University of Alaska Fairbanks selected by NOAA to lead cooperative institute

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 6:24 PM AKDT
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The University of Alaska Fairbanks has been a staple in arctic research development for many years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recognizes this, and is collaborating with UAF to enhance its resources.

UAF, the University of Washington, and Oregon State University were selected by NOAA to form The Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies (CICOES) to help the agency meet its research, education and public engagement goals.

"What's exciting about this cooperative center is, in particular at the present time, it is a stamp of approval that says, 'look, UAF is competing with top universities in the nation' and we're number one with regards to understanding of the arctic and our ability to turn that understanding and information into something that is actually useful; useful to business, useful to the general public or others." Dr. Hajo Eiken, Director of the International Arctic Research, where CICOES will be housed, said.

As an agency, NOAA's operations include weather forecasting, fishery assessments and changing environments in the arctic. NOAA can now tap into UAF's expertise and resources to improve operations.

"It is difficult for them (NOAA) to build on the newest research in-house. So that is where they look towards the University as a partner to help them explore what is out there that we can use that will make our operations, our forecast, the different products we release to the public, more useful, more effective, more cutting edge." Dr. Eiken added.

Another aspect of the cooperative institute is the development of a work force for NOAA, headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, that understands Alaska's unique climate research.

"In Alaska, a lot of things don't quite work the same way, with respect to weather or the way the ocean works, as they do in the Lower 48," Dr. Eiken said. "Here in particular, it is really important that we have people who know the environment, the way things work, the different communities, so essentially, people who come and graduate out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, or the University of Alaska, and that is another key role the center will serve."

CICOES may be awarded up to $300 million in a five-year span, with UAF receiving up to $10 million in additional funds for their studies.

While UAF's strengths in the cooperative institute include research in the arctic, their contributions won't stop there.

"Fire weather and fire prediction in Interior Alaska is a big issue," Dr. Eiken said. "But it isn't just about the weather, it is about vegetation, lightning strikes, how do people respond and what do we need to do to improve forecasts that are actually useful to people."

CICOES is one of 17 cooperative institutes in the nation, and will benefit UAF students entering careers in the fields of weather, fisheries and climate prediction,

The institute will focus on nine research themes:

-Climate and ocean variability, change and impacts

-Earth systems and processes

-Environmental chemistry and ocean carbon

-Marine ecosystems: observation, analysis and forecasts

-Ocean and coastal observations

-Environmental data science

-Aquaculture science

-Human dimensions in marine systems

-Polar studies

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