Tag Archives: marine science

New grants to fund Skidaway Institute research

A series of new research grants will support UGA Skidaway Institute research projects for the coming years.

Julia Diaz is the lead scientist on a $852,906 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Collaborative Research: Assessing the role of compound specific phosphorus hydrolase transformations in the marine phosphorus cycle.” Julia and her colleague, Solange Duhamel from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, will study how phytoplankton cope with shortages of phosphorus in the ocean, and if phytoplankton in phosphorus-rich environments also exhibit some of the same strategies. Skidaway Institute’s share of the grant is $296,831. The grant began on Sept. 1, 2017.

Cliff Buck has been approved for two new grants.

The first is a four-year, $350,412 award, beginning on January 1, 2018, from the NSF Arctic System Science Program. Cliff will work as part of an international team on the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) program in the central Arctic Ocean. The team plans to lock an icebreaker into the Arctic ice cap for a year and use it as a base of operations to study a wide range of Arctic processes. Cliff’s specialty will be studying the atmospheric deposition of trace elements.

The second is a three-year grant, for $466,135 from the NSF Ocean Section – Chemical Oceanography. It is titled “US GEOTRACES PMT: Quantification of Atmospheric Deposition and Trace Element Fractional Solubility” and will focus on atmospheric deposition to the Pacific Ocean. The grant will fund participation in the planned U.S. GEOTRACES Pacific Meridional Transect (PMT) from Alaska to Tahiti scheduled for September – November 2018 which is the dusty period in the Gulf of Alaska.

Sasha Wagner, Aron Stubbins and Jay Brandes have received an NSF grant totaling $577,082 to study oceanic dissolved black carbon. The project is titled “Constraining the source of oceanic dissolved black carbon using compound-specific stable carbon isotopes.” The grant will begin on February 1, 2018 and run for three years.


New faces on campus

MERARachel Usher is a volunteer lab technician in Jay Brandes’s lab. She is a Savannah native and a 2016 graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.S. in Ecology. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked in both marine and aquatic labs completing an honors thesis with UGA professor Amy Rosemond on carbon breakdown in urban streams. Currently, Rachel is working on a project quantifying the amount of microplastics in coastal sediment samples. In her free time she enjoys cooking in her wok, listening to podcasts and taking her dog on her boat.



Patrick Duffy is a newly arrived masters student in Liz Harvey’s lab. He grew up in the suburban town of Kingston, Pa.

“Coming from a landlocked state, the majority of my ‘interactions’ with the ocean were from watching Nature documentaries,” he said. “Despite this, I knew from a young age that I wanted to become a marine biologist.”

Patrick attended the University of Delaware and graduated with a B.S. in Marine Science. During his time at U.D., he interned in a lab investigating the chemical interactions between predators and their microscopic prey in marine systems.

“I am intrigued by the complexities of the factors involved in the communications between species in the planktonic environment and by their influence in oceanographic processes on both small and large scales,” he said.

He says he likes to spend as much of his free time as possible outdoors, specifically hiking, fishing, and playing soccer.

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:


Georgia Tech-UGA Skidaway Institute grad student defends dissertation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACatherine Edwards’ Ph.D. student, Dongsik Chang, successfully defended his dissertation July 11th in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. His dissertation was titled “Motion Tomography Performed by Underwater Mobile Sensor Networks.” He was co-advised by Catherine and Fumin Zhang of Georgia Tech.

Dongsik started his Ph.D. work in 2010 at the Georgia Tech Savannah campus, and began work with Catherine in 2011 for the NSF-funded Long Bay project. He developed the GENIoS (Glider Environment Networked Information System), which optimizes navigation of gliders based on information from real time model and observational data streams like HF radar, satellites, and operational ocean models. Dongsik’s dissertation defense focused on the concept of “motion tomography” pioneered by the Skidaway Institute/Georgia Tech glider lab. Similar to medical CT, which reconstructs 3-D images of objects, glider motion tomography uses the displacement of a glider by currents to reconstruct features of the flow field.

“His work bridging oceanography and engineering has been demonstrated to improve the quality of the data that can be collected by gliders, and has major implications for generalized fleets of autonomous underwater vehicles,” Catherine said. “Congratulations, Dongsik!”

