Category Archives: biology

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.

 

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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.”

14th Annual Gray’s Reef Film Festival expands to Tybee Island and adds second 3D Night

by Michelle Riley / GRNMS

Moviegoers gave rave reviews to the Gray’s Reef Film Festival’s first-ever “3D Night” last year, spurring Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary to offer two consecutive nights of 3D fun for the upcoming festival. The sanctuary also is expanding the event’s reach by adding a daytime showing at the Tybee Post Theater.

“We’re having a lot of fun putting together this year’s festival,” said organizer Chris Hines, deputy superintendent of Gray’s Reef.  “Our theme this year is ‘Our Community, Our Ocean.’ These beautiful movies highlight the deep bond with nature and the ocean that we are so fortunate to experience as a coastal community, and how important a healthy ocean is to preserving our way of life.”

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

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

On tap for the 3D showings at the Trustees Theater Feb. 3-4 are “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland,” “The Last Reef 3D,” “Wonders of the Artic 3D,” and “Secret Ocean 3D.” “Galapagos 3D” is directed by award winner Martin Williams, who is well known for his documentaries with David Attenborough. “The Last Reef 3D” was shot in five different countries and is the production of Academy Award nominees Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, while “Wonders of the Arctic 3D” is a sweeping film by David Lickley, who describes himself as a “wilderness environmental-themed filmmaker. “Secret Ocean 3D” is a beautiful jewel of a movie by Jean-Michel Cousteau.

The Tybee Post Theater offerings on Feb. 5 will include a delightful sampling of films from the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival, the premier venue in North America for ocean-related movies, most of which are largely unavailable to the general public.

“Our partnership with the Tybee Post Theater this summer exceeded our expectations, with more than 1,000 attendees expressing their interest in ocean-themed movies,” said Hines. “We are excited to expand the film festival and deepen our engagement with our beach communities.”

Like last year, Gray’s Reef suggests a donation of $10 per day for adults, $5 per day for children, students and military, to benefit the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

UGA Skidaway Institute scientist authors paper on coral superoxide production

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUniversity of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Julia Diaz recently co-authored a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science. The paper, titled Dark Production of Extracellular Superoxide by the Coral Porites astreoides and Representative Symbionts, appeared in the journal’s November 24th issue.

The lead authors were Tong Zhang from Nankai University, as well as Diaz. Additional co-authors included Caterina Brighi from the Imperial College London in London, U.K.; Rachel Parsons from the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences; Sean McNally from the University of Massachusetts; and Amy Apprill and Colleen Hansel, both from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The paper examines the production of superoxide by the Porites astreoides species of coral. Superoxide is an oxygen (O2) molecule with an extra electron, giving it a negative charge. Scientists believe it may have both beneficial and harmful effects on the coral, ranging from helping it resist disease to damage through coral bleaching. The research team determined the Porites astreoides coral produces superoxide, but that production is not related to photosynthetic activity or the presence of light. This led the team to question whether the superoxide production may play a beneficial role in coral physiology.

The paper can be accessed here: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2016.00232/full