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Kenneth Lee is an oil spill expert and the executive director of the Centre for Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research (CBC)

Six months after his federal research lab was downsized in a budget cut, an internationally respected federal government scientist based in Dartmouth, N.S. is pulling up stakes and moving to Australia.

"The opportunity was too good to turn down," Kenneth Lee told CBC News.

In May Lee was one of hundreds of federal Fisheries and Oceans employees who received so-called "affected" letters warning their jobs may be eliminated.

On Friday he told staff at his offshore energy research centre in Dartmouth that he has accepted the position of director of the Wealth from the Oceans Flagship, an Australian government organization created to promote environmental and economic growth through innovation in marine sciences.

"I will most likely resign from DFO," he said.

Lee was diplomatic when asked if the federal downsizing is behind his decision to leave DFO after more than 30 years.

"It's something in everybody's mind but, to tell you the truth, I wasn't looking for a job. This was an opportunity that came up, that as I said, was too good to turn down, regardless," Lee said.

At Dalhousie University in Halifax, where Lee is an adjunct professor, the head of the oceanography department said Lee's departure is understandable, but still a loss.

"We're going to miss him terribly. There's no one with his level of expertise in the country," Marlon Lewis tells CBC News.

'Australia has decided to survive in the future. It's going to be based on how innovative you are.' - Kenneth Lee

"We exist in an internationally mobile scientific community with people moving from one country to the other as opportunities present themselves."

Lee is best known for his expertise in cleaning up oil spills. He spent four months in the Gulf of Mexico trying to contain the BP oil spill and provided scientific and technical expertise in the spill response operations.

He is currently director of the Canada Offshore Oil, Gas and Energy Research Centre at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

"COOGER is still going on...affected letters have been out but our group has been stable because of the work we are doing," Lee said.

He starts his new position at the beginning of April and will be based in Perth, Australia.

"Australia has decided to survive in the future. It's going to be based on how innovative you are. So they are putting a lot of money into innovation including innovation of marine sciences...they have a 20-year research plan," he said.

Lee declined to compare Australia's plans to Canada.

"I can't speak to Canada. We work in a different regime."