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Clark Alexander named director of UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

Clark Alexander, a scientist with a long history of fostering collaboration and excellence in research, has been named director of the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

Alexander is a professor in the department of marine sciences, part of UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and has served as interim director of the Skidaway Institute for the past year. As director of the Skidaway Institute, he will continue to oversee its personnel, budgets and facilities and report to the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

“The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography plays a vital role in training scientists and conducting research that address critical economic and environmental issues that affect our state and world,” said Provost Pamela Whitten. “Dr. Alexander’s longstanding commitment to deepening the impact of the institute while building bridges with partners on and off campus makes him uniquely qualified to take on this important leadership role on a permanent basis.”

Alexander’s research explores how physical processes such as erosion and sedimentation impact coastal and marine environments. His work has been supported with nearly $6 million in external funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Georgia Coastal Management Program. He has participated in more than 60 field programs in 13 countries and has been the chief scientist on nearly 30 expeditions. Alexander has been the recipient of several honors, including the Preservation Achievement Award from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

He joined the Skidaway Institute’s faculty as an assistant professor in 1991 after earning his doctorate and master’s degrees from North Carolina State University and two bachelor’s degrees from Humboldt State University in California.

“Since 1968, Skidaway Institute faculty and staff have worked to create new knowledge and produce highly trained students in the marine sciences,” Alexander said. “Through new program initiatives within the department of marine sciences and new collaborations with other colleagues at UGA and throughout the University System of Georgia, we are building on that legacy to enhance research and education statewide. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the institute during this exciting time in our history.”

The UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a multidisciplinary research and training institution located on a 700-acre campus on Skidaway Island, southeast of downtown Savannah. Its primary goals are to further the understanding of marine and environmental processes, conduct leading-edge research on coastal and marine systems, and train tomorrow’s scientists. For more information on the Skidaway Institute, see http://www.skio.uga.edu/.

New faces on campus

We have a number of new faces on campus, although some may be leaving us shortly.

Alisia Holland is a first year doctoral grad student in Julia Diaz’s lab. She recently graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in geology. Alisia is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Mariele Paiva is a Brazilian Ph.D. student from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG). She is working in Cliff Buck’s lab. Mariele has particular interests in natural chemical tracers of marine processes such as submarine groundwater discharge and marine geochemical cycling. She is sponsored by the Nippon Foundation and Partnership for Observation Oceanography. Mariele spent the first year of her research work at the Alfred Wegener Institute (Germany), working on the measurement of dissolved and particulate Thorium-228 and Radiuim-224 in coastal waters. She was recently granted a scholarship by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel for a one-year-visit study at Skidaway Institute. Here, she will work on sediment samples from the Southwestern Atlantic Shelf.

Sarah Zajovits has been interning in Aron Stubbins’ lab this summer. She is from Raleigh, N.C. and is a junior marine science major at the University of South Carolina. Sarah plans to go to graduate school when she graduates. Her work this summer has focused on dissolved inorganic and organic carbon. “Nothing makes me happier than the sun, sand and the sea; so it looks like I’ve found where I’m meant to be,” Sarah said.

Russell Nicholson, a senior biology major at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, has been interning in Liz Harvey’s lab this summer. He is studying the effects of marine bacterial metabolites on phytoplankton, specifically the toxicity of algicidal compounds, which kill or limit the growth of algae. For his experiments, he runs bioassays with the coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi, and uses fluorescence probes to detect stress signals that identify the algicidal compounds’ mechanism of action. He also accompanied Liz on a research cruise off the coast of Bermuda aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer.

Sam Khallaghi is working in Clark Alexander’s lab this month. He is a Ph.D. student at Clark University. Sam is originally from Iran. He has two master’s degrees, one from Tabriz University in Iran on applications of GIS and remote sensing with focus on land and water resources, and a second one from Lund University in Sweden, specializing in geomatics. In 2014, he moved from Sweden to the United States and joined Hewlett-Packard in Sunnyvale, Calf., as a network security technical support engineer. He began his doctoral program at Clark University in 2016.

His current project has several objectives, “But the two main ones are to make a land cover map of Sapelo Island using five time points, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017, and then do a post classification change analysis to find the metrics of change in the study area,” he said. “Then the findings would come out in the form of a report and hopefully a journal article.”

