FAIRBANKS -- Mark Myers, a former head of the U.S. Geological Survey, is joining the University of Alaska Fairbanks as vice chancellor of research.
Myers currently leads the state's effort, under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, to encourage construction of a huge natural gas pipeline. He tells the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he will keep that job until mid-January to ensure a smooth transition.
The school announced Friday that Myers will replace Buck Sharpton, who was chosen last month to serve as acting chairman of the federal Arctic Research Commission. At the university he will oversee annual research budgets totaling $123 million.
He said his decision to take the $214,000-a-year research post was a personal one and not any reflection on the AGIA.
"I'm a scientist at heart. It'll be like a kid at a candy store," said Myers, who earned his doctorate in geology at UAF in 1994. "And I'm looking forward to the challenges."
Myers led Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas under governors Tony Knowles and Frank Murkowski before resigning with a number of natural resource specialists in a policy disagreement with the Murkowski administration.
He led the USGS from mid-2006 to early 2009 before then-Gov. Sarah Palin chose him to lead the AGIA process, which Palin called the state's best shot at a pipeline.
That process drew a successful application from TransCanada and later partner Exxon Mobil. But it also attracted skepticism in part because of stagnant natural gas prices.
The Legislature split this spring on whether to cut the budget for Myers' AGIA office but eventually fully funded the state's multimillion-dollar request.