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Office of the Dean


SFOS Dean's Office
245 O'Neill
PO Box 757220
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7220
Phone: (907) 474-7210
Fax: (907) 474-7204

Dean's monthly updates
August 2009

The end of August is always a time of excitement on campus as our continuing students return and new students join our degree programs in fisheries, marine biology and oceanography. In the planner I use to organize my schedule, there is a quote on the top of each page and the quote for August 31 is fitting,

"The mediocre teacher tells.
  The good teacher explains.
  The superior teacher demonstrates.
  The great teacher inspires.
- William A. Ward."

As we have increased our emphasis on quality teaching within the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, I am sure we are inspiring our students. And, as our new faculty* have expanded their research activities, the number of graduate students in our program has grown. Overall student enrollment is up at UAF and a report on the Alaska Public Radio Network's Alaska News Nightly specifically pointed out that enrollment in the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences was up 46% this fall compared to fall 2008. (Listen here...) SFOS Recruiting and Retention Coordinator Katie Murra Straub and our faculty are to be congratulated for their outstanding recruiting efforts.

We also had a major public relations success in August. SFOS Public Information Officer Carin Stephens issued a press release* on August 11 describing some of the recent work of Jeremy Mathis, an Assistant Professor of Oceanography who joined SFOS in September 2007. Jeremy measured carbon dioxide system parameters on Seward Line* stations this year and learned that the pH was much lower than he anticipated. This news release has provided us more visibility for our research than perhaps any other information we have provided to the media. I believe part of the reason was the strong linkage between ocean acidification and fisheries and because the release had the right balance. By August 26, the story has been carried in 146 newspapers or newscasts, from the L.A. Times, to the Detroit Free Press, to the Washington Post and the Hindu News in India. After the initial surge from the Associated Press coverage, Reuters picked up the story from a different angle and the story went around the globe again. It was an important story, but I agree with the SFOS Advisory Council member who wished Carin and Jeremy could have reported more positive news about the ocean.

The University of Alaska hosted a Higher Education Partner Conference in Fairbanks August 7-9 in which I participated as the SFOS representative. The meeting brought together 31 participants from Alaska and 24 from China to discuss potential education and research collaborations. Representatives were there from several of the universities I visited during my December 2008 trip to China including I-Shou University (Taiwan), Northeastern University, Dalian University of Technology and the Ocean University of China. During the closing banquet at UA President Mark Hamilton's home, the representative from the China Education Association for International Exchange announced that the government of China would provide scholarships for ten students to attend UAF next year. SFOS was invited to participate in a student exchange program with the Ocean University of China and their vice president invited us for a return visit to discuss an agreement for OUC students to pursue graduate degrees at UAF. If funding is available from UA Vice President Dan Julius, we may arrange a trip to Qingdao later in the fall.

SFOS Development Officer Teresa Thompson and I traveled to Juneau on August 12 to meet with program supporters. The Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (PCCRC) Advisory Board met at our Lena Point Fisheries Building in Juneau on August 14 and SFOS Advisory Board co-chair Heather McCarty hosted a dinner for the board and our Juneau faculty on the evening of August 13. At the meeting, the PCCRC decided to fund one single salmon research initiative in 2010 and 2011. Our faculty and others are reviewing the concept and suggesting ways to focus the effort within the $600,000 two-year budget. The request for a single proposal will be distributed to SFOS faculty in September.

The National Science Foundation conducted a preliminary Business Systems Review (BSR) of UAF August 17-19 as part of our $199.5 million collaborative agreement for the construction and operation of the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV). The NSF team included ARRV Program Manager Matt Hawkins, Florence Rabanal (MREFC Office) and Magdelena Van Dusen (Contractor). In Fairbanks, UAF Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Pat Pitney gave an overview of UAF business operations along with Stuart Roberts (Financial Services), Karl Kowalski (OIT), Maggie Griscavage (Award Management), Maren Boyack (Financial Reporting), John Hebard (Procurement) and Kris Racina (Human Resources). I gave an overview of SFOS, SFOS Financial Manager Angela Gies described how SFOS manages its finances and grants accounting and IMS Director Terry Whitledge talked about specifics of the ARRV. After the Fairbanks visit, the NSF team traveled to Seward to meet with Seward Marine Center Director Dan Oliver and SMC Manager Nici Murawsky among others. The visit to Fairbanks and Seward went very well and by all accounts the NSF team was happy with the information they received and the interactions with our team. Thanks to all who put in long hours of preparation to assure we showed them how we were working as a team on this important project. Special thanks to the ARRV Program Coordinator Lori Nunemann for her logistical support and the long weekend she spent preparing the final briefing material for the review.

