Monthly Archives: June 2016

Gray’s Reef presents Rivers to Reefs program

by Chad Larsen

This month, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is hosting the 13th annual Rivers to Reefs trip in association with Georgia Aquarium, Gordon State College and the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Rivers to Reefs is an educational expedition of a lifetime for teachers, focused on Georgia’s Altamaha River watershed.

During the 6-day trip, the teachers will canoe the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers into the Sapelo estuary and then travel offshore to Gray’s Reef on board the R/V Savannah. They will learn and explore the connections between the watershed and the ocean. The teachers will then take the knowledge and experiences gathered from the trip and pass it on to their students in the classroom.

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation chair Cathy Sakas, a leader of the Rivers to Reefs program, explains that Rivers to Reefs helps teachers learn just how much we touch our watersheds and that our watersheds influence our great global ocean.

The "marsh crawl" is a memorable part of the Rivers to Reefs program.

The “marsh crawl” is a memorable part of the Rivers to Reefs program.

“The watersheds here in Georgia give us the sediment that creates the coastal plains. It gives us the nutrients for us to have rich and beautiful environments like Gray’s Reef, which is full of creatures ranging from seahorses to whales,” Sakas said. “As they become educated about the watersheds and the consequences of man’s actions on the environment, Rivers to Reefs participants are incentivized to teach their students about conservation and protection of natural resources.”

Editor’s Note:  Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer is also involved in the Rivers to Reefs project. Marc’s doliolid project is providing the R/V Savannah ship day as part of the broader impacts component of the project.  He will be going out with the group on the cruise and conducting a follow-up session the next day.

For NSF purposes: Collaborative Research: The cryptic diet of the globally significant pelagic tunicate Dolioletta gegenbauri (Uljanin, 1884.) Project number: OCE 1459293



Alexander lab busy on the coast

The Clark Alexander lab is busy mapping the bathymetry and benthic habitats of Ossabaw Sound and will be starting to map Sapelo Sound this fall, with funding from Ga. Department of Natural Resources.

Clark anticipates more work examining shoreline change at Ft. Pulaski and other islands in the Savannah River to better understand current erosional patterns before the ongoing harbor deepening is completed. That project would be funded by the National Park Service and Ga. Department of Transportation.

The ongoing assessment of sand resources in Federal waters will get a boost, as new funding has been made available through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The work will be to fill data gaps identified in the first round of studies and to build capacity on the state level to manage nearshore and offshore sand resources.

Teachers join UGA Skidaway Institute research cruises

A Frischer lab cruise on board the R/V Savannah to hunt and collect doliolids had a pair of extra passengers in May. Two K-12 teachers joined the cruise. JoCasta Green is a pre-K teacher from Decatur, Ga., and Vicki Albritton is a middle school teacher at the STEM Academy here in Savannah. The two  were the second group of teachers to join a cruise this year, as part of a cooperative program between UGA Skidaway Institute and Georgia Southern University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEM). The goal of the i2STEM  program is to improve the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten through college throughout coastal Georgia.

“I was hoping to see science in action, and I did that all day long,” Albritton said. “I got to participate and learn what was going on and to take many pictures. Now I have a wealth of information to take back to the classroom.”

(l-r) Mike Sullivan, Aurea Rodriguezsanti (Hampton Univ), Natalia Lopez Figueroa (Hampton Univ), Lauren Lamboley, Vicki Albritton, Nick Castellane, JoCasta Green, Marc Frischer, Tina Walters

(l-r) Mike Sullivan, Aurea Rodriguezsanti (Hampton Univ), Natalia Lopez Figueroa (Hampton Univ), Lauren Lamboley, Vicki Albritton, Nick Castellane, JoCasta Green, Marc Frischer, Tina Walters

Albritton says an experience like the cruise raises teachers’ credibility in the classroom, because the students see the teachers going out to learn more themselves. “If I want them to be perpetual learners, then I need to demonstrate that same trait,” she said.

Although Green admitted she was nervous about the cruise initially, she credited the scientists with making her comfortable. “They were great teachers,” she said. “I understood what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

The partnership between UGA Skidaway Institute and i2STEM is expected to grow. Five additional doliolid cruises are scheduled this year with space available for as many as four teachers on each cruise. UGA Skidaway Institute will also offer two half-day cruises this month as part of i2STEM’s summer professional development workshop for teachers.

Regional glider network project receives funding

Catherine Edwards is leading a team that has received a five-year, $750,000 grant from the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA) to establish a regional glider network.

The team will work collaboratively to operate regular glider missions in the South Atlantic Bight, providing valuable information for data assimilation and ocean modeling, as well as to fisheries and other stakeholders. This will include regular maps of temperature, salinity, density and other measurements. In addition to regular coordinated experiments with multiple gliders and maximum regional coverage, the project will leverage opportunities to develop regular transects in areas where glider data may be of interest.

