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Dean's monthly updates
July 2009

On July 1, 2009, I began my fifth year as Dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. I remember well the day that Jean and I, with daughter Vanessa in tow, arrived in Fairbanks to find it smokier than it had been during our previous visit. As I write this today, fires burn in several areas around Fairbanks and the sky is again cloudy with smoke. Also on July 1, Edward Elliott returned as the Assistant to the Dean after almost a year in Phoenix. Tara Delana, who received degrees in both business and accounting at UAF's May commencement ceremony, will be heading to New York City to begin her career in accounting. While I am sad to see Tara leave, it is great to know that Edward will do the same capable job as he did before.

I am pleased to report that SFOS finished the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a positive budget balance. This is the fifth year in a row we have ended in the year in the black. UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers expects all units to end the year with a positive account balance and not to have the total be more than 2% of the total budget. We ended the year with $145,198 in the bank, while 2% of our budget is $209,000. These carry forward funds will be invested in startup packages for our new faculty. SFOS Financial Manager Angela Gies returned to SFOS a year ago and has done a great job managing our finances. She and our unit directors are to be commended for their efforts to track our finances and manage our operations to assure financial stability for the school.

During the last fiscal year, our faculty submitted a total of $42,265,182 in new proposals to various state and federal agencies and private corporations and our proposal success rate was about 21% based on number of proposals. Our total research expenditures for the year were $14,490,308 which is about the same as the previous year. In September, we will have a task force examine our research activities to determine why our research levels have decreased from over $16,000,000 during FY2003 to FY2007 to about $14,500,000 during the last two fiscal years.

Six students submitted their theses or dissertations to me for review for August graduation. As I have mentioned before, reading the final product of our students' research is one of the joys of my job. The thesis I read in order of submission were:

I continue to be delighted with the quality of the research conducted by our students and amazed by the variety of topics, from blasting bridges to isotopic fractionation. Congratulations to our graduates as they complete this important stage of their careers.

The UA Internal Audit Department conducted a routine audit of our travel expenses during the week of July 6. The informal report from the audit showed we did well, but we need to be more cognizant of some of the procedures for reconciling our travel cards. The only finding in which finances were involved was one instance in which a traveler was reimbursed for a breakfast that was provided at a conference. Our estimate of the questioned reimbursement was $11.00, which was not bad considering the amount of travel we do to meet our teaching and research mission.

The Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) Governance Committee met in Anchorage on July 9 and I attended by teleconference. AOOS is still trying to determine how to best organize itself in a manner in which federal program, state agencies, and other organizations can participate. The committee received a report of the ongoing Prince William Sound Field Experiment. SFOS project participants include Mark Johnson who is in charge of the high frequency radar system and AOOS data management and Marilyn Sigman who handled the education and outreach component. Torie Baker, our faculty member in Cordova, also helped with the outreach and Rob Cermak, Steve Sweet, Hank Statscewich and Rachel Potter from the AOOS data center were the on the ground and sometimes in the air personnel. The experiment ran July 19 - August 3.

On July 23-24, I traveled to Seward with Chancellor Brian Rogers and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Pat Pitney. This was my only business trip in July. The purpose of the trip was to allow the Chancellor to learn about our operations at the Seward Marine Center and to discuss with city leaders plans for docking the Alaska Regions Research Vessel. SMC Director Dan Oliver was our host in Seward. We met with Vice Mayor Willard Dunham and City Manager Phillip Oates to discuss docking options and a plan for the City of Seward to support the dock and UAF to find the funds for the needed uplands development for the vessel. We had a chance to tour the Alaska SeaLife Center with ASLC President Ian Dutton and to meet with our faculty who work there. On the evening of July 23, UAF hosted a community dinner at the Alaska SeaLife Center during which Chancellor Rogers spoke the importance of our Seward operations to the university. The next day, I attended the Board of Directors meeting of the Alaska SeaLife Center as one of the two University of Alaska appointees to the board, while Chancellor Rogers and VCAS Pitney toured the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward and examined the railroad dock as a potential location for the ARRV. SFOS is partnering with the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery on an Alaska Sea Grant project (Code Name: AKCRRAB) to enhance king crab production around Kodiak and the Pribilof Islands.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this report, July was my first month in Alaska. While it was hot when we arrived in July 2004, July 2009 was my warmest month in Alaska. Indeed, this July set a record for the hottest July on record with an average high temperature of 78.6 degrees and it tied with June 1969 for the warmest of any month ever recorded in Fairbanks. July in Fairbanks is a mystery to me as each of the five has been different. In July 2008 (when my friends from Mississippi were visiting), we had 4.12 inches of rain, the sixth wettest July on record. This July, we had just 0.06 inches of rain, the driest summer July and summer month since the National Weather Service began recording data here in 1904. Luckily for me, I spent two weeks this month out of Fairbanks visiting friends in Mississippi, where it was cooler, and making a pilgrimage to Graceland to see the home and last resting place of Elvis. Thank you, thank you very much.