Category Archives: Marine Science

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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:

http://www.iooc.us/activities/task-teams/glider-tt/us-underwater-glider-workshop/

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.