U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter visits the UGA Oyster Hatchery

By: Emily Woodward

Congressman Buddy Carter toured the oyster hatchery at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and met with a shellfish grower who is working with UGA to grow single oysters in an effort to diversify the coastal economy.

Carter, along with Jared Downs, a member of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s staff, spent Feb. 24 at the hatchery on Skidaway Island, learning about UGA’s effort to revive the oyster industry in Georgia.

U.S. Representative Buddy Carter (center in white shirt) tours the hatchery.

“The oyster industry has great potential to bring strong economic benefits to our area,” Carter said, following the visit. “The UGA oyster hatchery is leading this effort and working to strengthen Georgia’s shellfish industry.”

Carter and Downs met with Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Tom Bliss, director of the Shellfish Research Lab, as well as extension agents at the hatchery, to learn about their efforts to produce spat, or baby oysters, and grow them into single oysters for the half-shell market.

Since its launch in 2015, the hatchery has produced 700,000 spat, which have been given to 10 shellfish farmers on the coast who grow the oysters on sites they lease from the state Department of Natural Resources. The potential harvest value of the oyster is $140,000 to $245,000. By 2018, the hatchery is expected to produce between 5 million and 7 million spat per year, with an annual estimated harvest value between $1 million and $2 million. The goal is to attract a commercial hatchery and businesses related to oyster production to the area, which would provide jobs and greater economic development opportunities on the coast.

During his visit, Carter traveled by boat to see the oysters in Wassaw Sound farmed by John Pelli, owner of Savannah Clam Company, and sample the raw oysters. In addition to hearing about the economic benefit of oyster production, Carter also learned that oyster production improves water quality. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, a benefit to everyone, not just those involved in the seafood industry.

“I am glad to have had the opportunity to see the great work going on at the hatchery and I look forward to seeing the oyster harvesting business grow in our community and state,” Carter said.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant also is helping the oyster growers connect with seafood distribution companies and restaurants to raise awareness of the Georgia single oyster, Risse said.

 

New faces on campus

Charlie Rice is Skidaway Institute’s new HVAC specialist, replacing  Neil Mizell, who recently retired from Skidaway Institute. He was  born and raised in Savannah. Charlie is married and has a nine year old son.

Skye Mills is a public relations and communications intern at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. She will graduate from Armstrong State University in May 2017 with a B.A. in English and professional communications. Skye is a native of the Savannah area.

“I enjoy my southern and coastal roots,” she said. “I spend as much time as I can in my kayak, strolling the beach, or immersing myself in Savannah’s rich history.

Skye says she wants to work for something that matters and makes a difference. “I wanted to work for a cause that I can get behind and at Gray’s Reef I really feel like I am accomplishing that.”

National award will allow more students to experience the Georgia coast

A $50,000 Hollings Award from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will pay for 850 fourth graders from Liberty and McIntosh counties to experience Georgia’s coastal environment and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary during field trips to the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

Marine Extension associate director Anne Lindsay shows a corn snake to a group of students.

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity,” said Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, which oversees the education center and aquarium. “Reaching these historically underserved communities with hands-on, field-oriented educational programs is often difficult due to transportation and economic issues. This funding will allow us to target our efforts just for them and provide free transportation and programs.”

In addition, the grant will allow UGA and Gray’s Reef to offer free programs on Georgia’s estuarine systems and offshore habitats at a school in each county, extending the education to students’ families.

“These communities are located in watersheds that impact the waters around Gray’s Reef. We hope that our efforts will influence the decisions they make and benefit the coastal ecosystems surrounding the sanctuary,” Risse said.

Enhancements to the Gray’s Reef exhibit at the UGA Aquarium are also included as part of the project. A new wall-mounted monitor and graphics will feature underwater video footage of the reef and provide information to aquarium visitors about the National Marine Sanctuary Program.

The award is one of five 2017 grants totaling $215,000 from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Hollings Awards, an annual program designed to expand public awareness of conservation issues.

UGA Skidaway Institute director search begins

The position of director of UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography has been officially posted on the UGA Web site. It can be seen here: https://facultyjobs.uga.edu/postings/1915

R/V Savannah crewmate has whale named for him

Marc Frischer and his team went out on the R/V Savannah to hunt tiny doliolids in February, but they made a new and considerably larger discovery.

Just off of Wassaw Sound they saw what they thought was a right whale. They reported their sighting to the North Atlantic Right Whale Project of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The right whale researchers identified the whale as a humpback, and one that had not been previously documented.

