Alaska Sea Grant in the News


Alaska math whiz wins national fisheries fellowship
$95,000 grant to cover doctoral education in fish population dynamics

Date: March 30, 2000
Contact: Dana Hanselman, PhD candidate, fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau Center, 907-465-6441,
or Doug Schneider, Information Officer, Alaska Sea Grant, (907) 474-7449,

More about Dana Hanselman
More about Sea Grant/NMFS fellowships and other funding opportunities

JUNEAU, Alaska—Dana Hanselman thought the email on his computer meant that he'd been turned down for a major fellowship that would have paid him to pursue a doctoral degree in fish population dynamics. Turns out, the email was just to make sure he still wanted the grant—$32,000 for each of the next three years. Would he accept?

"Oh yes, definitely," said Hanselman, a master's degree student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences.

Dana later received official notice that he was one of just four graduate students selected nationally for the fellowship in fish population dynamics and economics. Hanselman joins winners from the University of Massachusetts, the University of California Berkeley, and the UC Davis.

The fellowships are offered by the National Sea Grant College Program and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Hanselman said the fellowship will allow him to devote full attention to completing his doctoral degree in fisheries.

"We're pleased at being able to offer this fellowship to Dana Hanselman," said Ron Dearborn, director of the Alaska Sea Grant Program. "Dana has done pioneering research in the field of fish population sampling methods, and we're very interested in making sure that work continues because it will be used to better manage Alaska's rockfish stocks."

Hanselman came to Alaska from the University of Michigan just two years ago. He became interested in fisheries while an ocean engineering student at Michigan. He also discovered an aptitude for mathematics. Well, maybe the word aptitude isn't strong enough. He's maintained a straight A grade average at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, even while taking such rigorous courses as Bayesian statistics, regression analysis and population dynamics.

"I was interested in applying the mathematics I had learned in a natural resources field."

Hanselman was recruited to UAF by Dr. Terry Quinn, an internationally known expert in fish population dynamics at UAF's Juneau Fisheries Center. Quinn wanted someone skilled in mathematics to prove the viability of a new fish-counting method called adaptive sampling.

The technique intensively samples areas of high fish abundance, yet can produce more accurate overall population estimates than traditional methods that extrapolate fish populations over a wide area. It is especially useful for estimating the abundance of fish that live in clusters, such as certain rockfish species, that would otherwise be undercounted.

"In fisheries, it's only been used in a few places," said Hanselman. "This is the first time adaptive sampling has been used on groundfish fisheries in the North Pacific."

The technique has proved especially useful to survey Pacific ocean perch, a highly valuable commercial species that tend to travel in tightly knit schools and frequent only specific habitats. Hanselman's research has already led to three research publications published or in review.

"This fellowship is indeed great news," said Quinn, who also serves on the Science and Statistical Committee for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. "The National Marine Fisheries Service is enthusiastic about seeing if Dana's research on adaptive sampling methodology can be incorporated into the Gulf of Alaska groundfish survey scheduled for 2001."

Hanselman is currently finishing work on his master's degree in adaptive sampling. Hanselman's doctoral work begins this summer. He'll focus on improving his adaptive sampling methods and refining how they can be better used in the commercial groundfish surveys around the world.

The Alaska Sea Grant College Program is a marine research, education and outreach service headquartered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Sea Grant is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the state of Alaska and private industry.

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