Alaska Sea Grant ranked among nation's best
Marine research, extension, and education score high marks
Fairbanks, Alaska—A federal review panel has judged the Alaska Sea Grant College Program as among the nation's best marine research, education, and extension programs. The high marks the program received during its five-year program review could result in an increase in base federal funding for program enhancements.
"This exemplary rating puts Alaska Sea Grant in good company with many of the nation's best university Sea Grant Programs," said Alaska Sea Grant Director Brian Allee. "It means that Alaska Sea Grant and our Marine Advisory Program are doing an outstanding job of working with stakeholders, scientists, policy makers and communities to address marine and coastal issues important to Alaska and the nation."
The rating followed an intensive program review September 10–14, 2006.
Alaska Sea Grant is among 30 congressionally established Sea Grant College programs, institutes, and consortiums located in all coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico. Their overall mission is to support university-based marine research, education, and extension activities.
The nation's Sea Grant programs are reviewed every five years by an independent Program Assessment Team (PAT). Performance within 14 categories—grouped under organization and management, connecting with users, effective and aggressive long-range planning, and producing significant results—are rated. Alaska Sea Grant received the highest possible rating in all but two of the 14 categories. In these two categories, which represent just 6 percent of the overall score, the program received the second-highest mark.
The Program Assessment Team identified five specific program activities as "best management practices," meaning the projects exemplified the Sea Grant goal of partnering with stakeholders to improve our understanding and wise use of Alaska's marine resources. The Best Management Practices were:
- A regional partnership of the Marine Advisory Programs of Alaska and Washington together with small commercial longline vessels to develop streamers as an effective and inexpensive way to reduce seabird bycatch. The use of streamers reduced seabird bycatch by 70 percent in the fishery.
- The entire Alaska Sea Grant Communications effort that produces and distributes educational videos, books, brochures, and games, as well as media relations and the Lowell Wakefield Fisheries Symposium series.
- Alaska Sea Grant's involvement in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl competition that brings Alaska high school teams to Seward for the annual Alaska Tsunami Bowl science competition.
- Alaska Sea Grant's Gulf Apex Predator-Prey Project that conducts research, education, and outreach on trophic relationships between Steller sea lions and their prey and predators around Kodiak Island.
- Alaska Sea Grant's shellfish aquaculture project that has increased shellfish farming opportunities, lowered regulatory barriers, improved shellfish industry infrastructure, and diversified the economic base of rural coastal communities.
Alaska Sea Grant's annual $1.4 million federal budget provides grants for scientific research and graduate student education to address marine resource management issues, create new seafood products, further our understanding of the marine ecosystem, and develop solutions to coastal hazards such as erosion and tsunamis, among numerous other projects and activities. Between 2001 and 2006, Alaska Sea Grant secured an additional $12.3 million in funding through partnerships and collaborations for specific projects such as the Gulf Apex Predator-Prey Project based in Kodiak.
It also partially funds the Marine Advisory Program, a statewide network of marine extension agents located in nine coastal communities. MAP agents address development and conservation needs identified by their communities, such as seafood handling training for processing workers, direct marketing courses for fishermen, ecotourism, and shellfish aquaculture development.
The program's Education Services component organizes scientific conferences and workshops, interacts with the media, and produces books, videos, games, posters, and other publications aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding of Alaska's seas and coasts.
Alaska Sea Grant is based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in Fairbanks, Alaska. It is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State of Alaska, and private industry.
During the review, the program assessment team traveled to Anchorage, Prince William Sound, and Fairbanks. They heard from scientists, graduate students, tour operators, fishermen, seafood processors, coastal community residents, resource managers, shellfish farmers—more than 72 people in all—who highlighted the program's impacts in marine fisheries and ecosystem research, economic development, seafood industry training, marine conservation, disaster planning, sea safety, and other areas.
The team also met with UA President Mark Hamilton, UA Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research Craig Dorman, UAF Chancellor Steve Jones, UAF Provost Paul Reichardt, and UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Dean Denis Wiesenburg.
The full Program Assessment Team report is available online at: http://seagrant.uaf.edu/pat/