The Gray’s Reef dive team welcomes Erika Sawicki, this year’s Dr. Lee H. Somers American Academy of Underwater Sciences Scientific Diving Internship scholarship winner. The scientific diving internship provides undergraduates with experience and exposure to research and field work at environmental organizations around the country.

Erika recently graduated from the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine with a double major in ocean studies and marine affairs, and environmental science with a minor in philosophy.

Erika recently received her AAUS certification at the Scripps Research Institute. She will use her new training for the month of August assisting GRNMS staff on dive missions. To read about her adventures, please visit her blog at http://blog.owuscholarship.org/.

Two NOAA staffers honored

Two Skidaway Island-based NOAA staffers were recently recognized with prestigious awards from NOAA. Reed Bohne and Marybeth Head were presented the awards on May 23rd in Washington, D.C.

Bohne was awarded the NOAA Distinguished Career Award for “exceptional contributions to the management and growth of the National Marine Sanctuary and National Estuarine Research Reserve systems.” Bohne supervises six of the system’s 13 national marine sanctuaries, including Gray’s Reef.

NOAA Corps Ensign Head, who also serves as the Vessel Operations Coordinator at Gray’s Reef, received the NOAA Bronze Medal Award, the highest award granted by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. Ensign Head was recognized for “rapid integration and deployment of Autonomous Surface Vessels for hydrographic use aboard the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.”

Gray’s Reef joins GPB for “Live Exploration”

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, in collaboration with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), created a livestream virtual dive event on May 10th from the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium. More than 35,000 viewers from as far away as Romania tuned in from their homes, schools and offices to dive into a 30-minute virtual field trip of Gray’s Reef.

GPB host Ashley Mengwasser, GRNMS Superintendent Sarah Fangman and UGA research scientist Scott Noakes discuss Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary during the livestream. Photo M. Riley/GRNMS

The virtual expedition included underwater surgery on a fish to insert a tagging transmitter and beautiful views of the vibrant and abundant marine life found at Gray’s Reef. Viewers learned how Gray’s Reef was formed, how the seafloor serves as a habitat and how they can help protect the reef from major threats.

The sanctuary’s communications coordinator, Michelle Riley, worked with GPB’s Education division in Atlanta to create the event using underwater footage of Gray’s Reef and featuring sanctuary superintendent Sarah Fangman and UGA researcher Scott Noakes as experts. Emily Woodward and her colleagues at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant provided substantial support to the event, and aquarium staff updated the tanks with a colorful new interpretation of Gray’s Reef. UGA’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography provided technical assistance, utilizing the expertise of senior system administrator Wayne Aaron.

Targeted to students, the livestream included a question-and-answer session with Fangman and Noakes, during which viewers submitted more than 1,000 questions. The event was accompanied by supplemental materials tailored to Georgia Department of Education standards for K-12. GPB had hoped for an audience of 3,000 – 5,000, and was pleased that the participation level was substantially higher than originally expected.

To view the archived event, go to http://www.gpb.org/education/explore/grays-reef.

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 Chris.Hines@noaa.gov; 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 http://graysreef.noaa.gov/management/sac/council_news.html

Skidaway Island shredding event, Saturday April 16

A shredding event in honor of recently deceased Skidaway Island resident Flip Boggs will be held on Saturday, April 16, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at the Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church. The shredding services will be provided by Savannah Shredding. Donations will benefit the local SAFE Shelter for victims of domestic violence. For additional information, contact Ray or Diane Krstolic at 598-8303.

Gray’s Reef to host MATE ROV competition

The Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will host the Southeast Regional MATE ROV completion on Saturday, April 30, at the Chatham County Aquatic Center on Sally Mood Drive.

The theme of this year’s event is “ROV Encounters in Inner and Outer Space – NASA’s mission from the Gulf of Mexico to Jupiter’s moon Europa.”

ROV Pic w

The primary mission of the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center is to provide the marine technical workforce with appropriately educated workers and to use marine technology to create interest in and improve STEM education.

The participating teams are typically students from middle school through college. There are four classes of competition, the winner of the RANGER-class (intermediate competition aimed at middle and high school teams) will move up to the MATE International Competition at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Organizer Jody Patterson is looking for volunteers to help with the event. Contact her at 598-2431.