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Diebel named new UA Museum of the North director

Submitted by Kerynn Fisher
Phone: 907-474-6941


Photo caption below.
Courtesy of Carol Diebel
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University of Alaska Fairbanks Provost Susan Henrichs has selected Carol Diebel as the new director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North. Diebel will begin her new duties at the museum in early October.

"I am very pleased that Dr. Diebel will be the new museum director," says Henrichs. "She brings an outstanding combination of skills including exhibit development, collections management, public relations, outreach and scientific research."

Diebel currently serves as the director of natural environment at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, where she leads the museum's natural history research, curatorial and collections team. At Te Papa, she helped oversee the planning and construction of the museum's natural history collections storage facility and served on the development team for many exhibits, including Whales/Tohora, which is now touring internationally. In addition to serving as a research administrator and as a member of Te Papa's leadership team, Diebel made it a priority to make the museum's scientific research and collections more available to the public in engaging and interactive ways.

Though they are half a world apart, the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Te Papa share many similarities. The research collections for both museums represent the natural and cultural heritage of the entire region, encompassing natural history, native cultures, regional history and fine arts. Both museums are major visitor attractions for their communities, with their collections serving as the foundations for the museums' exhibits and public programs. Te Papa also fosters very strong relationships with the native Maori community. The opportunity to work with the Alaska Native community is one of the things that made the position in Fairbanks appealing to Diebel, who sees the museum as a natural gathering place to share knowledge and honor local traditions.

In addition to her work at Te Papa, Diebel also served as the curator of marine biology collections at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand and has more than 20 years of experience in grant-funded scientific research. She holds a bachelor's degree from Humboldt State University and a doctorate in biological oceanography from the joint program in oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology--Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Diebel will serve a joint appointment with UAF's School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences as professor of marine biology. She succeeds Aldona Jonaitis, who served as museum director since 1993. In April 2008, Jonaitis announced plans to retire and a nationwide search for her replacement began. An initial search yielded three finalists by September 2008, but two of the applicants accepted other positions. The search was reopened in December 2008 and yielded three finalists who visited Fairbanks late this spring for interviews. Jonaitis will continue to serve as the museum's director, working part-time, until Diebel arrives in Fairbanks this fall.

The University of Alaska Museum of the North is the only research and teaching museum in Alaska. Its 1.4 million specimens represent millions of years of biological diversity and thousands of years of cultural traditions in the North. These research collections form the foundation for the museum's exhibits and public programs. The museum has 30 full-time staff members, more than 40 student and part-time seasonal employees, more than 95,000 annual visitors and a budget of $5.1 million, with state support representing less than 30 percent of the museum's funding.

CONTACT: Michael Castellini, search committee chairman and assistant dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, 907-474-6825 or mikec@sfos.uaf.edu. Kerynn Fisher, University of Alaska Museum of the North communications coordinator, at 907-474-6941 or 907-378-2559.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Diebel is in New Zealand but is available for e-mail interviews. Please send questions to CarolD@tepapa.govt.nz (They are one day ahead, four hours behind: 10 a.m. Monday here is 6 a.m. Tuesday there)


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