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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco is a leading contender to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources, first reported on its Web site Thursday that the marine biologist is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to lead the agency that oversees ocean and atmospheric research and the National Weather Service. The Register-Guard and The Oregonian newspapers also report that Lubchenco is the pick.

An expert on overfishing and climate change, Lubchenco would be the first woman to head the agency.

A spokesman for Obama's transition team declined comment. OSU officials would not confirm the selection, but said Lubchenco is traveling to Chicago, where Obama has announced his appointments.

John Byrne, a former OSU president who served as head of NOAA in the Reagan administration, praised the apparent selection.

"This is a big kudo for both Jane and Oregon State," he said. "It's a science agency -- it's a good signal from the Obama administration that they're behind that."

Lubchenco also becomes the first Oregonian to be chosen for Obama's Cabinet.

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