Tag Archives: university of georgia

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/.

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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.

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/.

Harvey lab spends May in Norway

Elizabeth Harvey and her research team traveled to Bergen, Norway in early May for a month’s worth of experiments at the Norwegian National Mesocosm Centre at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station.

l-r Kyle Mayers (Univ of Southampton), Thais Bittar, Sean Anderson and Karrie Bulski

In addition to Harvey, the team included Thaiss Bittar, Karrie Bulski, Patrick Duffy and Sean Anderson. They and their colleagues blogged about their adventures at: https://fjordphytoplankton.wordpress.com/

Kneeling (l-r) Anna Schrecengost (Haverford College), Patrick Duffy, Sean Anderson. Standing (l-r) Kyle Mayers (University of Southhampton), Karrie Bulski, Thais Bittar, Elizabeth Harvey, Kristen Whalen (Haverford College)

Symposium highlights UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant impacts

When Hurricane Matthew washed away 30 percent of Georgia’s sandy coastline last October, UGA was ready.

With funding from Georgia Sea Grant, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography already was studying sand resources and creating an inventory of sand deposits along the coast. Researchers are using that inventory to identify areas where sand was available to replenish the coastline that was lost during the storm. Replacing the lost sand is important to protect lives and property, as well as critical habitats, from coastal hazards.

Clark Alexander presents at the symposium.

“The sand resources in our state waters are the most poorly known of all the states along the east coast,” said Clark Alexander, interim director of Skidaway Institute. “This research enables us to create maps identifying offshore areas that are suitable for beach nourishment and habitat restoration projects. With these data, we can know where suitable sand exists if we need it in the future after major storms.”

Alexander was one of many researchers across Georgia who presented a project during the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Research Symposium in Athens on June 1.

Marc Frischer discusses his research into black gill in shrimp.

The annual symposium provides an opportunity for researchers to share their Sea Grant-funded work, network with others in the scientific community and look for collaborative ways to tackle the latest issues impacting the coast.

“Case studies presented during the symposium aptly illustrated Georgia Sea Grant’s success in elevating awareness of coastal issues, increasing local communities’ resilience to the effects of a changing climate and developing models that can be replicated to improve conditions on a global scale,” said Paul Wolff, chair of the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Advisory Board.

Jay Brandes discusses his work with microplastics on the Georgia coast.

From projects that look at how to get local seafood into inland markets to those that measure the productivity of Georgia’s expansive salt marshes, Sea Grant-funded research spans a variety of topics and emphasizes the importance of multidisciplinary, collaborative research and outreach to effectively enhance coastal communities and ecosystems.

Research proposals submitted to Georgia Sea Grant are expected to include an education and outreach component to ensure that results reach beyond the research community and are delivered to a diverse audience. Education and extension faculty and staff at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant work to incorporate Sea Grant-funded research into public programs, workshops and curricula targeted to pre-k through college age students, resource managers, decision makers, the seafood industry and beyond.

Kayla Clark describes the Georgia Sea Grant intern program.

“We received a record number of research funding preproposals this year and many of those submitting full proposals attended the research symposium,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “Being able to learn from projects that have proved successful should strengthen research efforts and allow us to support projects that move rapidly to application and impact.”

Other presenters from the Skidaway Marine Science Campus included Jay Brandes, Marc Frischer, Anne Lindsay and Kayla Clark.

 

Devotion to the Ocean: Savannah YOCS 2017

by McKenna Lyons
Sea Grant Intern

The University of Georgia’s third annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit took place earlier this year at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island. Thirty students between the ages of 12 and 17 heard from engaging keynote speakers, participated in skill-building workshops and created their own initiatives to tackle current conservation issues.

This event had been many months in the making, organized by the me and the three other Georgia Sea Grant interns at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium. I can’t say I was surprised by the vast number of logistics that had to be tackled in order to pull off this event. However, several things did catch me off-guard. First and foremost was the task of creating a project that would challenge the students to think critically and enthusiastically about conservation issues that were important to them.

Mare Timmons works with a summit student.

In turn, making a worksheet with guided questions challenged us to think about the important components of creating a conservation initiative. There was a good deal of mentally stimulating work to be done, which was a facet of the project that I greatly appreciated. Challenging ourselves to create a thorough program led to a successful event in which students not only learned how to make change, but also took the first steps towards doing so. Their projects addressed issues such as marine debris, deforestation and coral bleaching caused by sunscreen. It was extremely rewarding to see the students tackle what we had prepared for them with such enthusiasm.

Participants respond to a discussion.

A welcome surprise was the overwhelming amount of support we received as we were planning the event. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant employees, both from Skidaway Island and from Brunswick, Ga., were invested in our project and happy to help. They did everything from advertising to presenting on the day of the workshop. Their help was essential to the successful implementation of the summit, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have such dedicated people supporting us. We also received outside support in the form of donations from Stream2Sea, the Tybee Island Marine Science Center and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The donations were given to participants, not only as goodies, but as a way to familiarize and connect them with these other outstanding organizations. The scientific community in Georgia is a close-knit network of people who support one another to advance change and make positive impacts. I’m pleased that we were able to introduce the summit participants to this community.

All of our planning and preparation culminated in a successful summit ripe with creativity, dedication and inspiration. Keynote speakers included Clayton Ferrara, the executive director of IDEAS For Us, and Olivia and Carter Ries , the founders of One More Generation. Our colleagues, along with speakers from One Hundred Miles, Leadership Savannah and Savannah State University led science workshops and skill-building activities. The day ended on a spectacular note, with groups of students presenting well-developed and creative plans to undertake conservation initiatives of their own design. I speak for all of the Georgia Sea Grant marine education interns when I say that we couldn’t have hoped for a better event. Everyone that participated in this summit was inspiring, and the involvement of so many young people was a testament to the fact that anyone, at any age, can make a difference.

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.”