Jordy the Humpback Whale

A few weeks later, the Florida whale watchers spotted the same whale again off of Nassau Sound, just south of Fernandina Beach.

“It didn’t match any of our previously identified humpbacks from this season, so we collected photo documentation and a genetic sample from the animal, said Laurie Leech from the North Atlantic Right Whale Project. “On arrival back at our office later that night, we matched the animal to the one that you (the Skidaway team) saw up in Georgia!”

The Skidaway team asked for the right to name the whale “Jordy” in honor of R/V Savannah first mate Jordan Solomon who was the first person to spot him. Although the Florida whale watchers responded that they do not have the right to give a whale an official name, they agreed that as far as Florida and Georgia are concerned, the whale will unofficially be named “Jordy.”

Skidaway scientists attend ASLO

Skidaway Institute was well represented at the 2017 Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii,  February 26 – March 3.

Aron Stubbins and Sasha Wagner chaired a two-day session titled “The Biogeochemistry of Dissolved Organic Matter.”

Sasha presented her research on “Stable Carbon Isotopes Offer New Insight into the Biogeochemical Cycling of Black Carbon.” Aron, Jay Brandes and A. Ramapo Goranov, from the College of New Jersey were co-authors.

Former Skidaway Institute intern (Stubbins Lab) Camisha Few presented a poster “Photodegradation of Dissolved Organic Carbon Within the Connecticut River Watershed.” Camisha is a student at Florida A&M University. Her co-authors included Aron, Sasha, Kevin Ryan and K. Haiat-Sasson from the University of Rhode Island.

Camisha Few explaining all about CDOM and FDOM photochemistry at S+ASLO 2017

Aron presented his work on “Tree-Dom: DOM from the Crowning Headwaters of the Aquatic Carbon Cycle.” His co-authors included Sasha, T. Dittmar from the University of Oldenburg, Germany, and J.T. Van Stan from Georgia Southern University.

Thais Bittar presented “Growth, Grazing and Virus-Induced Mortality of Bacterioplankton in the Sargasso Sea.” Her co-authors included Karrie Bulski, Elizabeth Harvey, R. Parsons from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, S. Giovannoni from Oregon State University and C. Carlson from UC-Santa Barbara.

Cliff Buck and Chris Marsay also made presentations. Cliff chaired a session on atmospheric deposition, “Linking atmospheric deposition to the biogeochemistry of aquatic and marine systems.” His co-organizer was Rachel Shelley from LEMAR-Universite de Bretagne Occidentale, France.

Both Cliff and Chris gave talks about data from the Arctic cruise in a session titled “Biogeochemical Cycling Trace Elements and Isotopes in the Arctic Ocean.”  Cliff’s talk was on the aerosol data and titled “Aerosol Concentration, Composition and Fractional Solubility on the US Geotraces Western Arctic Cruise.” In addition to Chris, his co-authors included A. Ebling, P. Morton, B Summers and W. Landing, all from Florida State University. Chris presented melt pond data, “Dissolved and Particulate Trace Elements in Arctic Melt Ponds.” In addition to Cliff, his co-authors included P. Morton, B Summers and W. Landing, all from Florida State University, and S. Rauschenberg and B.S. Twining, both from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

 

New faces on campus

MERARachel Usher is a volunteer lab technician in Jay Brandes’s lab. She is a Savannah native and a 2016 graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Ecology. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked in both marine and aquatic labs completing an honors thesis with UGA professor Amy Rosemond on carbon breakdown in urban streams. Currently, Rachel is working on a project quantifying the amount of microplastics in coastal sediment samples. In her free time she enjoys cooking in her wok, listening to podcasts and taking her dog on her boat.

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Patrick Duffy is a newly arrived masters student in Liz Harvey’s lab. He grew up in the suburban town of Kingston, Pa.

“Coming from a landlocked state, the majority of my ‘interactions’ with the ocean were from watching Nature documentaries,” he said. “Despite this, I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a marine biologist.”

Patrick attended the University of Delaware and graduated with a B.S. in Marine Science. During his time at U.D., he interned in a lab investigating the chemical interactions between predators and their microscopic prey in marine systems.

“I am intrigued by the complexities of the factors involved in the communications between species in the planktonic environment and by their influence in oceanographic processes on both small and large scales,” he said.

He says he likes to spend as much of his free time as possible outdoors, specifically hiking, fishing, and playing soccer.