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March 2010 Report from the SFOS Dean

March is the month during which the Alaska Legislature works on the state operating budget, including funding for the University of Alaska. We were especially interested in the process this year as the UA Board of Regents has requested an addition of $614,000 to the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences budget to solidify our Marine Advisory Program (MAP) faculty positions in six coastal communities.
While Governor Sean Parnell did not include these funds in the budget he submitted to the legislature, our supporters from around the state rose up to support the UA request for this new funding. I mentioned last month the more than 50 letters had been sent to the Governor and legislators supporting this funding. Neither these letters nor the multiple calls to, meetings with, and testimony from 27 supporters in front of the House Finance Committee members convinced them to add the funds to the budget. The amendment by Rep. Neal Foster (D-Nome) failed by a 3 - 7 vote.

During the public testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, Associate Sea Grant Director and MAP Leader Paula Cullenberg reported that, "over the 7 hours of public testimony heard by the committee, 33 people called in from 13 sites in support of the budget request for the University of Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program. This represented 15 fishermen or fishermens' or coastal community associations, 3 municipal officials, 4 K-12 educators, 2 Alaska Native organizations, 2 tourism companies, 2 university faculty, 1 chamber of commerce director, 1 former harbormaster, 1 environmental monitor volunteer and the chairman of the Alaska Sea Grant statewide advisory committee. Calls came in from Petersburg, Ketchikan, Sitka, Cordova, Juneau, Homer, Unalaska, Kodiak, Anchorage, Dillingham, Nome, Fairbanks and Valdez." What great support! The Senate Finance Committee got the message and added $300,000 to the UA budget for MAP. As March ended, the House and Senate had passed the operating budget and we await the conference committee deliberations to see if we will receive partial funding for our request. Special thanks are due to Paula Cullenberg who has devoted herself almost exclusively to shepherding our efforts to secure the MAP funds and our friends statewide for their support.

SFOS has personnel at 13 locations throughout Alaska and I have now been to 12 of them. On March 1 and 2, I traveled to Nome with Associate Sea Grant Director and Marine Advisory Program Leader (MAP) Paula Cullenberg. Before we even left the Nome airport, we met with Janis Ivanoff, the Vice President and CEO of the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC), Simon Kinneen, Chief Operating Officer, and Charlie Lean, Norton Sound Fisheries Research and Development Director, who were preparing to catch a flight to Little Diomede. Our connections to NSEDC are strong as Simon is a fisheries graduate (1999) and Charlie's daughter, Reba, is a currently a fisheries minor at UAF. NSEDC provided three years of funding for our MAP office in Nome and we were delighted to have Heidi Herter join our faculty three years ago as the Bering Straits MAP agent. As Heidi was moving on to other endeavors, beginning with a vacation in Baja, Paula and I were there to participate in a final assessment of her activities. While there, we discussed our undergraduate fisheries program with UAF Northwest Campus Director Lee Haugen and Student Services Coordinator Kacey Miller. Kacey is our primary point of contact in Nome for our undergraduate fisheries degrees. Heidi and I journeyed to Nome-Beltz Junior-High School to meet with Guidance Counselor Vern Rickett and to visit anatomy and physics classes to describe our undergraduate programs to the students. A highlight of the trip was an opportunity to walk on the sikuliaq (young sea ice) of Norton Sound. Being on the coast also reminded me that we have little wind in Fairbanks and that 35 degrees below with a stiff wind can be bracing.

The Ocean Leadership Public Policy Forum in Washington, DC was the primary purpose of my first trip to DC this year, March 8-13. On March 8, I joined Alaska Sea Grant Director Dave Christie for dinner with SFOS Advisory Council member Jim Balsiger and Vice Chair Heather McCarty. Jim has completed his tour in DC as Acting Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service and returned to Juneau in late March. The next day, Dave Christie and I visited with Frank Herr and Linwood Vincent at the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, VA. It was odd to see piles of snow in the street as we headed to the ONR building, but it has been an unusual weather year in DC to say the least. The U.S. Navy has shown more interest in Arctic research recently, so Dave and I were there to describe the research capabilities of our faculty. Frank is Head of the ONR Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department and we have significant sensing activities in the Arctic including moorings, high frequency radars and soon gliders.

