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University budget cuts may affect Alaska climate researchers

July 21, 2019

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The University of Alaska’s leadership in climate science could be threatened by budget cuts made through Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes, according to a researcher at UA Southeast.

Eran Hood, a professor of environmental science, researches avalanches and glacial flooding events and trains future environmental scientists, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.

He’s hoping he does not have to relocate.

“I’ve brought in more funding to the university than the university has paid me in salary over the years,” Hood said.

The university says it is scrambling to determine where jobs will be eliminated if the Alaska Legislature does not intervene after Dunleavy vetoed $130 million dollars in university funding. With a $5 million budget reduction made by state lawmakers, the university is facing a 41% reduction in state funding.

Dunleavy has said he based budget vetoes on a desire to provide basic services while understanding the state’s fiscal constraints. State lawmakers who tried unsuccessfully to override his vetoes have vowed to use other legislation to restore funding for the university.

If that doesn’t happen, a lot of faculty could leave the state, Hood said. “And when they leave the state, that expertise goes with them.”

So could tens of millions of federal dollars for climate change research tied to faculty members, he said. Expansive research projects involving teams of people across the state could unravel, Hood said.

UA President Jim Johnson acknowledged the potential loss as he highlighted how the university system could be affected. UA Fairbanks is known as a global leader in Arctic research, and climate change in the Arctic is an issue of national security, Johnson said.

Hood said his own work is important for the world. Alaska glaciers are contributing more to sea level rise than any other mountain glaciers, he said.

“I still feel like I want to stay here,” Hood said. “I want to do research here. So I’m pretty committed to making that work.”

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