Teachers join UGA Skidaway Institute research cruises

A Frischer lab cruise on board the R/V Savannah to hunt and collect doliolids had a pair of extra passengers in May. Two K-12 teachers joined the cruise. JoCasta Green is a pre-K teacher from Decatur, Ga., and Vicki Albritton is a middle school teacher at the STEM Academy here in Savannah. The two  were the second group of teachers to join a cruise this year, as part of a cooperative program between UGA Skidaway Institute and Georgia Southern University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEM). The goal of the i2STEM  program is to improve the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten through college throughout coastal Georgia.

“I was hoping to see science in action, and I did that all day long,” Albritton said. “I got to participate and learn what was going on and to take many pictures. Now I have a wealth of information to take back to the classroom.”

(l-r) Mike Sullivan, Aurea Rodriguezsanti (Hampton Univ), Natalia Lopez Figueroa (Hampton Univ), Lauren Lamboley, Vicki Albritton, Nick Castellane, JoCasta Green, Marc Frischer, Tina Walters

(l-r) Mike Sullivan, Aurea Rodriguezsanti (Hampton Univ), Natalia Lopez Figueroa (Hampton Univ), Lauren Lamboley, Vicki Albritton, Nick Castellane, JoCasta Green, Marc Frischer, Tina Walters

Albritton says an experience like the cruise raises teachers’ credibility in the classroom, because the students see the teachers going out to learn more themselves. “If I want them to be perpetual learners, then I need to demonstrate that same trait,” she said.

Although Green admitted she was nervous about the cruise initially, she credited the scientists with making her comfortable. “They were great teachers,” she said. “I understood what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

The partnership between UGA Skidaway Institute and i2STEM is expected to grow. Five additional doliolid cruises are scheduled this year with space available for as many as four teachers on each cruise. UGA Skidaway Institute will also offer two half-day cruises this month as part of i2STEM’s summer professional development workshop for teachers.

Sasha Wagner publishes first paper from SkIO

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASkidaway Institute post-doctoral associate Sasha Wagner published her first paper since arriving at Skidaway Institute. The paper, “Associations between the molecular and optical properties of dissolved organic matter in the Florida Everglades, a model coastal wetland system” was published in the journal Frontiers in Chemistry.

Sasha’s co-authors included Aron Stubbins; Rudolf Jaffe from Florida International University; Kaelin Cawley from the University of Colorado;  and Thorsten Dittmar from the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

The article can be read at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fchem.2015.00066/abstract

Edwards lab and Robertson conduct Winkler training

The Edwards lab and Charles Robertson conducted a campus-wide training session to teach the Winkler titration method to measure dissolved oxygen on Monday, October 26. The lesson focused on best practices and how to avoid common pitfalls. He also demonstrated tests to double check reagents and make sure a scientist is getting the best possible measurements using World Ocean Circulation Experiment protocols.

Charles Robertson explains the technique to (l-r) Tina Frazier, Kate Doyle and Katie Miller.

Charles Robertson explains the technique to (l-r) Tina Walters, Kate Doyle and Katie Miller.

The impetus behind the lesson was Catherine Edwards’ AUV, Modena, whichcame back from the Gulf of Mexico and needed a calibration on its oxygen sensor.

“Because we needed both optode (optical sensor) and CTD measurements, we collected in situ samples in the tank, which gave an opportunity for anyone on campus to calibrate their instruments simultaneously,” Catherine said.


Catherine Edwards supervises the removal of the AUV Modena from the water tank as Tina Walters, Katie Doyle (partially hidden), Thais Bittar and Christina Codden look on.

The teame did a three-point calibration, collecting samples with the tank fully oxygenated with bubblers and a recirculating pump. They then pumped in nitrogen to purge the tank of dissolved oxygen, getting down to about ten percent saturation.

“Not bad,” Catherine said.

They also took a mid-point sample in the 40 percent range, which is comparable to the conditions found in the Gulf of Mexico.  In total, the glider and six other instruments were calibrated.

In addition to Charles and Catherine, the participants included Christina Codden, Thais Bittar, Tina Walters, Kate Doyle and Katie Miller, a Habersham School intern with Gray’s Reef.