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Dean's monthly updates

December 2008

Happy New Year from the Dean's office! I look forward to 2009 as a significant year for UAF and the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. The new B.A. degree in fisheries is officially available with the beginning of the new semester and our efforts to construct the Alaska Region Research Vessel are moving forward expeditiously at the National Science Foundation. My hope for the new year is that our faculty, staff, and students will be even more productive in 2009 than they were last year.

In December 2008, five graduate students turned in their theses and dissertations for December graduation. The newest SFOS graduates are:

Congratulations to these graduates as they move forward in their science careers.

On December 5, UAF Vice Chancellor Pat Pitney and Linda Zanazzo, Director of the Department of Design and Construction, met with Angela Gies, Greg Simpson and me to discuss the operations of our Fishery Industrial Technology Center (FITC) in Kodiak. The decision from the meeting was to transfer the operation of our FITC buildings from SFOS to UAF Facilities Services. UAF Facilities Services will operate and maintain the FITC buildings and allow FITC Director Murat Balaban to better focus his efforts on academic, research, and service activities of FITC. Facilities Services is also operating the new Lena Point Fisheries Facility in Juneau. Since we are better at teaching students and conducting research than we are at running facilities, this change will enable us to direct more energy into what we do best.

December 6-14, I made my first trip outside of the U.S. as dean. With Paul Layer from the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, I traveled to the People's Republic of China and to Taiwan as part of the University of Alaska China initiative. The trip was arranged and paid for by UA Vice President Affairs Dan Julius who met us in Beijing along with UA President Mark Hamilton. We met with nine universities in five days, traveling from Beijing to Dalian, Qingdao, Kaohsiung, Taipei and Keelung. The universities with which we signed agreements to cooperate were the Dalian University of Technology, Northeastern University (Shenyang), Dalian Maritime University, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin Engineering University, Ocean University of China (Qingdao), I-Shou University, National Kaohsiung Normal University, and National Taiwan Ocean University. Further discussions will be held to determine the value in student, faculty, and administrator exchanges with these universities and a follow-up meeting in Fairbanks is being organized by VPAA Julius. I will provide a more detailed report on the UA China initiative separately. At the National Taiwan Ocean University, we had a chance to tour both their facilities and their oceanographic research vessel, Ocean Researcher No. 2. The scientists were about to depart on a cruise to recover some bottom pressure sensors and one of them knew Tom Weingartner. With this trip to Asia, I have now traveled to six of the seven continents and I hope to make it to Antarctica in the next few years.

After the trip to China, I spent one day in the office before traveling to San Francisco for the Fall 2008 meeting of the American Geophysical Union December 16-19. Along with the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and the International Arctic Research Center, SFOS hosted a town hall meeting on Arctic Research: Goals, Updates and Opportunities. About 150 people attended the Thursday evening event and I gave a presentation on the status of the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV). The ARRV project is moving ahead very well since the successful Final Design Review at the National Science Foundation in October. Even before my presentation, Jim Swift from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dale Chayes from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Columbia University) and others in the audience congratulated us on the outstanding FDR. NSF plans to ask Congress for the final funds needed to construct the vessel and authorized us to report, "NSF is recommending an increase to our total project contingency to raise confidence levels from 75% to 90% and cover the risks associated with current global market volatility." We anticipate that the National Science Board will approve the FDR at their May meeting and we hope to have a bid package out to shipyards in the summer.

I met with Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Community Engagement Jake Poole and Interim Chancellor Brian Rogers on December 23 to discuss SFOS development activities and our expectations for the FY10 UA budget. Like most other managed funds, UA Foundation investments had significant losses in 2008 and everyone is concerned about the effects of the current financial crisis on funds available for the University. Several of our endowments are below their initial gift level and will not be able to make payouts in the next fiscal year. Our budget discussion centered on our request to fully fund our Marine Advisory Program faculty in Cordova, Petersburg, Unalaska, Dillingham, and Nome. We hope to move these positions to the fixed university budget and have put forward this request for the FY11 budget.

The lousy weather in Seattle during Christmas week derailed the air travel plans of many of our faculty, staff, and students. Some could not leave and others who had left could not get back. One of our faculty reported that he and his family had planned to go to Costa Rica for some sunshine during the holidays, but ended up at Alyeska instead. Associate Dean Mike Castellini and his family spent four days waiting to head south to California for Christmas and finally made it out on Christmas Eve arriving in California on Christmas morning. He returned on January 3 with the temperature at 45 below zero to find his car at the airport. He told me that he got it started after battling with frozen locks and having to crawl into the car from the rear hatch, and only then realized that it had three flat tires! While we are having a serious winter in Fairbanks, I take solace in the fact that the days are now getting longer.

Happy New Year,