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Spheres Online

the University of New Hampshire Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space electronic newsletter.

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Winter/Spring 2016
In this Issue of Spheres

Add Water, Grow a Career

The Facilitator

Making a Thirsty Forest

Of Mentors and Mentees

News and Notes
Faculty, Staff & Student News
From the Director

Institute for the Study of Earth,
Oceans, and Space
EOS Director: Harlan Spence
EOS Assoc. Dir.: David Divins
EOS Dir. of Finance & Admin.:
    Jo Beth Dudley

Editor: David Sims
Designer: Kristi Donahue
Circulation: Laurie Pinciak

Morse Hall, 8 College Road,
Durham, NH 03824


“Be it Earth, oceans, or space… we (should) function as one institute and not four centers. We should all be moving towards the same vision.”






“I see myself as a facilitator and less as a manager and… if we have a meeting and come up with a great idea… I’m going to be that momentum to make sure we keep moving it forward.”














“… historically UNH has done a great job at funding various marine components individually—we just haven’t put it all together. We have done that now with the creation of the UNH School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering.”


Winter/Spring 2016

The Facilitator
A conversation with newly arrived EOS associate director David Divins

SHORTLY AFTER ARRIVING AT EOS last fall, David Divins was already relishing the change of pace and environment after ten years of managing a large National Science Foundation-funded project for the nonprofit Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C. It was a job that kept him on the go and out of the office, and Divins looked forward to being able to stay put and becoming the "facilitator" who helps get the day-to-day EOS details done for the institute as a whole.

“I managed the Integrated Ocean Drilling Project, which became the International Ocean Discovery Program, and was out of the office more than in—it involved a lot of travel, a lot of meetings and a lot of international collaboration and discussions. I was gone several weeks a month,” Divins says.

david divins 
David Divins
Photo by Kristi Donahue, UNH-EOS.

Fittingly, Divins steps into the role of EOS associate director to devote the kind of daily attention to institute details that is simply impossible for EOS director Harlan Spence to achieve because Spence, like Divins’ former self, is often gone for weeks at a time on travel attending to projects on which he is a principal investigator or co-PI—such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Van Allen Probes, Magnetospheric Multiscale, and FIREBIRD satellite missions—serving on advisory committees or talking with colleagues from federal funding agencies.

“I’ll be able to help Harlan with the day-to-day operations across all the centers, and I’m hoping to be able to increase cross-center communications, have a daily presence and be somebody who can follow through on things that need to be done,” says Divins. “For example, when something comes up I can act on the idea with more immediacy in Harlan’s absence. I see that as a really big part of this job.”

Divins will become the first fulltime associate director since David Bartlett retired in June 2012. The role has been filled in an interim capacity by Scott Ollinger of the Earth Systems Research Center and, most recently, by Chris Glass of the Northeast Consortium.

A native of Framingham, Mass., Divins received his bachelor’s degree in biology, with a specialization in marine science, from Boston University and his Ph.D. in oceanography from Texas A&M University. He spent 16 years in Colorado as a research scientist at the University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and a five-year stint as a geophysicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder.

At the Ocean Leadership Consortium, he was vice president and director of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. The nonprofit consortium has a membership of approximately 100 mostly academic institutions and includes UNH. Ocean Leadership, Divins says, “Is really the voice for ocean science. It’s not a lobbying group, its work is around the science priorities of the U.S. with respect to the ocean. We help to work with a lot of Senate and House staffers and policymakers to present the needs and concerns of our members and explain why a particular type of science is important. It also has a role in managing large projects for the NSF, with the IODP an example of these large, community-driven projects. The IODP had a $600M budget over ten years.”

Late last year, Spheres Online asked Divins some questions about his new role as EOS associate director.

Spheres: What in particular attracted you to this position?

Divins: I really wasn’t looking for another job but a colleague of mine sent the UNH posting to me, and when I first read the job description I said to myself, “That sounds just like me.” The job brought together what I’ve been doing and took it to the next level so I thought I’d try something new. I was at a point where I was transitioning from managing a large project and going back into doing my own research and other things when this came up. It was pure serendipity and it was a melding of my science and management skillset.

The next day I called Larry Mayer (director of the UNH Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping and of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering) who told me he wasn’t aware that the job had been advertised yet. I’ve known Larry for many years through our ocean drilling connections and had been up here many times in the 15 years Larry’s been at CCOM to work on projects together. I’m a geophysicist and geomorphologist and fit really well into the ocean mapping work that CCOM does.

