Tag Archives: aquarium

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.


Rider helped educate UGA Aquarium visitors, now back in his natural habitat

By: Emily Woodward
UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

Rider, a loggerhead sea turtle who spent the last three years at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, was returned to his natural home in the ocean.

“It went well,” said Devin Dumont, head curator at the aquarium. “Rider seemed a little unsure at first, but after we placed him in the water, his instincts kicked in and he went on his way.”

Prior to the release, Rider was tagged by Joe Pfaller, research director of the Caretta Research Project, so that he can be identified if encountered again. After receiving the tags, the 50-pound sea turtle was loaded onto a skiff and transported to Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Once at the beach, Dumont and Lisa Olenderski, assistant curator at the aquarium, lifted him from his tub and placed him on the sand.

Lisa Olenderski encourages Rider to walk towards the ocean.

Rider crawled forward a few inches before stopping, as if not quite sure what to do next. With a little help from Dumont and Olenderksi, Rider eventually made it to the surf where he swam in circles a few times, orienting himself to his new surroundings, before disappearing into the waves.

Lisa Olenderski and Devin Dumont carry Rider into deeper water.

Rider arrived at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium as a straggler discovered during a nest excavation by members of Caretta Research Project who monitor the sea turtle nests on Wassaw Island. Stragglers that don’t make it out of the nest with the rest of the hatchlings typically have a much lower chance of survival. By giving them a temporary home at the aquarium, it increases the likelihood that they’ll make it in the wild.

Rider played an important role educating visitors to the UGA Aquarium. As an ambassador sea turtle, he was featured in multiple marine education classes and outreach programs for all age groups, from pre-K to adult.

“We estimate that Rider saw about 70,000 visitors,” said Lisa Olenderski. “If each of those people left knowing just one new fact about sea turtles or gained a new appreciation for them, it’s all worth it.”

In preparation for the release, Rider was fed live food, such as blue crabs and mussels, to practice active foraging and hunting skills. Aquarium staff also received approval from Dr. Terry Norton, director and founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources prior to the release.

“We’re always appreciative of the opportunity to work with multiple partners on the coast through our ambassador sea turtle program,” said Dumont. “Because of this collaborative effort, Rider has a much stronger chance of making it to adulthood.”

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.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant offers December public programs

Check out the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant events calendar for new public programs offered this winter and spring:  http://marex.uga.edu/calendar/

December Events

December 10: SEA program: Holiday Hike with John Crawford, 1-4 p.m., cost $22

December 14: Full Moon Night Hike, 6:30-7:30 p.m., cost: $10

December 21: Junior Aquarist, open to youth 10-15 years old, 9 a.m. – noon, cost: $22

Registration is required one week prior to any program. For more information or to register, contact Kayla Clark at kayla270@uga.edu or (912) 598-3345.

MAREX intern class on campus

The 2015-16 class of Georgia Sea Grant interns has arrived at Marine Extension.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKayla Clark is from Old Chatham, N.Y. She recieved a B.A. in sociology with a minor in marine science from Smith College in Northampton, Mass.  Before coming to intern at Marine Extension, Kayla worked as an environmental educator for Coral Reef Ed-Ventures in San Pedro, Belize, the Alabama Four-H Center Science School, and the New York Aquarium.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJessica Hernandez grew up in Bakersfield, Calf. with, according to her, “the valley at her feet, a trio of mountain ranges in her backyard, and the ocean never more than a short drive to the west.”

She graduated from Pomona College last May with a B.A. in biology. Throughout college she had opportunities to research diet patterns of Chinstrap penguins; osmoregulation in Australian White’s tree frogs; homing behavior of northern spring salamanders; and the effects of urbanization on testosterone levels in male Western fence lizards. This summer she interned at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, where she was able to study and monitor Loggerhead sea turtles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACaitlin Shea-Vantine is from Bridgeport, Conn. She graduated from Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. with a B.S. in biology. She is very interested in ichthyology and the effects of acidification and climate change. As an undergraduate, she spent a semester abroad studying marine life in the Galapagos Islands. Caitlin has previously held internships with the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Conn., the ECHO Lake and Science Center in Burlington, Vt. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her marine biology interests began at the Maritime Aquarium marine science summer camp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesenia Feliciano is from Perth Amboy, N.J, and a 2015 graduate of Stockton University with a B.S. marine Science and a concentration in marine biology.  She worked a summer internship with the New Logic Marine Science Camp in New Jersey in the summer of 2014. In addition Yesenia also did  ROV peer mentoring for Philly Sea Perch last spring  for an underwater robotics course.

“Through these experiences and education, it has inspired me to go further into marine science education and outreach,” she said.  “My goal is to find new ways in helping the general public to become more educated about the marine environment and to find ways for the them to be more active in helping restore the environment as well.”

Pavilion will give UGA Aquarium visitors an outdoor place to gather

by Michele Johnson

Thanks to a private gift, visitors to the UGA Marine Extension Service will soon have an outdoor pavilion where they can gather when visiting the Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Springer Mountain Farms and company president Gus Arrendale, a UGA alumnus, made the $25,000 gift that will be used to buy materials for the facility. The Barn Builders, a volunteer group of residents who live near the island, will construct the pavilion free of charge.