Speakers at the Public Policy Forum at the Capitol Visitors Center on March 10 included our own Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) who mentioned the R/V Sikuliaq and the importance of understanding climate change in the Arctic. The forum has grown in stature over the years and this year included panels on sea-level rise, marine spatial planning, and the Arctic. Every speaker on the Arctic panel mentioned UAF, including the Oceanographer of the Navy RADM David Titley. NSF Arctic Division Director Simon Stephenson showed a diagram of the R/V Sikuliaq, a picture of Assistant Professor Jeremy Mathis collecting a water sample for pH analysis and a pteropod photo by Associate Professor Russ Hopcroft. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) also addressed the forum. Senator Boxer commented on how 3.6 million U.S. jobs are related to the ocean, most from tourism and recreation, and urged us to continue our efforts to protect ocean resources. She noted that, "The people who come after us should be able to see what we see." Senator Boxer noted that we had taught her the difference between weather and climate, unlike another senator who thought the recent snow in DC was evidence that climate change was a hoax – think Oklahoma. It feels good to know we have such strong supporters of ocean issues in the Senate.

On March 11, I represented UAF at the Ocean Leadership members meeting in the morning and visited with NOAA administrators at the Department of Commerce in the afternoon. Dave Christie and I met with Dr. Russell Callender who is the Acting Director of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). SFOS co-manages the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory with NCCOS and we discussed the development of research programs at the lab. Afterward, we met with David Kennedy who is the Acting Assistant Administrator of the National Ocean Service. David knows UAF well as earlier in his career he was director of the spilled oil research team at the UAF Geophysical Institute. The week in DC ended with a trip to Newseum on Friday afternoon and dinner with Associate Dean Mike Castellini and SFOS Advisory Council Chair David Policansky to plan the April Advisory Council meeting.

After one day in Fairbanks to decompress, I participated in a meeting of the Board of the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS) in Anchorage on March 15. Under the leadership of Professor Mark Johnson, SFOS has operated the AOOS data management center since its inception. At the meeting, the AOOS board passed a motion to go out for bid for the data management center rather than continue our management of the center. Over 16,000 visits have been recorded to the AOOS data center web site over the last six months with visitors who go past the first page spending an average of almost 16 minutes on the site. I was not convinced the AOOS board made an evidence-based decision. Since SFOS joined AOOS in 2004, we have committed time, effort, and financial resources to its success and our data management team has provided guidance for setting up other data management systems for the Great Lakes and Caribbean regional associations. Our faculty are considering whether to continue our association with AOOS as SFOS and other UAF entities conduct much more ocean observing than does AOOS.

The Rasmuson family in Alaska has contributed significantly to SFOS programs and I spent time this month in meetings in Anchorage related to their support. A group known as the Rasmuson Fisheries Excellence Committee periodically reviews the activities associated with our $5.0 million undergraduate fisheries grant from the Rasmuson Foundation. The committee, which includes UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers and UAS Chancellor John Pugh, met in Anchorage on March 23. SFOS Recruiting and Retention Coordinator Katie Murra, Internship Coordinator Christie VanLaningham, and I traveled to Anchorage for the meeting in the Rasmuson Foundation board room. SFOS Acting Fisheries Division Director Keith Criddle flew in from Juneau and MAP Leader Paula Cullenberg joined us for the meeting. Undergraduate Fisheries Coordinator Trent Sutton prepared much of the material for the meeting and participated by phone from Fairbanks. The FEC meeting went well with almost all members supportive and engaged. We have 52 fisheries undergraduates this term compared to 28 students in spring 2008. The 30 applicants we have already for the fall, including 5 UA Scholars, is a strong indicator of the growth prospects for our undergraduate degree programs.

The Rasmuson Fisheries Research Center (RFRC) was founded in 1994 with an endowment from Elmer Rasmuson with the mission to "promote excellence in research related to fisheries, and to develop young fisheries scientists." I attended the RFRC advisory board meeting in Anchorage on March 29. At the meeting, the board heard presentations from Rasmuson Fellows Terril Efird, M.S. Marine Biology (Advisor: Dr. Brenda Konar), Christine Gleason, M.S. Oceanography Candidate (Advisor: Dr. Brenda Norcross) Elena Fernandez, M.S. Oceanography Candidate (Advisors: Dr. Jeremy Mathis and Dr. Lara Dehn) and Laurinda Marcello, M.S. Fisheries Candidate (Advisor: Dr. Franz Mueter).
We also heard a special presentation from UAF Fisheries Graduate and Former Rasmuson Fellow Gregg Rosenkrantz, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (Kodiak), on high-resolution benthic imaging using ADF&G CamSled. From the copious number of questions, I know the advisory board members enjoyed the presentations. Eleven new fellowship proposals were reviewed and results will be announced in April.

I was happy to end the month in Fairbanks knowing that I have no scheduled flights under my Alaska Airlines "My Trips" listing. With temperatures in the 40s at the end of March it will be great to be in Fairbanks for a while, but I still need to get to location 13 - Bethel.