University of Alaska Fairbanks SCHOOL OF FISHERIES AND OCEAN SCIENCES  
School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences About us Contact staff
Bookmark and Share

February 22, 2006

Alaska Region Research Vessel closer to reality

Fairbanks, Alaska—President Bush's State of the Union pledge to fund research in the physical sciences could result in a new 236-foot marine research vessel headquartered out of Seward's harbor.

As part of his initiative to increase U.S. competitiveness in science and technology, the president's annual budget request to Congress includes $56 million for the National Science Foundation to begin construction on the Alaska Region Research Vessel (ARRV). Although the vessel would be owned by the National Science Foundation, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences is proposing to be the operator of the vessel.

“Alaska waters play a major role in global processes,” said UAF professor Terry Whitledge, “not only because of our abundant marine resources, but also because the region acts as an indicator of global climate change. The Alaska Region Research Vessel would allow us to explore areas previously unknown to us.”

The Alaska Region Research Vessel is an ocean research vessel designed to operate in the often ice-choked coastal and open waters of the North Pacific ocean, the Gulf of Alaska, and the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The vessel can break nearly three feet of ice at more than two knots and operate 300 days out of the year. With the ability to carry 26 scientists at a time, the vessel could accommodate up to 500 scientists and students a year. Technical benefits of the ship include the ability to transmit real-time information to classroom students around the world, allowing them to participate in virtual expeditions with scientists on the vessel.

The construction of the Alaska Region Research Vessel has been proposed as a replacement of the 37-year old Alpha Helix, a research vessel docked in Seward. The Alpha Helix is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences through the Seward Marine Center. Planning and design of the ARRV has been ongoing since 1980, when school faculty first began designing a replacement for the aging Alpha Helix.

Whitledge and other faculty at the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences have worked closely with scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System community to develop the design of the Alaska Region Research Vessel. Scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and various universities have contributed to the project. "This is a significant accomplishment for the oceanographic community, not just for Alaska, but for scientists across the nation who conduct research in Alaska waters and the Arctic," said Denis Wiesenburg, dean of UAF's School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

If Congress approves funding for the vessel, the National Science Foundation will review proposals from various institutions, including UAF, for construction and operation of the vessel. If UAF is awarded funding for the vessel, it will be operated out of the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences’ Seward Marine Center.

The UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences conducts world-class marine and fisheries research, education and outreach across Alaska, the Arctic and Antarctic. More than 60 faculty scientists and 150 graduate students are engaged in building knowledge about Alaska and the world’s coastal and marine ecosystems. SFOS is headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and serves the state from facilities located in Seward, Juneau, Anchorage and Kodiak.

Contact

Terry Whitledge, Professor
UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
(907)474-7229
terry@ims.uaf.edu

Carin Bailey
Public Information Officer
UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences
(907) 474-7208
bailey@sfos.uaf.edu

Related Links

Recent News