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Dean's monthly updates

February 2007

The Coastal Marine Institute (CMI) annual research review was held in Fairbanks on February 6 and 7.  Several of our faculty reported project results to CMI Director Vera Alexander and Minerals Management Service (MMS) program manager Cleve Cowles.  We are in the process of negotiating a new memorandum of agreement (MOA) with MMS to continue the CMI for another five years.  Associate Dean Michael Castellini will take the leadership role for CMI under the new agreement.

I attended the Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Sustainable Salmon Initiative (AYKSSI) meeting in Anchorage on February 7 and 8.  The meeting brought together fisheries experts from the northwest U.S., Canada, and Alaska to consider what is needed to protect and enhance the salmon runs in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.  Former Governor Tony Knowles kicked off the Thursday morning session.  Juneau fisheries faculty members Milo Adkison and Nicola Hillgruber presented their research and SFOS Advisory Council Chair David Policansky gave the wrap up talk on Thursday.

While I was in Anchorage, the $5,000,000 award letter from the Rasmuson Foundation arrived in the UAF Chancellor’s office on February 8.  These funds will be used to support four fisheries and three oceanography faculty over the next five years.

February 9 and 10 I was in Seward observing the Alaska region of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), the Tsunami Bowl.  This was the 10th year that Phyllis Shoemaker and her colleagues have organized the event in Seward.  Nine teams participated with Juneau-Douglas High School winning the top three spots.  The student participants had a chance to tour the Alaska SeaLife Center and Research Assistant Professor Russ Andrews gave the keynote lecture on Friday.  NOSB national director, Susan Haynes, traveled from DC to Seward to observe our Alaska regional competition.  She commented that “It was great to see your NOSB event first hand!  Phyllis and all the staff and volunteers there do a tremendous job.”  I concur.  Congratulations to Phyllis Shoemaker, Linda Lasota, and others at the Seward Marine Center for organizing an outstanding event. Several SFOS faculty, staff, and students participated in the judging including David Christie and Dean Stockwell from Fairbanks and Carin Bailey, Ben Daly and Joel Markis from Homer.  After the Tsunami Bowl next year, UAF will host the national finals in Seward April 25-27, 2008.  We will need over 100 volunteers to work the national finals and I hope many of you will consider participating.

Much of February was spent planning. Several meetings were held with Mike Ruckhaus of UAF Design and Construction to plan the new 1,140 sq. ft. classroom to be constructed in the space vacated by Alaska Sea Grant in the O’Neill Building.  This classroom will have a state-of-the-art video conferencing (VCON) system and should be large enough for our Fairbanks seminars and thesis defenses.  Several planning meetings were conducted to find a way to improve our teaching through VCON and to plan the new VCON classrooms in the Lena Point Fisheries Facility. 

IMS Director Terry Whitledge and I participated in several meetings to finalize the plans for the NPRB Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP) proposal.  Oceanography and marine biology faculty conducted several meetings to plan for new faculty hiring.  The SFOS Executive Committee continued planning the SFOS Advisory Council meeting that will be held in Anchorage on April 21 and 22 and started planning for the SFOS All-Faculty Meeting that will be held in or near Anchorage on October 20 and 21.  You will hear more about the results of these plans in future reports.

Terry Whitledge and I spent the final week of February in Washington, DC, where we were summoned on short notice by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide answers to questions about the $98,000,000 UAF proposal for the construction and operation of the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV).  The team that went to DC included Dick Pittenger from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Dirk Kristensen from Glosten Associates in Seattle.  We were supported by Tom Smith in Seward, Bill Hurley in Seattle and Gary Smith in Singapore.  NSF delivered to us a list of 35 questions about 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, and gave us until 10:30 a.m. the next morning to provide the answers.  Terry and the proposal team worked through most of the night to craft the responses with only Terry and Dirk allowed entry to the NSF panel meeting to provide the answers on Wednesday.  The panel seemed receptive to most of our responses.  NSF will provide the panel comments in about a week and we will have an opportunity to respond to the questions more fully in writing.  If our proposal is recommended by the panel, NSF should submit it for approval by the National Science Board in May.  We are closer than ever to having a new Arctic research vessel.

Denis