Photo Credit: Elizabeth Siddon

July 6, 2016

Funding Marine Science in Alaska’s Waters: NPRB Passes 100 Million Dollar Mark

With decisions made at this spring’s board meeting, the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB) has eclipsed $100 million in total funding for marine research off Alaska since its inception in 2002. This milestone comes at a significant point in time for NPRB as it also launched a $15 million Arctic Program (in partnership with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Collaborative Alaskan Arctic Studies Program, and the Office of Naval Research Marine Mammal and Biology Program) in the same year. The Arctic Program is NPRB’s third of such integrated ecosystem research programs involving multi-disciplinary projects, funding support from additional partners, and broad scientific contribution. Past integrated ecosystem research programs have focused on the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.

For many marine scientists across Alaska and abroad, it is NPRB’s long-standing annual research program that is most familiar. In the fourteen years of supporting research through this program, NPRB has received over 1,600 proposals, of which 416 received funding for a total amount of $71 million. This year alone, NPRB received 112 proposals requesting over $25 million. Of those proposals, the Board selected 22 projects totaling $4.1 million. Scientists such as Drs. Seth Danielson and Peter Winsor, physical oceanography faculty members at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, rely on outside funding like NPRB’s annual research program to support their research.

“I have participated in collaborative ocean research projects from the Gulf of Alaska to the Arctic that would not have been feasible without NPRB. Equally important as the focused scientific objectives, we have been able to connect with residents of Alaskan coastal communities and build two-way bridges of information between local and academic perspectives,” noted Winsor.

Through their citizen science approach to research, Winsor and Danielson have formed working partnerships with coastal communities, schools, and residents of Kaktovik, St. Paul, and Old Harbor. Danielson further added that, “by collecting their own oceanographic data, coastal residents are accumulating the tools needed for discovering the causes and consequences of environmental changes that impact marine environments and subsistence ways of life. Sharing knowledge and building understanding is worth every penny.”

Not only has NPRB funding contributed to the collective understanding of marine ecosystems off Alaska through scientific support, it has also provided resource agencies opportunities to better manage fisheries and critical habitat. The National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, Alaska Region, has received substantial NPRB funding to support the stewardship of marine resources in Alaska. Dr. Douglas DeMaster, Science and Research Director at NOAA Fisheries/Alaska Region, explained that, “over the years, the North Pacific Research Board has made it possible for scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center to work with State, academic, and tribal scientists and other research organizations to conduct integrated ecosystem research programs.” He further described that, “through these collaborative efforts, we've been able to learn a great deal about the ecology and the effects of climate change on the five Large Marine Ecosystems that make up the waters off Alaska.”

Over 120 different institutions have received funding from NPRB, resulting in more than 600 peer-reviewed publications. Other active programs that NPRB supports are a long-term monitoring program and graduate student research awards. “The $100 million mark provides us a significant milestone in our mission to promote high quality, collaborative marine research off Alaska,” notes NPRB Executive Director Denby Lloyd.

NPRB looks to continue to support world-class research, foster cross-discipline collaboration through large-scale ecosystem based programs, and encourage partnerships to better leverage resources to support marine research in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean.


photo credit: Elizabeth Siddon