The University of Massachusetts at Amherst embarked on recasting the role of its Gloucester Marine Station at Hodgkins Cove by hiring Gloucester resident Katie Kahl to serve as the liaison between research elements at the school and the Cape Ann community.

The university's School of Earth and Sustainability is set to formally announce the appointment of Kahl on Thursday to the newly created position of extension assistant professor in sustainable fisheries and coastal resilience.

"I'm really excited and can't wait to start," Kahl said Wednesday. "This is really a great opportunity for the university to re-imagine its role at the Gloucester Marine Station."

Kahl's mission, which begins Jan. 2, is a new one for the university's research facility.

The university announced last January that it was establishing a permanent, full-time extension faculty position at the Gloucester Marine Station as the focal point for determining the future role of the facility.

Most recently, it housed the university's Large Pelagics Research Center, which was nicknamed the "Tuna Lab." Under the guidance of Molly Lutcavage, the center did internationally groundbreaking research on giant bluefin tuna and other highly migratory pelagic species.

It was often a difficult fit, partly because of the distance between the lab and the UMass Amherst campus and seemingly never-ending difficulties in raising the capital to fund the pelagic research.

The Large Pelagics Research Center left the Hodgkin Cove facility — and UMass Amherst — in September of 2015 to join the School for the Environment at UMass Boston. It retained office space in East Gloucester until October.  

Kahl, 42, said she will focus on working with local stakeholders in a variety of disciplines to bridge local economic, environmental and social needs with the research capabilities and expertise of the School of Earth and Sustainability.

The initial emphasis, she said, will be on Cape Ann and North Shore interests, such as coastal resilience and sustainable fisheries. She stressed that it will be a work in progress.

"It's not all kind of laid out," Kahl said. "We're going to figure it out as we go along with the help of the community."

For now, she will be the lone UMass staffer at the facility.

"But as we figure out what our next role is going to be, we do plan on hiring additional staff," she said.

The first step on her agenda, she said, will be the appointment of a local advisory council to help her and UMass define the specific, pressing needs of the community and identify areas that dovetail with research being done at the School of Earth and Sustainability.

"She brings valuable experience to the station, to Cape Ann and North Shore communities, as well as to Massachusetts and New England coastal and marine partnerships," Adrian Jordan, the Amherst-based director of the Gloucester Marine Station said in a statement. "Hers is a community embedded position, where she will act as liaison between community interests and UMass's research resources. It can't be overstated how valuable it is to have support from Gloucester and the greater region."

Most recently, Kahl spent six years in Michigan working with Great Lakes communities on climate change adaptation and coastal resilience for The Nature Conservatory. She holds a master's degree and doctorate in fisheries and wildlife from Michigan State University and a bachelor's degree in biology from Truman State University in Missouri.

Kahl is married to Gloucester native Jody Simoes and they have two boys. They moved to Gloucester about a year ago so they could be closer to the Simoes family.

"I've lived here for only one year, but I've been visiting for 17 or 18 years," she said. "There's such a strong attachment to this place. It's like nothing else I've ever seen. The pride in its history and tradition is what always struck me about Gloucester."

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.