Monthly Archives: February 2017

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.



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.


Skidaway Institute radar system restored after Hurricane Matthew

Gabe Matthias

Gabe Matthias

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s WERA radar system is back on line after being knocked out by Hurricane Matthew, and Dana Savidge is crediting research technician Gabe Matthias for the accomplishment.

Savidge’s lab operates two low-power radar installations, one at the Villas by the Sea Resort on Jekyll Island and the other on the beach at the north end of St. Catherine’s Island. The radar system monitors the speed and direction of surface ocean currents on the continental shelf.

Both installations went down due to power failure during the early October storm. The St. Catherine’s installation was off-line the longest, but it was actually the easier fix. It was relatively undamaged, but power wasn’t restored to the north end of the mostly uninhabited island until December. Matthias said when he visited the St. Catherine’s site after the storm, the power was still out. He removed some debris and straightened the antennas, and then used a back-up power supply to test the equipment.

“It ran out of juice quickly, so I had about 10 seconds to look at the return and see that it all looked good,” he said. “I was psyched and like ‘It’s all here. St. Catherine’s will be just fine.’”

The installation on Jekyll Island was another story. The antennas were mounted on a beachside boardwalk and on the adjacent beach.

A radar antenna mixed with hurricane debris at Jekyll Island.

A radar antenna mixed with hurricane debris at Jekyll Island.

“When I got there, I could see we were in trouble,” Matthias recalled. “Three of the four antennas on the sand and several on the boardwalk were knocked down and rolled up in all the rack, logs and seaweed, and shoved up into the dunes to the new high tide line.”

Matthias spent several days just cutting through the debris to recover the antennas and cable. One antenna was completely buried. Matthias only located it because he was able to trace the cable that was sticking out of the sand. Eventually, he was able to repair seven of the 12 receive antennas and two of the four transmit antennas. When power was restored, the installation went back online but with limited capability, pending the delivery of replacement parts.

“I was hooting and hollering and screaming for joy when I got the Jekyll Island installation back online,” Matthias said.

Savidge praised Matthias for his work. “Gabe did a great job under trying circumstances. I can’t say enough about his energy and dedication.”


NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary seeks advisory council applicants

marine-sanc-logoNOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is seeking applicants for one citizen-at-large seat on its advisory council. The council ensures public participation in sanctuary management and provides advice to the sanctuary superintendent.

“The sanctuary advisory council provides a vital place for the community and sanctuary management to exchange ideas, discuss issues and share information,’’ said Sarah Fangman, sanctuary superintendent.

Candidates are selected based on their expertise and experience in relation to the seat for which they are applying, community and professional affiliations, and views regarding the protection and management of marine resources. The applicant who is selected should expect to serve a two-year term.

The advisory council consists of 11 primary, non-governmental members representing a variety of public interest groups, including fishing, diving, education, research and conservation. It also includes eight governmental seats representing state and federal agencies.

Applications are due by Tuesday, Feb. 28. To receive an application kit, or for further information, please contact Chris Hines, deputy superintendent, via email at; by phone at 912-598-2397; or by mail at 10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411. Application kits can also be downloaded from the sanctuary’s website at

Gray’s Reef Film Festival this weekend

The 2017 Gray’s Reef Film Festival is almost here! This year’s theme is “Our Community, Our Ocean,” and will feature films that showcase the incredible wonders of the ocean and remind viewers of the bond that coastal communities share with marine life.

Two 3D movie nights at Savannah’s Trustees Theater will present marine life at its most vivid and exciting. Opening night, Friday, February 3, will feature two intriguing films, “The Last Reef: Cities Beneath the Sea 3D” and this year’s headliner film, “Galapagos: Nature’s Wonderland 3D,” which features stunning, up-close footage of the unique and charismatic animals of the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos sea lion and a lava lizard from "Galapagos 3D."

Galapagos sea lion and a lava lizard from “Galapagos 3D.”

