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Dean's monthly updates

April 2008

April 2008 was a hallmark month for the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Several major initiatives came to fruition.

One event that was truly tremendous, fabulous and spectacular was bringing the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB) finals to Alaska. Many SFOS faculty and staff worked for over two years to bring the NOSB finals to Seward. From April 25 to 27 we hosted 125 student NOSB regional winners, their teachers, sponsors, regional coordinators, and parents in Anchorage and Seward. Phyllis Shoemaker was the event coordinator and with strong support from Linda Lasota, Nici Murawsky, Jennifer Elhard, and Dan Oliver from the Seward Marine Center hosted a weekend that could only be described as spectacular. Many SFOS personnel participated, including a large contingent from Fairbanks. The City of Seward really turned out to help. Over 110 people total served as volunteers. UA Regent Pat Jacobson from Kodiak was a judge as was SFOS Advisory Council member Doug DeMaster. At the NOSB office at Ocean Leadership in Washington, DC, accolades are pouring in and the Ocean Leadership staff members who attended the finals are telling everyone of our success. One comment from the Student Activities Coordinator of the IEEE stated, "In many ways the Seward NOSB was the best yet. It certainly was a great experience for the students and particularly those from states that rarely see snow. The cruise on Resurrection Bay was an eye-opener for many and the snow fall on Saturday night was an added thrill." Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School from Sudbury, Massachusetts, was the winner.

The NOSB finals in Seward was successful because of the partnership established among UAF, the City of Seward, and the financial sponsors who made it possible for us to host the national finals in Alaska. In total we raised $209,000 for the event. Those who assisted us financially are listed on our web site at The North Pacific Research Board provided an initial large contribution that allowed us to successfully compete for the finals and the university matched their contribution. Tom Tougas of Renown Tours donated the Resurrection Bay cruise for the students without even being asked. Princess Tours, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean provided the busses and the Atwood Foundation in Anchorage funded the train ride which made it only to Portage because of an avalanche further south. For the students, this was just another part of their Alaska adventure. Thanks to all who helped make the NOSB finals an event these students will always remember fondly.

Another major accomplishment in April was the approval of the B.A. degree in Fisheries and Minor in Fisheries by the UAF Faculty Senate on April 7. Trent Sutton and our fisheries faculty deserve our accolades for their perseverance in this endeavor. During the process that started in October, we were surprised at how much more faculty in physics, geography, English and other programs knew about what courses were needed for a fisheries degree than did our own faculty. Approval of this degree by the UA Board of Regents during this academic year is one of the requirements of our $5.0 million Rasmuson Foundation grant and the B.A. degree is on the Board of Regents June agenda.

The Rasmuson Grant also requires a one-to-one match. I am pleased to report that the Alaska Legislature included the $1,000,000 "fisheries" match in the University of Alaska FY09 budget that passed on April 12. Our friends in fishing communities around the state contacted their legislators to support our request. Letters or e-mails were sent from people in Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Cordova, Anchorage, and Kodiak. Coastal Villages Region Fund, a CDQ group, sent a strong letter and the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) passed a resolution and hand delivered it to key legislators. The support we received from the UFA, other fisheries organizations, and individuals throughout the fishing community was truly heartwarming. The strong support from the fishing industry statewide for the funding was mentioned in Laine Welch's column in the Anchorage Daily News on April 6. The UA budget is awaiting signature by the Governor who has until May 24 to sign the state operating budget, HB 310.

While all this was going on, the SFOS Advisory Council met in Fairbanks April 11-12. The meeting, chaired by Dr. David Policansky from the National Research Council, reviewed our strategic directions, academic programs, development plan, and our goals for next year. We welcomed new member Eric Olson, Chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. Another new member, Bruce Bustamante from Princess Tours, was unable to attend. Three graduate students (David Caroffino, Jeremy Kasper, and Jason Waite) presented their thesis research to the council. These student presentations are always a highlight of the meeting as they give the council members a chance to see the results of our work.

During the meeting Terry Whitledge reported the status of the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV) construction funded by the National Science Foundation. The update of the 2004 design is proceeding on schedule and the NSF oversight committee has been providing useful suggestions. NSF is requiring a final design review (FDR) before requesting additional construction funds from Congress. With $48 million appropriated to date, we are well short of the $123 million needed to construct the vessel. NSF has delayed the FDR until the week of October 20 with potential approval by the National Science Board in March 2009. This schedule may make receipt of construction funding in the FY10 federal budget problematic.

April at UAF is also a month for celebrations as the academic year moves toward an end. On April 19 I attended the UAF Awards Banquet where fisheries undergraduate Christine Gleason was recognized as our outstanding student. Christine will receive her B.S. degree in May and will continue her education as an SFOS graduate student. The UAF Rasmuson Library hosted the 2008 Authors Reception on April 23 and SFOS was well represented through our publications from Alaska Sea Grant. SFOS faculty recognized at the event were Tony Gharrett, Glenn Haight, Reid Brewer, Paula Cullenberg, and Don Kramer. You can see their smiling faces and their publications at

I ended the month at the spring meeting of the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) in Anchorage April 30 and May 1. Several new SFOS projects were funded by NPRB this year. In the three years I have served on the NPRB, the percentage of proposals recommended by the NPRB Science Panel but not approved by the NPRB Board has increased. This trend is not good for the NPRB or science in Alaska and I continue to work with other scientists on the board to try to reverse this trend.

April was a monumental month for our faculty, staff and students. Many thanks to all of you who contributed to our successes that made April one of the best months in the 20 year history of SFOS.