School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences About us Contact staff

Dean's monthly updates
September 2009

Classes began at UAF on September 2 and the enrollment numbers were finalized at the end of the month. Overall UAF enrollment is up 7.3% in head count and 6.9% in student credit hours, while SFOS was up 8.8% in head count and 8.6% in student credit hours. While we are still the smallest academic unit at UAF, except for the College of Engineering and Mines we had the largest percentage student credit hours growth this year. Much of the reason was the expansion of our fisheries undergraduate degree to include the new B.A. in fisheries that became available in January. We started the Fall 2009 semester with 51 fisheries undergraduates compared to 23 in Fall 2007. Ten fisheries students are Alaska Natives. Our five-year target is to have 100 fisheries undergraduates and we are well on our way. We are able to accomplish this expansion thanks to the hard work of our dedicated faculty and staff with the generous support we received from the Rasmuson Foundation. The Rasmuson family has always been a supporter of fisheries education as they, like we, realize its importance to Alaskans.

To recruit additional fisheries students this year, we have developed partnerships with the coastal campuses of UAF in Bethel, Dillingham, Nome and Kotzebue. At each campus, we will have a point of contact who is very familiar with the opportunities available for fisheries students. They will help us in both recruiting students and in developing an articulation agreement with the campuses to allow students to begin their studies in their community and finish their degrees in Fairbanks or Juneau. To meet the needs of place-bound students, almost all of our undergraduate courses are delivered by video. Our Introduction to Fisheries course (FISH 101) taught by Assistant Professor Amanda Rosenberger has 43 students in seven different locations. Next year we will have an even broader reach as we will offer FISH 101 as an asynchronous web-based course and Professor John Kelley is offering The Oceans (MSL 111) on the web again this term.

The only trip I made outside Fairbanks in September was to Anchorage for the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) meeting September 17-18. I am pleased to announce that Heather McCarty, Vice Chair of the SFOS Advisory Council, was seated as a new voting member of the NPRB. Heather was appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to a three-year term. I hold the academic seat on the NPRB, one of the non-voting positions. I had added to the agenda a discussion of the board policy of not funding collections of time series oceanographic data (which they call long-term monitoring). A letter from the United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA) and the Marine Conservation Alliance (MCA) was sent to the NPRB in which they recommended that the board "actively resist the funding of ongoing agency programs and responsibilities including such things as long term monitoring or the data buoy programs." In the past we have had funding for the Seward Line (see from the NPRB, but that funding has been exhausted. To keep the Seward Line going in September 2009, I allocated $96,000 from SFOS funds to pay for the ship time and data collection. Perhaps with some irony, Assistant Professor Jeremy Mathis was chief scientist on the cruise aboard the R/V Tiglax ( which was at sea the same week as the NPRB meeting. The SFOS cruise funding was not budgeted, but we are committed to the Seward Line which is the longest oceanographic time series in the Gulf of Alaska. To understand the effects of climate change on fisheries, we need the Seward Line data. The board took no action at this meeting, but I hope the Seward Line will be funded as part of the NPRB Gulf of Alaska Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (GoAIERP) when the decision is made in January. If not, we may have a requiem for the Seward Line rather than a cruise in May 2010. Paradoxically, one of the other recommendations of the UFA and MCA was to "Provide a specific category in the RFP for Climate Effects on Fisheries." One can only wonder where they think the data are going to come from for those studies without time series like the Seward Line.

While in Anchorage for the NPRB meeting, I slipped away on the afternoon of September 17 to participate in a meeting of the Rasmuson Fisheries Excellence Committee. This high-level committee meets twice a year to provide advice on how to improve our fisheries degree programs and includes UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers, UAS Chancellor John Pugh along with representatives of government agencies and the fishing industry ( One of our fisheries graduates, Nathan Soboleff (M.S., 2006), attended the meeting and discussed what it was like to be a fisheries student in Juneau. He was very complimentary of the education he received from our fisheries faculty. His advisor was Professor Gordon Kruse. We presented our undergraduate enrollment data to the committee along with our recruiting plans and performance measures for the coming year. At the end of the meeting, we were told that the Rasmuson Foundation was "encouraged" by the progress we were making in revitalizing our undergraduate program. If our program continues to develop as we anticipate, I hope that they will be delighted next fall.

The university is developing a new campus master plan to determine space needs. The Master Plan Committee has contracted with a consultant, Perkins and Will from Seattle, to update the UAF Master Plan this year and I attended a meeting with the consultants on September 29. The initial data from the consultant, depending on interpretation, is that UAF has a space deficit of more than 200,000 square feet of assignable space and 400,000 square feet of total space, compared to other universities with our level of research funding. The idea is to produce a cogent argument for new space that can be presented to the Board of Regents and the Alaska Legislature. It is unlikely that SFOS will be considered for new space as the current priority is for a Life Sciences Building that will primarily accommodate biology faculty. This is about the fourth attempt for this type of building, so the arguments to the legislature need to be compelling.

Our Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program faculty held their annual retreat in Bethel the last week in September. I participated by teleconference on the morning of September 30. The topics I discussed were the SFOS budget (Sea Grant and MAP receive 19.3% of the SFOS Fund 1 budget), fisheries student recruiting, potential restructuring of SFOS, the planned Board of Regents request to the legislature to add $614,000 to the SFOS budget for MAP, and the fact that UAF faculty do not receive annual leave – they have "paid days off" – during the academic year when class is not in session. This is confusing to most faculty and I have suggested it be a topic for reconsideration when the next United Academic union contract is negotiated. Because of my interest in this and other union-related topics, Provost Henrichs has appointed me chair to a sub-committee of the Provost's Council to recommend changes to the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Chancellor Rogers is requiring all supervisors to take mandatory supervisor training and I finished the last of the six required core courses (Recruiting and Hiring) on September 2. The edict noted that if all the core courses were not completed by September 30, the supervisor would be judged to be unsatisfactory regardless of performance. Since I was hoping to win the Nobel Prize this year, I wanted to make sure I completed the courses. During the week of the final offering of Recruiting and Hiring, one of our staff was ill and not at work. But, on the afternoon of September 2 they were dutifully in the classroom for the final opportunity to complete the mandatory course. We have a very dedicated staff in SFOS, but all have been advised to stay home if they have flu-like symptoms and we hope to avoid spreading the H1N1 virus if it hits our offices.*