On Saturday, February 4, Gray’s Reef will host an Emerging Filmmakers Competition at the SCAD Museum of Art where local up-and-coming filmmakers will present their work for evaluation by a panel of carefully selected judges. First, second and third place winners will be announced at Saturday night’s 3D showings which will include “Wonders of the Arctic 3D,” an awe-inspiring look into the life of whales, polar bears and other magnificent Arctic life. Back by popular demand is “Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D,” which was shot in the Pacific and highlights many of the same marine creatures found at Gray’s Reef.

Also during the festival, sanctuary staff will unveil their first-ever traveling exhibit, “Gray’s Reef on the Road,” introducing a new way to bring Georgia’s amazing underwater park and its ocean wonders to the community. This traveling exhibit has been more than a year in the making and will include three interactive panels. “Gray’s Reef on the Road” will feature an array of colorful, moving features such as video displays, virtual dives, fish sounds and captivating 3D animals, including loggerhead sea turtles, goliath groupers and other unique marine animals which provide an authentic and memorable experience of Gray’s Reef.

Following the film festival, the exhibit will move to the Bull Street Library, which is the hub of Savannah’s Live Oak Library system. The exhibit will give the downtown Savannah area a new and interactive way to experience Gray’s Reef without ever leaving town.

Catherine Edwards participates in glider workshop


Catherine Edwards was invited to participate in an Interagency Ocean Observation Committee glider workshop in January at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The purpose of the workshop was threefold: to assemble a task force to identify needs requiring funding; to provide an opportunity for  interagency collaboration; and to discuss the formation of an international glider user group to share and exchange information on science and  glider operations.  Catherine was invited to represent the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA.) Her lab is the largest glider operation in the Southeast in terms of experience and the number of days gliders are in operation. More information is available here:

Cliff Buck to chair ASLO session

Cliff Buck will chair a session at the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography 2017 Aquatic Sciences meeting which will be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 26-March 3.

The chaired session is titled “Linking atmospheric deposition to the biogeochemistry of aquatic and marine systems.” Additional information can be found here:

He and Chris Marsay will both give talks in a different session, titled “Biogeochemical cycling of trace elements and isotopes in the Arctic Ocean.” For additional information, see:

Cliff was also selected to participate in an ASLO leadership training workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to build leadership skills and approaches among ASLO members so that they may feel comfortable to take on leadership roles in the Society and other scientific organizations and teams.

UGA Skidaway Institute research paper selected for Research Spotlight

A research paper by SkIO’s Aron Stubbins has been selected by the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences to be featured as a Research Spotlight on the journal’s website and in the magazine Eos. Research Spotlights summarize the the best accepted articles for the Earth and space science community.

Aron’s paper, titled “Low photolability of yedoma permafrost dissolved organic carbon,” followed-up on earlier research into a massive store of carbon—relics of long-dead plants and other living things—preserved within ancient Arctic permafrost. That research showed the long-frozen permafrost is thawing, and the organic material it has preserved for tens of thousands of years is now entering the environment as dissolved organic matter in streams and rivers. Bacteria are converting the organic material into carbon dioxide, which is being released into the atmosphere.arctic-carbon-2-wsq

The current paper examines the effect of sunlight on the dissolved carbon compounds. The researchers discovered that sunlight changes the chemistry of the permafrost carbon, however sunlight alone does not convert the permafrost carbon to carbon dioxide. The researchers concluded the decomposition of organic materials via bacteria is mostly likely the key process for converting permafrost carbon within rivers into carbon dioxide.

The research team includes co-lead author Robert Spencer of Florida State University; co-authors Leanne Powers and Thais Bittar from UGA Skidaway Institute; Paul Mann from Northumbria University; Thorsten Dittmar from Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg; Cameron McIntyre from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre; Timothy Eglinton from ETH Zurich; and Nikita Zimov from the Russian Academy of Science.