Catherine Edwards (r) explains the workings of the glider to Mare Timmons (l) and Mary Sweeney Reeves.

Catherine Edwards (r) explains the workings of the glider to Mare Timmons (l) and Mary Sweeney Reeves.

“This glider observatory is the first time regular glider efforts have been funded in the South Atlantic Bight and is complementary to larger SECOORA efforts in observing and modeling,” Catherine said. “The work is highly leveraged by contributions from each of the PIs and partnerships with fisheries and observing groups at NOAA and NASA.”

Co-PIs include Chad Lembke from the University of South Florida, Ruoying He from North Carolina State University, Harvey Seim from the University of North Carolina and Fumin Zhang from Georgia Tech.

Other partners/stakeholders include state Departments of Natural Resources and the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. Gliders will be outfitted with passive and active acoustics data that fisheries managers can use to better understand key species. Data will be shared freely and made available in near-real time through SECOORA and the National Data Buoy Center.

“We’re sending all of the glider data to the National Glider Data Assembly Center in near-real time so that it can be assimilated into the Navy’s operational models to improve their forecasts,” Catherine said.

Lots of new faces on campus this summer

As always, the summer season has brought a group of new people to the Skidaway campus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlex Goranov is an intern in Aron Stubbins’s lab. He is majoring in chemistry at Ramapo College of New Jersey and plans on pursuing a career in teaching and researching chemical oceanography. His research interests are in instrumental analysis, biogeochemistry and the chemical ecology of plants and invertebrates. Alex has past research experiences in Australia and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In his free time he likes to travel (He has been to 40 countries.) and SCUBA dive.



Emily Palmer is also interning in the Stubbins Lab. Emily grew up in Richmond Va. and now attends the University of South Carolina. She is a rising senior, majoring in marine science with an emphasis in biology. Emily would eventually like to conduct research on whales, but, she says, she is starting small.  Currently at USC, she is researching zooplankton and their Redfield stoichiometry with different depths, size fractions, time of day and season. Her biggest hobby is SCUBA diving, and she is in the process of training to be a dive control specialist.


Max Liao is a grad student in the Stubbins Lab. He is pursuing a master’s degree in biological engineering at the University of Georgia. While here at Skidaway, he will be constructing a dissolved organic carbon analyzer compatible with ocean water sampling. This device should help scientists gain more precise measurements of the carbon processes in aquatic samples. Max grew up in Georgia and went to Georgia  Tech for his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering. His main hobbies are cooking, yoga, cycling, sports, piano and guitar.


Justin Holliday is interning with Bill Savidge. He is originally from Greenwood, S.C. and is a senior at the University of South Carolina. Justin is majoring in geophysics with a minor in mathematics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarter Percy is another Savidge Lab intern. Carter is a fourth-year environmental engineering major with a minor in ecology at the University of Georgia. “These two together have given me knowledge of how ecosystem services can be used, rather than artificial systems, to solve engineering problems,” he said.  After graduation, Carter would like to hike the Te Araroa Trail  across New Zealand before becoming an engineer for a few years and, ultimately, teaching environmental science at a high school. His hobbies include rock climbing, running, backpacking and road tripping. One random fact about Carter is he is a pescatarian.


Colby Peffer is interning with Clark Alexander. Colby is an oceanography major with geospatial analysis and scientific diving minors at Humboldt State University in California (Clark’s undergraduate alma mater). She is scheduled to graduate in spring 2017. She is originally from Los Angeles County. Colby’s interests include coastal restoration and management, although she says “I really enjoy getting experience in everything that I can get my hands on.” She participated in research in the past involving dune surveying and restoration, nitrogen inventories for Humboldt Bay and trace metal analysis. Her outside interests include her three horses, scuba diving and outdoor rock climbing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANick Veronesi is also interning in the Alexander Lab. Nick is from Westfield, Massachusetts and just finished his sophomore year at the University of South Carolina, where he is majoring in marine science and geographic information systems. He is considering a minor in journalism or English because of his immense passion for writing. “I was the managing editor for my high school for one year and currently write sports articles for both S.C. sports and professional sports. I write for the Miami Marlins, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Denver Nuggets, and a couple of other teams on the occasion,” he said. You can find his articles at He has also produced videos covering Gamecock sports which can be viewed

Chad Larsen wAt Gray’s Reef, Chad Larsen is a public relations intern with Michelle Riley. Chad is a recent graduate of Georgia Southern University with a B.S. in public relations. Originally from the metro-Atlanta area, he came south to escape the city life and to be closer to the coast. He became the first-ever public relations intern for Gray’s Reef because of their recent shift in focus toward raising public knowledge. Chad was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity and spends his weekends bartending at Dingus Magee’s, a popular bar in Statesboro. After his internship, he will return to Atlanta to work at a public relations firm.