Category Archives: Marine 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.

 

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.”

UGA Skidaway Institute grad student receives master’s degree

Now-former UGA Skidaway Institute and Savannah State University graduate student Ashleigh Price had a November she won’t forget.

On November 8, she successfully defended her master’s thesis before her committee and a public audience.

Ashleigh at her dissertation defense.

Ashleigh at her dissertation defense.

She officially received her degree on December 10. Ashleigh did most of her research as part of Marc Frischer’s lab at Skidaway Institute. The title of her thesis was Environmental Reservoirs and Mortality Associated with Shrimp Black Gill.

To cap off the month, Ashleigh gave birth to her daughter, Astra Jean Visconti at 7:10 p.m. on November 30.

Astra

Astra

Astra came into the world at 18.5 inches, and weighting six pounds and 10.6 ounces. Mother and baby are both doing well.

New grad student in Harvey lab

Sean Anderson is a newly arrived UGA Ph.D. student in Liz Harvey’s lab.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASean grew up in the small, coastal town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. After earning his B.S. in biology at Old Dominion University, he returned to Maine to work as a research technician at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.

“That’s where I discovered my true passion — plankton ecology,” Sean said. “It blew my mind. I could not believe such a spectacular and complex microscopic world exists.”

Captivated by this new field, Sean enrolled at the University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography and completed his master’s degree in oceanography, studying the growth, grazing and starvation capacity of marine plankton.

“My experiences in oceanography have been unforgettable, allowing me to study plankton in many different ecosystems across the world, from Narragansett Bay to the Antarctic,” he said. “I have a strong desire to continue researching these microscopic organisms, as there is still much to learn about their ecology and physiology.

“I am excited to become part of the UGA community and contribute to the oceanographic research being conducted at Skidaway Institute.”

When he is not in the lab studying plankton, he spends his time playing basketball, cooking and exploring the outdoors.

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

Liz Harvey to co-chair ASLO session

Liz Harvey will co-lead a special session entitled “Louder than words: chemical communication structures marine ecosystems” during the 2017 ASLO Meeting, February 26-March 3, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the marine environment, chemical communication mediates species interactions thereby playing a central role in influencing population-level and large-scale oceanographic processes. This interdisciplinary session will include studies from the intertidal to the open ocean that investigate how chemical cues regulate processes such as behavior, reproduction, foraging strategies, settlement, mortality, defense, competition, and the transfer of energy and nutrients within and among ecosystems.

Kristen Whalen of Haverford College will co-chair the session with Liz.

The Roebling barn in perspective

by Debbie Jahnke

Editor’s notes: Debbie and Rick Jahnke were long-time members of the Skidaway Institute family. Rick was a faculty scientist and, for several months, interim director of the institute. Debbie was his research coordinator. They both retired in 2008 and moved to Port Townsend, Wash.

In March of this year, the Georgia General Assembly approved a $ 3 million bond issue to renovate and repurpose the barn into usable laboratory and meeting space.

In 1986, Rick Jahnke interviewed for a faculty position at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. At the time, he was a research scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Rick returned home to San Diego with the impression that he wouldn’t be hired because Stuart Wakeham had also interviewed for the position and would undoubtedly be selected. Instead, Skidaway Institute came up with the funds for two positions and hired both Rick and Stuart.

Rick’s start-up requests to Skidaway Institute were modest: a germanium detector and a desktop computer. He also requested lab and office space in the Roebling building and a staging lab in the barn for maintenance, repair and modification of his various seagoing autonomous vehicles. The barn was nearly perfect for that purpose, with plenty of storage space and a central open area that allowed loading and offloading of equipment with a hand-winched pulley system.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARick didn’t need any extra space for me and, instead, split his office with a wall so there was a spot just big enough for my desk and a “labradog” named Daisy. I was the analytical tech for his research and he hired an equipment tech for the seagoing operations. The barn lab operations expanded to the second floor of the barn when it became clear that anyone interested in measuring natural levels of C-14 wasn’t going to be able to do it in many existing Skidaway Institute labs. In the free-form early days of productivity measurements, enough C-14 made it into the ambient spaces of many Skidaway Institute labs that C-14 dating indicated that our labs existed about 50,000 years in the future. The levels of so-called contamination were in no way concerning for health or safety, but they made natural abundance measurements impossible without a ‘clean’ space for sample storage. The bright yellow room with the pink and green interior and cold room on the second floor of the barn were the result.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom those barn labs, autonomous vehicles were staged, packed and deployed for oceanographic research off western Africa, Peru, Panama, New Guinea, deep shelves off Cape Hatteras, California, Oregon and other locations, as well as the Georgia shelf. Samples were returned and stored in the yellow lab upstairs.

The barn provided another opportunity for me when I was drafted in a weak moment to try to improve what was quite dismal visitor housing at Skidaway Institute in the 1980s. The first housing we made habitable was the barn apartment. As we worked through the process of getting three NSF grants for housing, we also were able to set up a small laundry room in the barn so that volunteers could keep clean linens in the housing we did have. The first successful grant built the quadraplex (Menzel, Zeigler, Carpenter and Knight apartments). The second grant rehabilitated the housing that existed since the plantation days (the barn apartment, now renamed Baggett, Rice House, Thomas and Martin apartments). The third grant built the Commons. I spent many hours in that barn laundry room while most of my weekends and holidays were spent cleaning housing units before the institute finally figured out how to pay someone to do that as a real job.

Rick and I retired in 2008 and headed west with our five cats. All I know of the modern Skidaway Institute is what I read on the website and Facebook pages and occasional emails from friends still there. Skidaway was wonderful to us and the barn was a big part of the ease with which our research was facilitated. It was with considerable pleasure that we learned of the grand and useful future being planned for the good old barn.