“I am proud to be able to give back to my alma mater with this pavilion. I think it will help facilitate learning and the enjoyment of the unique outdoor environment in which only Georgia has to offer,” said Gus Arrendale, president of Springer Mountain Farms. “From the peak of Springer Mountain to the Georgia coast, protecting the environment is high on our list of priorities here at Springer Mountain Farms.”

An artist's rendering of the pavilion under construction.

An artist’s rendering of the pavilion under construction.

More than 25,000 people, including school groups, summer campers and tourists, visit the UGA Aquarium each year to learn about the beautiful Georgia coast. The pavilion will provide an outdoor place for visitors to gather rain or shine.

“Visitors, especially school groups, have been asking for a place to eat for years,” said Anne Lindsay, associate director for marine education at the UGA Marine Extension Service and Georgia Sea Grant, units of the Office of Public Service and Outreach. “We have never had a place where student groups could gather on their own and out of rainy and windy weather.”

The 1,000-square-feet pavilion will be located near the beginning of the Jay Wolf Nature Trail that runs along the Skidaway River, and will include water, lights, ceiling fans and large sturdy picnic tables that will seat about 50 people.

“The pavilion will allow folks to stay on campus just a little longer and will add to the convenience of the site as a field trip destination,” Lindsay said.

The Barn Builders have done volunteer work at the UGA Aquarium for about five years, constructing lean-to sheds, fences and gates, shelving, picnic tables, information kiosks and much more.

“Whatever project they come up with, we’ll try to tackle it,” said Lars Ljungdahl, a Barn Builders volunteer. “At our age, retired as we are, we have the time. We like to give back.”

The project should be completed by this fall.

Based in Mt Airy, Ga., Springer Mountain Farms is a family owned company that produces chickens raised on a pesticide-free, vegetarian diet without the use of antibiotics, steroids, growth stimulants or hormones. Springer Mountain Farms was the first poultry producer in the world to gain the endorsement of the American Humane Association under its American Human Certified program. Its chickens are supplied to grocery stores, restaurants and chefs across the country and around the world.

MAREX interns organize first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit

By Maegan Snyder

Fifty middle and high school students from 15 Georgia cities and five states attended Georgia’s first Youth Ocean Conservation Summit on Feb. 28 at the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

The event was sponsored by the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, units of the Office of Public Service and Outreach, and organized by Georgia Sea Grant Marine Education interns Cara Lin, Beth Smith, Maeve Snyder and Sean Russell.Youth summit 2 w All of the day’s activities focused on empowering youth participants with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to successfully launch ocean conservation projects in their own communities.

“The summit provides a unique opportunity for students to come together with their peers, learn about ocean conservation issues in their local communities and start to develop solutions for those problems,” said Russell, who earned his bachelor of science degree in biology in 2013 from the University of Florida, and founded the first YOCS in 2011 at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida. “When we look at the big picture, it’s overwhelming and many people simply don’t know where to start. I think the most important thing we want students to take away from the summit is to just start somewhere and take action.”

Keynote speaker Cathy Sakas, chair of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and co-founder of Ocean Exchange, a conservation advocacy group that links other organizations together to promote solutions to ocean conservation problems, kicked off the day. She provided participants with an introduction on how to effectively communicate messages regarding ocean conservation, as well as inspiring stories of ocean stewardship.

“The Georgia coast is small, but we have a major impact on the entire ecosystem,” she said. “You have already taken the first step in making a difference just by being here and learning about these important issues.”

Students also attended a panel discussion on environmental conservation with representatives from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Georgia coastal advocacy organization One Hundred Miles, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and UGA Marine Extension.

In the afternoon, students had the opportunity to work on action plans for their own ocean conservation projects with mentors from numerous conservation organizations and activist groups. The projects ranged from organizing community cleanup efforts and rebuilding oyster reefs to raising awareness on preventing plastic pollution and marine debris.

“I came to the summit because I wanted to enhance my interest in marine biology and learn what I can do to take action and save the environment,” said Sarah Katherine Bass, a sixth-grader from the Habersham School in Savannah. “If this generation doesn’t take charge, then who will?”

Bass and two other students from the Habersham School plan to create a series of YouTube videos and other social media accounts that show the causes of marine debris and what it can do to the various animals in the ocean. Their goal is to encourage people to not just help the environment, but also spread awareness of marine debris and its impact.

After the event, students were connected to the Youth Ocean Conservation Team, a worldwide network of past summit participants and other ocean conservation advocates who are dedicated to protecting marine ecosystems. The team continues to provide support to participants throughout the year, connecting them to resources that support their projects and allowing them to collaborate with other young people who are passionate about similar conservation issues.

“Young people bring new ideas and an incredible enthusiasm to the field of ocean conservation,” said Russell. “I’ve been very impressed with how these students have stepped up and became leaders in ocean conservation. I truly believe that if each of us does one small piece, that can really add up to have a big impact.”

The Georgia Sea Grant Marine Education Internship Program began in 1987. The program awards one-year internships to four recent graduates to serve as educators for the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island. Interns live onsite for 50 weeks and teach students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. Interns also conduct outreach at local schools by judging science fair projects, teaching during science nights and field-testing their educational curricula. Georgia Sea Grant is now accepting applications for interns for the 2015-2016 academic year. For more information, see http://marex.uga.edu/sea_grant_internship/.

Contact: Anne Lindsay, 912-598-2355, lindsaya@uga.edu