When I was at Ocean Leadership I didn’t do a lot of science—it was more on the administration and advocacy side of things. But currently I am working on a Department of Energy-funded project with the University of Texas looking at methane hydrates in the Gulf of Mexico investigating the potential for sand-rich hydrate reservoirs producing natural gas. I am looking at seismic profiles to locate methane hydrates—you have to use seismic data to find them. So my role is on the seismic and operations side. In this work you use a drill ship to go in and test these things and that’s something I know how to do—use a drill ship.

Spheres: How do you anticipate the position of EOS associate director will compare to your previous job?

Divins: At the International Ocean Discovery Program I was managing strictly marine and Earth science-oriented projects, building teams and disciplines. It was similar in that I had to deal with different entities but those entities had more of a common focus, there was not as much interdisciplinary variety as here, which is an aspect I’m looking forward to.

And part of what I’m going to try to do as associate director is increase the multidisciplinary aspect of things at EOS, because as funding opportunities become more competitive we’re going to have to start looking at how we can team up across centers, across campus, and also with other universities and institutes.

I was a research scientist at the University of Colorado for ten years before D.C. and it’s good to come back to an academic environment and work with faculty—most of the time. It’s a very different structure compared to working with one organization where everyone is on the same mission with the same goals, it’s easier to keep everybody on track. Here, we should all be on the same page while doing things from different perspectives. Be it Earth, oceans, or space we should be trying to float all boats, if you will, not just our own. What I see that’s not happening and really should, and perhaps never did, is that we function as one institute and not four centers. We should all be moving towards the same vision.

And in that regard, the biggest challenge I see is enabling more effective communication, providing the interaction between Harlan and the different centers, CCOM, The School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, and other university colleges and departments. How can we improve our communication between all entities?

Spheres: What’s another top priority for you?

Divins: The School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering is a virtual school of marine science at this point and is comprised of a few entities brought together under one umbrella—the old UNH marine program, CCOM, Sea Grant, the Northeast Consortium—and we’re trying to create more of a presence for the school. Having the first floor of Morse Hall dedicated to the school will help in that regard but we need to have an identity.

The “new” marine school has actually been around for several years but if you were to ask people what it is they’ll likely say, “I don’t know,” or they might describe the old marine program. We need to integrate all the different entities, really pull things together so the marine school has a very recognizable face that people can describe. And so we’re really working on how to build that up.

Spheres: Do you have any sense of what the pieces are for accomplishing that?

Divins: There’s a lot of activity that’s been ongoing and we just have to keep pushing. What I’ve noticed is there’s a lot of spin but not a lot of momentum, and I hope to be the momentum. I see myself as a facilitator and less as a manager and, so, for example, if we have a meeting and come up with a great idea and agree it’s something we need to do, I’m going to be that momentum to make sure we keep moving it forward.

The process is there, and Harlan and Larry Mayer and Jon Pennock, the deans of the colleges—everybody involved in the marine school—we’re in dialog about how we make it take shape and how we attract people to be a part of it. That’s really what we’re trying to do.

UNH has done a great job of securing marine funding and there’s a lot of great and exciting stuff coming out of here but I don’t think UNH can quantify all it does in a coherent way, and that’s where the marine school can come into play. Not only is it an opportunity to have an umbrella to put all the marine parts under but it’s also a place for us to work with each other and even expand what we do in interdisciplinary ways so, for example, chemists and biologists can work together and have a place to help them initiate those dialogues—that’s really part of the big vision for the school.

And on that interdisciplinary piece, I should note that these days you can’t get funded on a project that is not multidisciplinary. I’m working on a proposal right now within Earth science that involves many sub-disciplines and not just geophysicists. You’ve got to have sedimentologists and geochemists and microbiologists, you’ve got to have that whole interdisciplinary team in order to maximize the investment in doing the science and get as much information out of it as you can. Hopefully with the marine school we can help maximize proposals in that way so there’s a benefit with respect to funding coming to UNH.

Spheres: Is there a model for a marine school out there that might help UNH in its efforts to give the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering more of a presence?

Divins: In the oceanographic community, a lot of universities do have marine entities, Columbia and the University of Miami to name just two. The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami is an internationally recognized school of marine science and is independent of the main Miami campus. And that school doesn’t bring in as much oceanographic funding as UNH does by itself. So the model exists, and historically UNH has done a great job at funding various marine components individually—we just haven’t put it all together.

We have done that now with the creation of the UNH School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, administratively housed here within EOS. And there’s a five year plan in place and we’re somewhere in year two of that. In the next several years, and I’d like to see it happen sooner, we need to have a concrete identify for the marine school, and we’re making strides in that direction. If we can get a donor to come up with a name we’d be happy to accept an endowment. And that’s also part of what we’re trying to do—market the good things that are happening here and get people and foundations to help support what we’re doing. We’re working with the UNH Foundation to identify funding opportunities.

by David Sims, Science Writer, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space.

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