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Dean's monthly updates

April 2009

Summer arrived in Fairbanks the last week of April with a record high temperature of 76 F.  It was also warm (62 F) earlier in the week in Juneau when we dedicated the Lena Point Fisheries Building on April 28 under clear sunny skies.  The weather could not have been better and spirits were high as Governor Sarah Palin, Representative Beth Kerttula, UA President Mark Hamilton, UAF Interim Chancellor Brian Rogers and others spoke at the dedication. More information on the building can be found on our website at and on the Governor's website at Both Governor Palin and Representative Kerttula described Alaska's fisheries management practices as among the best in the world and noted that the new building would educate the leaders who would continue that tradition.  President Hamilton correctly observed that we would long remember this day as the one when it was hot enough in Juneau to pop the helium-filled balloons at the ceremony.  Others will remember it as the end of a long struggle to provide adequate facilities for our faculty and students in Juneau.  The effort to obtain this new facility started in the 1980s and its completion is a commitment from the university to the importance of our fisheries degree programs.  During the decades-long struggle to fund the building, 37 different members of the Board of Regents were involved in the effort.  Provost Emeritus Paul Reichardt wrote to me that, "I do count as one of my contributions to UAF the things I did to keep the project alive when it seemed like it was going down the tubes for all the wrong reasons."  Tony Gharrett, Bill Smoker, and the other fisheries faculty are to be commended for their perseverance in seeing this effort through to completion.

The dedication itself was quite an event with 150 attendees who were feted with a luncheon, a cake shaped like the building, the aforementioned blue and gold balloons, souvenir paperweights and more.  SFOS Development Officer Teresa Thompson organized the event along with a committee consisting of Debi Rathbone and Bill Smoker from Juneau, Ann Ringstad from the Chancellor's office, SFOS Public Information Officer Carin Stephens and Linda Zanazzo from the UAF Department of Design and Construction.  They did a great job and I hope you will thank them for the incredible visibility they helped provide UAF and SFOS at this event.  The only thing missing was a UAF logo for the podium, but SFOS Recruiting and Retention Coordinator Katie Murra came to the rescue using the Fisheries Division poster printer minutes before the speeches to provide a 2 ft. x 2 ft. UAF logo.  It looks great on the Governor's webpage at  Both Interim Chancellor Rogers and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Pat Pitney told me how impressed they were with this event. Our dedicated staff made this a proud day for SFOS.

On April 27, the day before the Fisheries Building dedication, Juneau fisheries students Katie Palof and Lisa Kamin (Advisor: Tony Gharrett) organized the 13th Student Symposium of the American Fisheries Society Juneau Student Sub-Unit of the Alaska Chapter.  Thirteen students presented their thesis research, including several who traveled from Fairbanks for the symposium.  After the symposium, the students and faculty reconvened at The Hangar in downtown Juneau for a reception.  A highlight for the students the next day was having a group picture taken with Governor Palin at the dedication. This group of students played a major role in the dedication by providing guided tours of the building and showing off their research to the many ceremony attendees.

If that was not enough for the week, I attended the North Pacific Research Board meeting on April 29 and 30 in Anchorage.  The board met to consider the 85 proposals that were submitted in response to the 2008 request for proposals.  The NPRB awarded $3,446,235 for new grants and SFOS faculty received $1,016,590 or 29% of the total awards with 10 of our 18 proposals receiving funds.  This high percentage of competitive funds from the NPRB is testament to the high quality of scientific research conducted by SFOS faculty.

The first half of April was spent preparing for the SFOS Advisory Council meeting that was held in Juneau April 9-10.  Dr. David Policansky from the National Research Council chairs the council and he welcomed new members Margaret Williams, Bering Sea Field Office Director of the World Wildlife Fund, and Ian Dutton, President and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center.  I presented an Overview of SFOS Activities and Accomplishments. The council also considered our strategic plan, development plan, academic issues, communication plan, finances and facilities issues.  Rather than having student presentations this year, we had outstanding presentations from three new faculty members:  Courtney Carothers, Assistant Professor of Fisheries; Peter Winsor, Associate Professor of Oceanography; Ginny Eckert, Associate Professor of Fisheries, and one not new faculty member: Russell Hopcroft, Associate Professor of Oceanography.  Another highlight of the meeting was a delightful dinner hosted by Vice Chair Heather McCarty at her home overlooking Juneau.  The SFOS Advisory Council reports to the UAF Chancellor and provides guidance on goals and objectives and evaluates opportunities and priorities for program development.

On April 23, I traveled to Anchorage to make a presentation to the Council of Petroleum Accountants Societies (COPAS).  My presentation covered SFOS activities and research our faculty conduct that is of interest to the oil industry.  Many SFOS faculty provided me slides and information for the presentation including Tom Weingartner, Seth Danielson, Sathy Naidu, Arny Blanchard, Brenda Norcross, Brenda Konar, Stephen Okkonen, Tuula Hollmen, Mat Wooller, Mike Stekoll, and emeriti faculty Don Button and Peter McRoy.  I was impressed at the quantity and quality of environmental research our faculty have produced over the years from Port Valdez to the North Slope.  The UAF Admissions Office also supplied overview slides for the university.  Two highlights of the presentation were the movie showing the Alaska Region Research Vessel and the moving Bering Sea surface drifters set to music provided by Seth Danielson.  Since I was speaking to accountants, I reminded them that we could help with their taxes if they would take advantage of the Alaska Education Tax Credit by donating to SFOS.  While no one rushed up with a check, all of the tax credit brochures with Teresa Thompson's card attached were gathered up by the 90 members present.

The following day, April 24, I attended the quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors of the Alaska SeaLife Center where I am one of the two University of Alaska representatives along with Douglas Causey, UAA Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies.  The board heard a presentation from John Maniscalco on the information on natality rates in Steller sea lions based on observations from the Chiswell Island camera system.

The UAF Student Awards Program was held at the Wood Center on April 25 to honor the outstanding undergraduates in each academic program.  Our outstanding fisheries student was Shelley Woods from Dillingham.  She was accompanied to the awards breakfast by her advisor, Undergraduate Fisheries Coordinator Trent Sutton.  We are proud of all Shelley has accomplished at UAF and look forward to her graduation in the fall. The outstanding graduating senior woman was Alice Orlich from geography and a close friend of SFOS Academic Program Assistant Madeline Scholl who also attended the ceremony.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of being dean is reading the theses of our students prior to graduation. It is a real joy to review the finished product of our graduate students' research.  I read five theses or dissertations during April:

Erin Steiner, M.S. Fisheries, Major Advisor: Keith Criddle
Abigail Ellsworth, M.S. Marine Biology, Major Advisors: Tuula Hollmen and Shannon Atkinson
Brian Cohn, M.S. Geological Oceanography, Major Advisors: Bruce Finney and Patricia Heiser
William Bechtol, Ph.D. Fisheries, Major Advisor: Gordon Kruse
• Matthew Myers, Ph.D. Marine Biology, Major Advisor: Shannon Atkinson

These students will receive their degrees at graduation on May 10. Matt Myers died in a diving accident in September 2007 and his degree will be awarded posthumously.  Over the past year, Matt's advisory committee completed his dissertation, much of which had already been published.