benefit" areas.


After graduating in 1974, Ryan was hired as a field hydrologist by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), where she remained for more than three decades, steadily working her way up through the ranks until, in 2000, she was named the survey's associate director for geography. During her eight years in this position, Ryan oversaw all USGS programs and policies related to national mapping and remote sensing, including the LANDSAT program. Along the way, Ryan earned master's degrees in geography from the University of Denver and in civil engineering from Stanford University. She also served for two years as the staff assistant to the Department of the Interior's assistant secretary for water and science, and later, the survey's chief information and financial officers. In 2008, Ryan — who had spent her entire career living and working in the U.S. — retired from the USGS to become the director of the space program at the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization. Four years later, she was appointed the secretariat director of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).