Immediately after my part of the ARRV review on August 17, Associate Dean Mike Castellini and I flew to Homer to catch the 7:00 a.m. water taxi to our Kasitsna Bay Laboratory across Kachemak Bay. We spent August 18 and the morning of August 19 meeting with our fisheries faculty who were holding a retreat at the lab. Fisheries Division Interim Director Shannon Atkinson organized the retreat to provide an opportunity for exchange of ideas in an informal setting and K-Bay was the perfect place. It was a great opportunity to discuss the plans and expectations for our fisheries program. In the past three years, we have hired eight new fisheries faculty (4 women and 4 men) all of whom were in attendance at the retreat. Since you have to prepare your own meals at K-Bay, I learned we have some excellent cooks among our faculty. Having freshly caught Kachemak Bay halibut helped us enjoy our visit even more.

After the retreat, I flew to Anchorage on August 19 to meet Chancellor Brian Rogers and VCAS Pat Pitney for a two-day trip to Kodiak. We had breakfast on August 20 with Representative Alan Austerman and Legislative Aide Erin Harrington. During the day, we met with FITC Director Murat Balaban and the FITC faculty and staff, the Kodiak Fisheries Advisory Committee, Kodiak College Director Barbara Bolson and the Fisheries and Oceanic Research Board which is chaired by Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Shelby. Chancellor Rogers also was the guest speaker at the noon Kodiak Chamber of Commerce meeting. It was a fast trip, but we were able to meet with many community leaders, discuss our plans for FITC and the ARRV, and tour a dock location at Womens Bay where Kodiak leaders would like us to homeport the ARRV. I stayed over on August 21 to meet individually with FITC faculty and staff and to enjoy the cuisine at the Old Powerhouse Restaurant one more time.

Orientation for new UAF faculty was conducted on August 24-25 and we also hosted an informal SFOS orientation for our new faculty on the afternoon of August 24 in the Vera Alexander Learning Center. I gave an SFOS overview, Mike Castellini described the promotion and tenure process, SFOS Proposal Coordinator Gretchen Hundertmark explained how we support grant submissions, Angela Gies described our financial and grants management, and SFOS Academic Manager Christina Neumann covered academic programs and class scheduling. Christina won for the largest amount of material provided: a 3 inch thick binder. At the new faculty luncheon August 25 on the top floor of the Syun-Ichi Akasofu Building (formerly IARC), I introduced Sarah Mincks Hardy, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology (Fairbanks); Sam VanLaningham, Assistant Professor of Oceanography (Fairbanks); Izetta Chambers, Assistant Professor Marine Advisory Program (Dillingham); and Marilyn Sigman, Term Assistant Professor Marine Advisory Program (Anchorage) as our new faculty. Assistant Professor of Fisheries Andy Seitz and Megan McPhee were out of town. We are delighted to have these six new faculty join our program next fall. We are also pleased that chemical oceanographer Ana Aguilar-Islas has accepted our offer to join SFOS as an Assistant Professor of Oceanography. Ana is finishing a post-doc with IARC and will join us in the spring of 2010.

Each month I receive a report on the proposals by UAF faculty that are submitted and awarded. In August, SFOS faculty received 12 of the 22 proposals awarded at UAF, including two from the National Science Foundation. The total awarded for SFOS research was $2,118,900. I was pleased to see that four of the awards were to our new faculty. One of the anonymous reviews stated, "Funding for this project will further strengthen a growing coalition of early and mid-career researchers at the University of Alaska, a program that is currently undergoing very impressive re-building." It is good to know that our efforts in hiring faculty who can attract high-level funding are noticed and appreciated by our colleagues.

Have a good semester.