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Dean's monthly updates

January 2009

Good news. We learned this month that the ARRV is included in the ARRP. Without the acronyms, that means funding for the Alaska Region Research Vessel is included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, or economic stimulus bill, which is under consideration by Congress. H.R. 1 included $400 million for the National Science Foundation to accelerate the construction and development of major research facilities that provide unique capabilities at the cutting edge of science. ARRV funding is included in the $400 million that passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 244-188 on January 28. Our Congressman, like every other Republican, voted against the bill. The Senate version of the stimulus is now under consideration and has $150 million for the NSF MREFC account. We are optimistic that the ARRV, which the oceanographic community has been seeking since 1973, will finally become a reality in 2009. We should know if the funds are approved by the end of February and I hope to start off my February report with "Great News!"

On January 6, Katie Murra, Gary Newman, John Kelley, Andy Seitz and I participated in a teleconference on Podcasting on Campus. We learned how to make podcasts and use them effectively in course casting, student recruiting, and information dissemination to faculty and students. Podcasting is being widely used at other universities and we are exploring how we can use podcasts to reach a broader audience. This semester, Andy Seitz is podcasting his Marine and Freshwater Fishes of Alaska course (FISH 288) as a pilot experiment to gauge the effort required and to determine the effectiveness in reinforcing student learning.

Later that same day, Princess Tours Vice President for Community and Public Affairs Bruce Bustamante and Public Affairs Specialist Anita Nelson came to Fairbanks and met with SFOS Development Officer Teresa Thompson and me to discuss the plan to publicize their gift to the Marine Advisory Program. A reception will be held in Anchorage on February 6 and a press release will be distributed statewide. Teresa is also working on a donor appreciation display for the dean's office to recognize the support SFOS receives from individuals and companies.

Associate Dean Mike Castellini and I had an opportunity on January 7 to welcome (by phone) the new President and CEO of the Alaska SeaLife Center, Dr. Ian Dutton. We discussed the need to renew the strong partnership between the ASLC and SFOS and his plan for creating a chief scientist position. Dr. Dutton lives in Chugiak and came to the ASLC from The Nature Conservancy where he was Deputy Director of the Asia Pacific Region. His science background (geography and applied ecology) and fundraising experience should serve him well in this position.

Many SFOS faculty and students participated in the 2009 Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage, January 19-22. During the Wednesday luncheon, the 600+ participants were treated to a National Ocean Sciences Bowl demonstration. Two teams from South Anchorage High School competed, one with help from MAP faculty member Reid Brewer, followed by a contest between university professors and NOAA scientists. Assistant Professors Jeremy Mathis and Franz Mueter represented UAF. The faculty defeated the NOAA scientists in what can only be described as a drubbing. In the final contest between the high school students and the faculty, the South Anchorage team bested the faculty to the delight of the audience. SFOS Tsunami Bowl Coordinator Phyllis Shoemaker organized the contest.

One of the scientific highlights of the meeting was the presentation by Seth Danielson (Weingartner, Reeve, Danielson, and Jones) of their satellite-tracked drifters in the Bering Sea. The moving buoys set to fiddle music had the crowd clapping and could be available on YouTube soon. SFOS students won both of the best poster awards at the meeting. Ph.D. student Nathan Stewart (Brenda Konar, advisor) won the best student poster award for "Patterns in sea otter resource selection in Kachemak Bay, AK" and M.S. student Mayumi Arimitsu (Nicola Hillgruber, advisor) won for her poster, "The influence of glacial features on oceanographic gradients in Kenai Fjords, AK: A closer look at Kittlilz's murrelets." Ph.D. student Markus Janout (Tom Weingartner, advisor) won one of the two best student presentation awards for "Temperature controlling processes and the recent cooling in the northern Gulf of Alaska." Congratulations to all of our faculty and students for another great showing at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium. The speakers and abstracts are on the web at

January 22 and 23, I chaired the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center (PCCRC) Advisory Board meeting in Anchorage. Several SFOS faculty members and students presented reports on PCCRC-funded research that is underway or has been completed. The PCCRC funded six of the eleven proposals submitted this year, awarding a total of $434,246 for research in 2009 and continued funding for Keith Criddle, the Ted Stevens Professor of Marine Policy. For the first time this year, the PCCRC awarded two graduate fellowships that include tuition, fees, health insurance, and $3,000 in supplies and travel funds. The fellowship recipients were Ph.D. students Sara Miller (Milo Adkison, advisor) and Kray Van Kirk (Terry Quinn, advisor). Since its inception in 2000, the pollock companies of the At-sea Processors Association have donated more than $9 million to SFOS for research, the marine policy faculty chair and other purposes.

I traveled again to Anchorage on January 29 to attend the Board of Directors meeting of the Alaska SeaLife Center. After arriving on the 6:05 a.m. flight, I had a breakfast meeting with Molly McCammon, Executive Director of the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), to discuss funding opportunities and future plans for AOOS. After the board meeting, I met with Lewis Madden, Owner's Representative for the MV Susitna, the ferry that will be owned and operated in Cook Inlet by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The $84 million ice-capable ferry is being built by the Navy in Ketchikan and should be operational in 2011. We discussed collecting the environmental data from the ferry and making it available through the AOOS data center that is operated by SFOS under the direction of Professor Mark Johnson.

An International Arctic Fisheries Symposium is being planned for October 19-21, 2009, in Anchorage and I am a member of the Steering Committee. The meeting is being organized to initiate discussions for conserving and managing future fisheries in the Arctic Ocean including managing migratory, transboundary and straddling fish stocks. Organizers of the meeting include the U.S. Department of State, NOAA, North Pacific Fishery Management Council, Oceana, and the Institute of the North. The Steering Committee met twice this month to discuss the draft agenda and potential speakers from the U.S., Canada, and Russia.

Speaking of Arctic weather, for the first eleven days of 2009, the highest temperature recorded in Fairbanks was 38 below zero or lower on eight of the first eleven days. The lowest recorded temperature during this period was 47 below zero and then the climate warmed to a record 52 degrees above zero on January 16. Many SFOS faculty were out of Alaska during this period and missed the longest Fairbanks cold spell in ten years, including four days in a row with high temperatures of 40 below or lower. They also missed four consecutive days of highs above 40 degrees, a rare treat for January in Fairbanks.