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Kodiak Lands New Alaska Sea Grant Marine Agent


US - Julie Matweyou, a Kodiak fisherman and environmental scientist, was hired in late February to fill the position of Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agent, which has been vacant since 1997. She starts her new job on March 14 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Fishery Industrial Technology Center (FITC) on Near Island.

The Alaska Legislature in 2010 authorized $300,000 to fill vacant Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program positions in Kodiak and Nome, and to make permanent the existing positions in Unalaska, Cordova, Dillingham and Petersburg. UAF reprogrammed an additional $300,000 to support these positions. The Nome position was filled in early February with the hiring of Gay Sheffield, a marine mammal biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Ms Matweyou in 2003 earned her masters degree in biological oceanography from the UAF School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. She currently is employed by Bristol Environmental, a global firm that specialises in environmental monitoring and remediation. She also worked five years for Bethel Services, Inc. as a project scientist involved in environmental remediation, sampling and monitoring projects on behalf of NOAA, the US Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ms Matweyou’s marine experience includes work as a research technician with NOAA Fisheries in Kodiak, where she participated in studies aimed at learning how to raise blue king crab in large-scale hatcheries. She also is a commercial fisherman aboard the Kodiak-based fishing vessel Lindsey Marie, a sablefish, halibut, and cod vessel.

While a UAF graduate student, Ms Matweyou received funding from Alaska Sea Grant to evaluate a potential detection method for the organism that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). She is the lead author on several publications and oral presentations on aspects of this research. She also helped identify environmental triggers that cause toxin blooms around the Island.

Ms Matweyou said that one of her objectives would be to work with UAF scientists at the FITC and her MAP colleagues to establish a community marine toxin monitoring program for the island.

“PSP is a serious community problem here on Kodiak and around Alaska, and a monitoring program will put science to work helping people,” Ms Matweyou said. “Some of the highest toxicity levels worldwide have been recorded here on Kodiak. Community monitoring has worked in other areas and I believe it could be quite successful in this community.”

Ms Matweyou said helping the town’s main economic engine, commercial fishing, also will be a strong focus. She also plans to explore development of ecotourism and provide information to visitors. Matweyou anticipates becoming involved in marine science teaching opportunities around the island, perhaps through established summer camps, seminars, or directly within the local school system.

“I’ll be down on the docks, introducing myself and listening to the needs of the Kodiak fishing fleets, Ms Matweyou said. “As a fisherman myself, I have a few ideas, but I want everyone to tell me what they think.”

As both a fisherman and a scientist, Ms Matweyou said she wants to partner with Kodiak fishermen to collect basic oceanographic data as their vessels ply the region’s waterways. Scientists and fishermen alike could use the information to monitor changes in currents, water temperatures and other ocean conditions, she said.