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Community Perspective

A merger will help meet Alaska’s fisheries, ocean sciences needs

  • Updated

The University of Alaska Board of Regents recently passed a motion to examine the pros and cons of a merger of the University of Alaska Southeast with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This presents an opportunity to combine the UAS and UAF programs in fisheries, marine biology and ocean sciences to better support Alaska’s health and economy.

Beginning in 1960 by legislative mandate as the Institute of Marine Science, the UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences is one of the largest and most geographically diverse academic and research organizations in Alaska. The college supports the needs of Alaska through research and training the next generation of leaders in the wise use of Alaskan and Arctic aquatic natural resources. With locations in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau and Seward, over 300 talented students, staff and faculty serve coastal communities and the fishing industry throughout Alaska and beyond.

A powerhouse in research, the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences serves as a vital resource to scientific committees that provide critical advice to state and federal government agencies that benefit the state of Alaska and the nation. The college operates the only Global Class ice-capable research vessel in the U.S. Academic Research Fleet, Sikuliaq, and is now part of an international consortium of polar science research vessels.

With over 900 alumni, the college’s academic programs are fully integrated with research to address the most-pressing issues in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Undergraduate students engage in experiential learning opportunities and participate in ongoing research projects, and graduate students conduct research under expert faculty guidance. Distance delivery of the college’s academic programs is actively being expanded in concert with growing undergraduate student enrollment.

At this juncture, Alaska’s needs in fisheries, marine biology and ocean sciences can be strengthened by building on existing collaborations between UAS and UAF.

For example, as part of UA President Jim Johnsen’s Strategic Pathways, there is now a joint UAF-UAS undergraduate program in fisheries and ocean sciences. Collaborating faculty at UAS would welcome the opportunity for further integration with the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. UAS faculty actively supervise the college’s graduate students and co-teach the joint undergraduate program in fisheries and ocean sciences.

While it has been challenging to navigate two institutional structures, the removal of administrative barriers would simplify Juneau-based undergraduate and graduate student enrollment and teaching in fisheries and ocean sciences. Consolidation would facilitate faculty, staff and students to work seamlessly across UAS and UAF.

A unified Alaska College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences would more effectively serve students throughout the state and without duplication of classes, research, services or costs.

The College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences welcomes the opportunity to build on the joint undergraduate program through a merger of UAS with UAF. Doing so would enhance Alaska’s student enrollment, grow research programs and reduce administration costs through improved integration.

S. Bradley Moran is dean of the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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