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Dean's monthly updates

January 2008

After a six month search, I am delighted to announce that Teresa Thompson has joined SFOS as our Development Officer effective January 7. Teresa, a UAF graduate, has experience working with United Way and most recently with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Teresa will coordinate the development plan for our school and work to raise funds immediately for the 2008 National Ocean Sciences Bowl finals to be held in Seward in April 2008. She will also work with me to raise the matching funds for the $5 million Rasmuson Foundation grant. Please share your development ideas with Teresa. I look forward to working with her to increase the resources available to our faculty and staff.

With Teresa's help, we are making great progress in raising the $200,000 we need to host the finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in Seward in April. This month we received NOSB support commitments from the Alaska Ocean Observing System, NOAA Alaska Region and Icicle Seafoods. We are about $50,000 away from having the funds needed to make this a truly spectacular event and I am confident we will raise the balance in the next three months.

The new SFOS classroom in the O'Neill Building was completed this month with the installation of the video conferencing equipment and the ceiling tiles. Information on the new 1,300 sq. ft. classroom can be found at After 17 years as a school, we finally have our own room for classes, seminars, and thesis defenses. We will have a dedication of the room during February or March. UAF provided $500,000 to construct this high-tech learning center as part of the matching funds for our Rasmuson Foundation fisheries grant.

Much effort was put forward this month by Undergraduate Fisheries Coordinator Trent Sutton and the fisheries faculty to shepherd the new B.A. in fisheries curriculum through the Faculty Senate Curriculum Review Committee. Associate Professor Nicola Hillgruber represents us on the committee and did an excellent job defending the faculty decisions concerning this new program. The committee refused to accept that we could offer both a B.A. and B.S. in fisheries (as do many other departments) claiming we had to rename one of the degrees. The committee chair suggested we name the new degree "Something like 'fisheries management' to convey the sense that this degree is actually mostly about management and less about fish." Since the new degree is exactly about fish, our faculty declined. I enjoyed reading the comments from our fisheries faculty about this and note that in describing the efforts of the Curriculum Review Committee that the word "ridiculous" was used three times as often as the word "silly." In the end, we will rename our B.S. in Fisheries to a B.S. in Fisheries Science in order to appease the members of the Curriculum Review Committee.

The SFOS Executive Council (unit and academic leaders) held its annual retreat in Fairbanks on January 14 and 15. Topics the group considered was the strategic planning process, faculty and staff hiring, the memorandum of agreement with the Alaska SeaLife Center, workload guidelines, facility issues and budget. Our new director of the Fishery Industrial Technology Center in Kodiak, Murat Balaban, was part of the meeting. After arriving in Kodiak from Gainesville, Florida, on January 6, he had the pleasure of traveling to Fairbanks a week later to experience 44 degrees below zero on January 14. During his visit, Dr. Balaban met with SFOS faculty and staff and UAF administrators including the Chancellor and Provost. I am personally delighted that Dr. Balaban has joined the SFOS team.

During the Executive Council budget discussion, we concluded that the return of research overhead we receive from the university (indirect cost recovery or ICR) may be as much as $400,000 below the projections we used to prepare our budget last May. Both our research revenues and ICR are below our projections and the level of the last four years. Because of the project shortfall in revenue, we decided to reduce the FY08 budget of each SFOS unit by 5% immediately. These cuts will require some belt tightening for each unit to assure we end the fiscal year successfully on June 30.

SFOS Conversations was held on January 17 with participants from Kodiak, Seward, Fairbanks and Juneau. We discussed the ongoing faculty searches, how to improve student theses (have a fellow student read it first) and how to improve faculty teaching among other topics. Some time was spent discussing research initiatives and the intricacies of the funding process of the North Pacific Research Board.

Work on the design refresh and construction management plan of the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV) picked up speed this month under the leadership of Seward Marine Center Director Dan Oliver and Principal Investigator Terry Whitledge. The updated design is ready for review by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the ARRV Oversight Committee. The weekly planning meetings are being used to prepare for a major design and program review to be held at NSF at the end of February. This review is a major milestone in the effort to construct the arctic research vessel the science community has requested for over 30 years.

On January 18, I attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) by teleconference. At the beginning of the meeting, ASLC Executive Director Tylan Schrock announced that he would be stepping down as executive director. The board appointed Dr. Ned Smith as the Interim Director to work with Tylan over the next few months while a search is begun for a new executive director. This change will be significant for SFOS as we have five Institute of Marine Science (IMS) research faculty and a number of graduate students working at the ASLC. IMS Director Terry Whitledge and I met with the ASLC faculty in Anchorage on January 21 to discuss the way forward.

The 2008 Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage from January 20-23 attracted over 600 scientists and I had the pleasure of hearing many of our faculty and students present their research. One symposium attendee from the US east coast told me he thought the best three presentations of the meeting were those of IMS Professor Tom Weingartner, NOAA scientist Jim Overland and IMS Assistant Professor Jeremy Mathis. Details of SFOS participation in the meeting can be found at Of the symposium student awards for presentations and posters, four of the six award winners were SFOS graduate students studying fisheries in Juneau. Congratulations to these future fisheries scientists who represented our school well at the meeting.

After the marine science symposium, I spent an additional two days in Anchorage chairing the meeting of the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (PCCRC) Advisory Board, January 24-25. The PCCRC Advisory Board heard reports of ongoing and completed projects and considered new proposals for 2008 funding. Fifteen proposals were submitted to the PCCRC this year requesting over $1.3 million in new funding. The advisory board recommended funding for seven new and one continuing proposal for $509,981. The PCCRC has also decided to fund two graduate assistantships each year and the details of the call for proposals are being discussed. Stay tuned.

On January 31, I was pleased to learn that the Dutch Harbor Fisherman newspaper carried a front page article on the expansion of our undergraduate fisheries program funded by the Rasmuson Foundation. Trent Sutton had some great quotes in the article and the author spoke to people in the fishing industry and at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. You can read the story (pages 1 and 8) at The same story ran in the Bristol Bay Times (Dillingham), the Arctic Sounder (Kotzebue), Cordova Times and the Tundra Drums (Bethel).

Through our participation in the Alaska Marine Science Symposium, because of the quality of our students, and from the visibility our programs are receiving in the media throughout the state, the outstanding products of our research, teaching and service are gaining the recognition they deserve. Thanks to all of you who helped get 2008 off to a great start.