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Dean's monthly updates

March 2008

March began with a trip to Anchorage for two meetings on March 3. The Rasmuson Foundation Fisheries Research Center advisory board met in the Wells Fargo Board Room in the morning. The board heard presentations from Jennifer Marsh, M.S. Marine Biology Candidate, Megan Murphy, M.S. Marine Biology Candidate, Katy Howard, M.S. Fisheries Candidate, Sean Rooney, M.S. Fisheries Candidate, and Ashwin Sreenivasan, Ph.D. Fisheries Candidate. After the presentations, the board continued the fellowships of Marsh, Murphy, and Sreenivasen, and awarded fellowships to two incoming students: Patrick Lane and Terril Efird, both new students of Brenda Konar. With the funding available next year, I anticipate the Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center will be able to fund five or six new fellowships.

The afternoon of March 3 was devoted to a meeting of the Rasmuson Fisheries Excellence Committee. This group of university, state and fishing organization representatives provides advice to us on the development of our new B.A. degree in Fisheries that is partially funded by the Rasmuson Foundation. SFOS attendees at the meeting were Fisheries Division Director Bill Smoker, Undergraduate Fisheries Coordinator Trent Sutton, and Internship Coordinator Amanda Rosenberger. Two UAF undergraduate fisheries students, Jessica Johnson and Shelley Woods, presented their views of our fisheries degree at the meeting. The FEC heard a presentation by Trent Sutton on the final version of the B.A. curriculum and Amanda Rosenberger described the experiential learning program for undergraduates. By the end of the meeting, the committee agreed we were ready to move forward and meet again in a year to see what progress had been made. We are now awaiting final approval of the B.A. curriculum by UAF Faculty Senate.

Faculty candidate interviews continued to dominate the month with fisheries and oceanography candidates on campus for 15 of the 21 working days in March (5 days were spring break). I have been impressed with the stamina of our faculty and staff during the interview process. Usually we test not our stamina but that of the candidate. The committee chairs, logistical coordinator Sharice Walker, and Madeline Scholl in our academic office have done a tremendous job with the scheduling. The daily event reports that Madeline provides have made it possible for us to plan our days while assuring we have time to interact with the candidates. I think SFOS has set the "rep allowance" record for UAF this semester and thanks to Edward Elliott for keeping the reimbursements flowing.

UAF and Alaska Sea Grant hosted the North Aleutian Basin Energy/Fisheries Workshop in Anchorage on March 18-19 with Sea Grant Director Brian Allee as the host. The purpose of the workshop was "To create a forum for open dialogue based on mutual respect between fisheries stakeholders of the North Aleutian Basin and the energy industry, through which all can gain a shared understanding of the issues and concerns of the region, and participate in the region's long-term conservation and wise use." I gave a brief introduction and UA President Mark Hamilton gave the keynote address. His experience negotiating the end of a 12 year civil war in El Salvador made him the ideal person to kick off this meeting. Those who chose to participated engaged in a constructive dialogue and almost everyone thought that Sea Grant did an excellent job organizing and conducting the meeting.

A mini version of the NAB Energy/Fisheries Workshop was held in Kodiak during the 2008 ComFish event March 20-22. The SFOS display at ComFish was staffed by Fishery Industrial Technology Center (FITC) faculty and staff and Alaska Sea Grant was also a major participant. FITC hosted a reception on Friday evening to provide an opportunity for the Alaska fishing community to meet Dr. Murat Balaban, the new FITC Director who started in January.

SFOS Conversations was held on March 20 during which we discussed the new SFOS web page, the FY09 university budget, and the outcome of the NAB Energy/Fisheries Workshop. Fifteen or more faculty and staff participated in the teleconference from many SFOS locations.

The Senate Finance Committee of the Alaska Legislature added the $1.0 million for UAF Fisheries back into the state operating budget in mid-March and the full Senate approved the budget on March 24. The messages of support sent by members of the fishing industry around the state to Senators Stedman, Hoffman, Elton and others were instrumental in having these funds for our undergraduate fisheries expansion added to the UA budget. Senator Joe Thomas from Fairbanks was a major supporter of the success of the UA budget in the Senate Finance Committee. While the funding must survive the conference with the House, we would not be in this position without the tremendous support we have received from our friends in the fishing industry from Ketchikan to Nome and Unalaska to Cordova. We have some confidence that the funding will survive conference as the total UA budget is at the same level the Governor requested. Senator Stedman wrote to me on March 18, "I'll be excited to see the program implemented this fall."

Several SFOS faculty participated in a visit from Shell Oil Company scientists on March 24. The purpose of the visit was for Shell Oil representatives to become more familiar with UAF's mission, with specific emphasis on research. Sue Moore, Alaska Operations Manager, led the Shell group. SFOS participants in the discussion were Denis Wiesenburg, Mike Castellini, Bodil Bluhm, Katrin Iken, John Kelley, Tom Weingartner, Dave Christie, and Jeremy Mathis. The meeting was the subject of a front page article in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on March 25.

On March 28, I was guest speaker at Sunrisers Rotary Club in Fairbanks where I gave an overview of SFOS and discussed the new expansion of our faculty and undergraduate fisheries degree programs. SFOS Development Officer Teresa Thompson introduced me and coincidently, my wife Jean was running the meeting that morning. My son, Heath, was also an invited guest that day so it was a real family affair. From the questions I received after the presentation, there appeared to be a lot of interest in our SFOS programs around the state.

I am the administration representative on the UAF Faculty Senate Faculty Affairs Committee. Unless you have served on such a committee, you cannot know what a special pleasure it is to serve on a committee like this. The committee is assigned to review issues of importance to the faculty and to make recommendations on issues brought forth by individual faculty members. Part of our discussions at the March 26 meeting was on whether or not adjunct faculty members are being "abused" at UAF and what to do about it. Although the committee has not reviewed any information to indicate that this is happening, one Senator commented that "We should resolve issues whether they exist or not." This is an exact quote and not an April Fool's Day joke.