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News from the Alaska Sea Grant College Program



Alaska Sea Grant taps local biologist for Marine Advisory Program agent in Nome

NOME, Alaska—Nome resident and state marine mammal biologist Gay Sheffield has been hired as the new Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program (MAP) agent for the Bering Strait region.

She will be based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Northwest Campus in Nome.

Sheffield has been a marine mammal biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game since 1997, and has been assigned to the ADFG regional office in Nome for the past three years.

“She’s been working with residents of the villages in the region for more than a decade, and has a great rapport with people there,” said Chuck Crapo, seafood scientist with Alaska Sea Grant and chair of the hiring committee. “Her experience with local issues, her science and biology background, and her connections to the region are what swayed the hiring committee. We are looking forward to her joining our team on Feb. 28.”

Sheffield’s work in the Bering Strait began in 1992, working with residents and researchers on studies of walruses, ice seals, belugas, and bowhead whales. Most recently, her work with Saint Lawrence Island residents documented the ongoing range extension of Steller sea lions into the Bering Strait, as well as the diet and feeding behavior of bowhead whales during the spring and late fall in the Bering Sea.

“Among its many great qualities, the Marine Advisory Program provides technical assistance, educational and economic opportunities to coastal communities,” said Sheffield. “I look forward to being part of MAP here in the Bering Strait region, and working with our coastal communities on important issues including marine safety, subsistence, marine mammals, fisheries, and community economic development.”

Sheffield holds a master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and is a UAF affiliate research associate of mammalogy.

The Nome MAP office has been without an agent since March 2010, when start-up funding from the Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation (NSEDC) ended. The Alaska Legislature authorized $300,000 in 2010 to fill vacant MAP positions in Nome and Kodiak, and to make permanent the existing positions in Unalaska, Cordova, Dillingham and Petersburg. The University of Alaska Fairbanks reprogrammed an additional $300,000 to support these positions.

“The people of the Bering Strait region and NSEDC need to be thanked for their support of this position,” said Paula Cullenberg, leader of the Marine Advisory Program. “I share their interest and concern for the Alaska’s Bering Strait and Arctic regions. Gay has the background and expertise to make sure the residents of the region are involved in the research and decision-making process in this important part of the state.”

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

The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program is a statewide university extension and technical assistance program that helps Alaskans wisely use, conserve, and enjoy Alaska's marine and coastal resources.

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