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Dean's monthly updates

February 2009

Great News! On Friday, February 13, the House of Representatives and Senate approved the conference report for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (commonly known as the economic stimulus plan) that included funding for the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV). President Obama signed the legislation on February 17. Included in the stimulus package is $400 million for the National Science Foundation for its Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account from which the ARRV will be funded. While final funding from the stimulus legislation is dependent upon Office of Management and Budget and congressional approval, it is safe to say that the ARRV is adequately funded in this fiscal year at a level that will allow UAF to proceed with the project and initiate the shipyard selection process. On February 23, UAF released a Request for Interest (RFI) letter to U.S. marine construction shipyards. The RFI and associated project documents are posted on the UAF Procurement website at: The RFI states, "It is anticipated that the RFP will be issued in March, 2009, with final award of a shipyard contract occurring early in the fall of 2009." The request for proposals (RFP) should go out in March with shipyard responses due six weeks later. We are now well on the way to providing the 242-foot ice-strengthened research vessel that ocean scientists need to study the changing environment in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean. Congratulations to Project Director Dan Oliver, Principal Investigator Terry Whitledge, and Construction Manager Gary Smith for the great job in working with the National Science Foundation to make the ARRV a "welder ready" project.

The University of Alaska hosted a reception on February 6 in Anchorage to announce a $100,000 gift from Princess Tours. SFOS Development Officer Teresa Thompson organized the reception that was held at our Marine Advisory Program offices. UA President Mark Hamilton and UAF Interim Chancellor Brian Rogers thanked Bruce Bustamante, Vice President of Community and Public Affairs for Princess Tours, for this generous gift that will support our Marine Advisory Program faculty. I represented SFOS at the reception and Terry Johnson represented MAP while SFOS Public Information Officer Carin Stephens captured photos of the event.

The 2009 Tsunami Bowl was hosted by the Seward Marine Center February 6-8. This regional National Ocean Sciences Bowl contest tests high school students' knowledge of marine science. Fifteen teams competed this year, but the outcome was the same as last year -- the Juneau-Douglas High School Naughty Nautilli team won again. These outstanding students will join winners from 24 other regions in competing in the national finals at the Sant Ocean Hall at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, in late April. The first and second place teams were awarded $2,000 scholarships to their choice of either UAF or UAS. SFOS NOSB Regional Coordinator Phyllis Shoemaker, the Seward Marine Center staff, and almost 100 volunteers did an outstanding job in making this a special event for the students.

The SFOS Executive Council held their annual retreat February 12-13 at the Lee Gorsuch Commons on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. The unit leaders reviewed the faculty survey we conducted in the fall, considered how to modify the next SFOS budget, modified the strategic planning document based on Advisory Council comments, and discussed how our faculty could work collaboratively on initiatives important to the state. One decision from the meeting was to return part of the indirect cost recovery we receive from grants to the principal investigators. The formula to do this is under development and will include a factor related to the number of graduate students funded by the principal investigator.

Dr. Ian Dutton, President and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center, and I traveled together to Juneau on February 16. Dr. Dutton joined the SeaLife Center in December and the trip provided him an opportunity to see our new Lena Point Fisheries Building and meet with our Juneau faculty. During this day trip, we had an opportunity to meet with Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Denby Lloyd (in the airport departure lounge) and with Doug DeMaster, Director of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Both Denby and Doug are members of the SFOS Advisory Council and we had an opportunity to discuss issues important to SFOS. At a luncheon with the SFOS fisheries faculty, I was presented with two photographs of the new Lena Point Fisheries Building which I plan to display in the Dean's office.

SFOS Conversations was held on Thursday February 19. Only a few faculty called in to ask questions and hear the latest news. Carin Stephens reported that the news article on the Census of Marine Life had received coverage in over 400 sources on the web and in newspapers. The article featured comments and spectacular plankton photographs by Associate Professor Russ Hopcroft and was carried on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News. It was great to have this positive news coverage of the outstanding research conducted by our faculty.SFOS Associate Professor Katrin Iken, Research Assistant Professor Bodil Bluhm, Associate Professor Brenda Konar and Associate Professor Rolf Gradinger, among others, are key players in the Census of Marine Life program funded by the Sloan Foundation.

We received significant support for SFOS activities from the UA and UAF administration during February. On February 11, I met with Interim Chancellor Brian Rogers to review the success of our undergraduate fisheries degree expansion. We have 40 undergraduates in the program now, compared to 17 a few years ago. Our goal is to have 100 undergraduate fisheries students within five years with 20 graduates per year. On February 20, I met with Provost Henrichs to review some of our activities and with President Hamilton the same afternoon. I am personally pleased with the strong support SFOS receives at all levels of the administration. Their support was instrumental in our receiving a significant budget increase last fiscal year and will help in FY11 as we seek additional faculty funding.

February was a short month for me as I spent the last week of the month on vacation in Las Vegas. My planned revenue-generating system in Las Vegas was not very effective. Thus, I returned to work in Fairbanks on February 28 to prepare for meetings the following week in Anchorage and Washington.