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Dean's monthly update

March 2006

For all the years before I moved to Alaska, March has been the month that spring and warm weather arrived.  When March started with a low of minus 37 F in Fairbanks, I knew that I would have to head to the Lower 48 to find spring.  Thus, I traveled to Washington, DC on March 7 to attend the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) Public Policy Forum.  At this meeting, Associate Dean Mike Castellini and I heard presentations from federal agency heads and others about the state of the federal budget for science.  Presenters included:

Admiral James D. Watkins USN (Ret.), Chair of the U.S. Oceans Commission
Rear Admiral William E. Landay, USN, Chief of Naval Research
Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director, National Science Foundation
Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher USN (Ret.), NOAA Administrator
Rear Admiral Fred Byus, USN, Oceanographer of the Navy
Congressmen Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Jim Saxon (R-NJ), Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Jay Inslee (D-WA)

Several speakers mentioned the President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and the plan to double funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the next ten years.  NSF Director Bement stated how pleased he was that funding for the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV) was included in the FY07 NSF budget request.  Admiral Watkins gave the Congress and the President a failing grade on the results of the federal Ocean Action Plan.   He commented that we have "too many plans and not enough results."

While in DC on March 9, UA Director of Federal Relations Martha Stewart and I visited with Bill Woolfe in Sen. Murkowski's office, Todd Bertoson in Sen. Stevens' office, and John Rayfield, Staff Director of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.  We discussed funding for the ARRV and the need for increased funding for the UAF component of NOAA's Undersea Research Program (NURP).  Our NURP funding was reduced from over $2M in FY05 to under $1M in the FY06 federal budget. In between, we managed to work in a lunch with Julie Packard, founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we discussed potential UAF-MBA collaborations.

Before heading to DC, on March 6 UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, UA President Mark Hamilton and I met with Ed Rasmuson and Diane Kaplan, President of the Rasmuson Foundation, to discuss a UAF-Rasmuson Foundation partnership to move SFOS to the "next level."  We are working with them on a plan to broaden the SFOS faculty to enhance opportunities for undergraduate students and to expand our faculty efforts in ocean observing to support the new paradigm of fisheries science - ecosystem based management.   The Rasmuson Foundation has established a "Fisheries Excellence Committee" chaired by Ed Rasmuson.  Over the next four months the committee will review our expansion plans.  The committee includes state and federal fisheries managers and fishing industry representatives whose organizations hire UAF fisheries and marine science graduates.

For the first time this year, both SFOS and Alaska Sea Grant had displays at ComFish in Kodiak.  SFOS Public Information Officer Carin Bailey took the new SFOS display to Kodiak for the March 16-18 conference.  Many fisheries industry representatives came by our display which was a big hit with the students attending the conference.  Visitors to the SFOS display were curious about the School and its various campuses around Alaska. Many were surprised to learn that SFOS students study not just in Fairbanks, but in diverse locations throughout the state. Students, faculty, and research staff from FITC helped staff the booth and answer questions from conference participants.  Carin also actively recruited prospective students by giving out over five pounds of chocolate and hard candy.  During ComFish, Alaska Sea Grant hosted the Alaska Crab Enhancement and Rehabilitation Workshop which attracted participants from as close as Kodiak and as far away as Norway and Chile.

I spent the last week of March in Anchorage where the high temperature was in the +40s F all week.  On March 27, SFOS Academic Coordinator Christina Neumann and I participated in the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center Board meeting.  Ten SFOS students presented their thesis research to the Board.  Chancellor Steve Jones attended the presentations.  The Board awarded seven continuing and three new Rasmuson Fellowships. Congratulations to new Rasmuson Fellows:  Sean Rooney, Katy Howard and Ashwin Sreenivasen.  On Tuesday, Lorali Carter and I met with new SFOS Advisory Council member Eugene Asicksik, President and CEO of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, to discuss the upcoming meeting, and Ragnar Alstrom, Executive Director of Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, to discuss his interest in SFOS programs.   The rest of the week was occupied by the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) meeting where I am one of the three Alaska representatives appointed by the Governor.  At this meeting, the NPRB awarded $6.1M in research funding for the next year with over $1.0M going to SFOS faculty. Overall, it was a good month.

Denis