Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant welcomes new educators

By: Emily Woodward

Four recent college graduates have been awarded one-year education internships with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Funded by Georgia Sea Grant, the interns will serve as educators for students, teachers and members of the coastal community.

The interns will spend 50 weeks on Skidaway Island at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium offering educational programs focused on the ecology of Georgia’s coastal and estuarine ecosystems. They will also participate in community outreach by attending events like CoastFest and Skidaway Marine Science Day.

They began their training in September just as Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the coast, which presented a unique opportunity for them to learn how to prepare the aquarium for evacuation. With Irma now in the rearview, the new educators get to shadow Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s faculty and staff and gain the skills they need to teach all of the classes offered at the center.

The interns are:

Isabella Espinoza graduated from Boston University with a degree in biology, specializing in behavioral biology. For the past two summers, she worked with the Brookline Recreation nature camp in Massachusetts. The camp focuses on local nature education for all ages and has an outdoor adventure component for the older age groups. She also worked as a learning assistant in a vertebrate zoology lab course at Boston University. The course focused on the adaptations and life histories of species from the major vertebrate groups (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals).

Victoria Green is from Ormond Beach, Fla. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in earth and ocean sciences and a certificate in Marine Science Conservation and Leadership. She studied at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., and at Seacamp in the Florida Keys. Through these experiences, she’s learned to take complicated marine science topics and translate it into information that K-12 grade students can absorb.

Mandy Castro is from San Diego, Calif. She graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., with a degree in biological sciences and a minor in education and child studies. For the past three summers, she has been part of a team of Smith College student educators teaching marine science and conservation to local school children in Belize. While in Belize, she also collected data for her honors thesis, which focused on characterizing hard and soft corals of Mexico Rocks, a marine protected reef complex north of San Pedro.

Megan Wilson is from Salt Lake City, Utah. In high school, she began volunteering and interning at the Living Planet Aquarium, Utah’s only aquarium. She graduated from California State University in Long Beach with a degree in marine biology. In college, she conducted undergraduate research on the metabolic rate of the California horn shark. She also raised jellyfish while working for Sunset Marine Labs and acquired her environmental education skills while working in the education department at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Calif.

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Priests Landing site of movie production

Priests Landing was the scene of a major motion picture shoot on Friday, Nov. 3.  The feature film, The Front Runner, is based on the story of Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign. Hart’s presidential ambitions were derailed with his extra-marital activities became known. The Priests Landing dock was used to shoot scenes on the yacht “Monkey Business” which was at the center of the Hart story. For more information on the film, click here. 

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/.

Savannah Sultry Swamp Run held at Skidaway campus

The first Savannah Sultry Swamp Run was held on the trails at Priest Landing on July 29. The 34 competitors ran a 3.1 mile loop multiple times for total distances ranging from five to 20 kilometers. The race organizers awarded prizes, not only to the race winners, but also to the runner who gathered the most trash from the course.

The starting line was a Priests Landing.

“One particular runner, Michelle Vail, picked up a ridiculous amount of garbage,” race organizer Dan Hernandez said.

Michelle Vail

The race had originally been planned for Tom Triplett Park, but recent heavy rains flooded parts of that course. Race organizers asked permission to move the race to the Skidaway campus.

A portion of the proceeds from the race benefited the South East Georgia chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA), part of the International Mountain Bicycling Association. SEGA-SORBA is a volunteer non-profit 501(c)(3) organization formed to promote great off-road bike trails in Southeast Georgia.

“I am a huge fan of what that organization does for the establishment and maintenance of the trails in our community,” Hernandez said. “If it wasn’t for SEGA-SORBA we wouldn’t have enough wild places to run, bike and hike in our community.”

SEGA-SORBA maintains off-road biking trails located on the Skidaway campus.

NOSB national winners visit Skidaway campus

The winning team of the National Ocean Science Bowl visited the Skidaway campus in July. The four-person team from Santa Monica High School (California) was awarded a week-long trip as first prize.

Marine Superintendent John Bichy explains Skidaway Institute’s marine operations to the NOSB winners.

The four high school students spent the morning of July 18th visiting the aquarium. After lunch they walked across campus to Skidaway Institute, where Mike Sullivan gave them an overview of the institute. Brian Binder, from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences, described the marine science program at UGA. The team toured the campus and visited several labs. John Bichy showed them through the R/V Savannah. The afternoon wrapped up with research presentations from Liz Harvey and Cliff Buck.

An interdisciplinary ocean science education program of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the NOSB tests students’ knowledge of ocean-related topics, including cross-disciplines of biology, chemistry, policy, physics, and geology. To qualify for NOSB finals, the 25 competing teams first had to win their regional competitions. The regional competition for Georgia and South Carolina was held at Savannah State University in early February. In total, approximately 392 teams, made up of 1,960 students representing 33 states, participated.

Sarah Fangman moves to Florida Keys NMS

By Michele Riley
Gray’s Reef recently announced that NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has selected Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary superintendent, Sarah Fangman, as the new superintendent for its sister sanctuary, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Sarah has been a dear member of the Gray’s Reef family and will be an effective leader for the Keys. She has been with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries since 1998. Sarah moved to Savannah in 2005 to serve as the program coordinator for the sanctuary system’s Southeast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region, and worked in the Florida Keys extensively before becoming the superintendent of Gray’s Reef in 2014.

Gray’s Reef remains in good hands as Aria Remondi, on temporary assignment from NOAA Headquarters, is serving as acting superintendent at Gray’s Reef until September. Following, in the fall will be George Sedberry, also in an acting capacity. George is the science coordinator for the sanctuary system’s Southeast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region and is based here on campus. Many readers might already know George, since he previously served as Gray’s Reef’s superintendent in the mid-2000s.

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/.