Category Archives: skidaway campus notes

Benthic chambers and the R/V Savannah

By Debbie Jahnke

Editor’s Note: Rick and Debbie Jahnke were long time fixtures at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Rick was a faculty scientist and, for a short time, interim director. Debbie was his research coordinator. They retired in 2008 and now reside in Port Townsend, Wash.

Wandering through the latest Skidaway Campus Notes (Fall 2017), I encountered “R/V Savannah Demonstrates a Broad Geographic Range in 2017,” and there was a photo of an autonomous vehicle being recovered by the R/V Savannah in the Gulf of Mexico. That particular autonomous vehicle appears to be one of a family that started life as a BECI (Benthic Experimental Chamber Instrument), first built at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and then trucked across country in 1987 when the Jahnkes moved to Savannah and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. (Back then, we weren’t “the Jahnkes” yet. That didn’t happen until 1999.)

Two more BECIs of this type were built at Skidaway Institute but Lee Knight (emeritus Assistant Director/Engineer) had them constructed with hexagonal structural horizontals rather than the circular original. Skidaway Institute’s machine shop didn’t have the equipment to make the round bend. One of the BECIs was lost at sea on the Ceara Rise, an underwater feature off the east coast of Brazil in 1994.

When we departed Skidaway for our “left coast” retirement in 2008, Martial Taillefert (Georgia Tech) was kind enough to adopt the old BECIs and various other benthic instruments and all their paraphernalia. It’s a pleasure to see what appears to be a BECI or a close relative in active use. There’s an additional float on her frame now, which must mean there is also more of a scientific payload to buoy.

It is a bonus to note that the BECI is going to sea on the R/V Savannah, as Rick had been closely involved in the design of the vessel and was acting director of Skidaway Institute when Trish Windom christened our brand-new, almost-finished ship in the Bath, Maine shipyard. Rick served briefly as acting director between Herb Windom’s retirement and the arrival of Jim Sanders as new director.

The completed R/V Savannah arrived from the shipyard in Maine just after midnight on September 12, 2001. Rick and I were waiting on the Skidaway Institute dock with Lee Knight when our ship appeared out of the dark downriver, heading for her new home. The World Trade Towers had just fallen, and chaos was in force. The crew hadn’t had radio contact, so we didn’t even know if they were okay. Skidaway Institute had a muted commissioning celebration for our new ship.

Now, Skidaway Institute has gained a new director who originally arrived as a post-doc quite a few years ago, and now has quite a bit of gray in his beard (Congratulations, Clark!). We’ve been retired more than nine years, but the BECI and her benthic companions are still hard at work. We wish the BECIs, the R/V Savannah and all their human collaborators past, present and future, a happy and successful 2018.

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Hollywood comes to Skidaway campus

Priests Landing on the Wilmington River side of the Skidaway campus 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 when 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.

The film stars Hugh Jackman as Hart and Sara Paxton as Donna Rice. For additional information on the movie, visit IMDB.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7074886/

Fundraising event supports oyster aquaculture in Georgia

By: Emily Woodward
UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

More than 300 people turned out for the second annual Oyster Roast for Reason to benefit UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Guests feasted on roasted wild oysters and sampled raw, single oysters on the half shell provided by Savannah Clam Co. that originated at the UGA Oyster Hatchery on Skidaway Island in Savannah. Sponsors of the event came from as far as Atlanta.

“Anything we can do to spotlight what’s happening on our coast is important for growing the (oyster) industry in the state,” said Bryan Rackley, co-owner of Kimball House restaurant in Decatur, Ga., and co-founder of Oyster South, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing aquaculture in the southern U.S. “There’s so much upside across the board to improving oyster aquaculture. From the environment to the economy; everybody benefits.”

Guests received commemorative oyster shuckers and pint glasses. Many watched Georgia defeat Auburn in the SEC championship game, shown on a big screen television set up on the bluff behind the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium. Music was provided by American Hologram, a Savannah favorite.

The event is designed to raise awareness of the hatchery, which has been growing oysters from larvae since 2015. When the spat (baby oysters) grow to roughly the size of a pencil eraser they are given to shellfish farmers on the Georgia coast, who cultivate them to maturity.

Money raised by the roast supports the hatchery.

“Our plan is to purchase additional larval tanks, water storage tanks and other equipment that will allow us to increase production in the hatchery,” said Tom Bliss, director of the Shellfish Research Lab, a part of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

In 2017, the hatchery produced between 1,500,000 and 2,100,000 spat, exceeding the needs of the developing industry. Just over 500,000 spat were planted by shellfish growers, with a potential harvest value of $125,000 to $250,000. Interest in farming oysters continues to rise as changes in regulation are anticipated to occur.

Proceeds from Oyster Roast for a Reason will help the Shellfish Lab move closer to the goal to produce 15 million spat, with harvest valued between $3 million and $7.5 million. Some of the money raised also will support a 12-week internship for a college student, who will work in the hatchery and on research projects focused on testing new equipment and methods to make oyster farming easier for growers.

NSF grant funds Diaz’s research

Julia Diaz

UGA Skidaway Institute researcher 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.” Diaz 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 and the funding began on Sept. 1, 2017.

UGA Skidaway Institute’s 76-year-old Roebling House gets a makeover

One of the oldest buildings on Skidaway Island, the Roebling House at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, recently received a facelift courtesy of Lowe’s community service program, Lowe’s Heros.

The Roebling House today at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

Long before there was The Landings and thousands of residents on Skidaway Island, the Roebling family operated a cattle farm named Modena Plantation on the north end of the island. Robert and Dorothy Roebling and their family arrived on the island in 1935 on board their three-masted schooner, the Black Douglas.

The Roeblings were part of a prominent and wealthy New Jersey family. Robert’s great-grandfather, John A. Roebling emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1832. An engineer by profession, the elder Roebling became one of the first developers of what was called “twisted wire cable,” which is used in the construction of large suspension bridges. The John A. Roebling’s Sons Co. manufactured cable and built bridges. Roebling’s most famous project was the Brooklyn Bridge, considered an engineering marvel at the time of its construction.

Advancing several generations to the 1930s, Robert and Dorothy Roebling wanted to move their family away from the Depression-era, crime ridden Northeast, and purchased a several-hundred acre hunting preserve, Modena Plantation, from a friend of theirs, Ralph Isham, and turned it into a cattle breeding operation.

Shortly after their arrival, they constructed the structural framework for the Roebling House. However, the family continued to live on the boat, and the building remained a skeleton for several years. In early 1941, the family sold the Black Douglas to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, forcing the couple and five children to obtain new quarters.

“There was a mad scramble for plywood and building materials to finish the house before the start of the war, which everyone knew was coming,” according to W.R. “Rip” Roebling, one of the Roebling’s sons.

When completed, the building had four bedrooms on the southern side and baths on either end. The only insulation was some sheetrock on the ceiling. Foldout windows on the upper landing provided a fair amount of circulation during the summer months. Heating came from a wood furnace at the east end of the living room. It was connected to a stovepipe that ran the entire length of the building, as Roebling said, “to squeeze every last BTU out of it.”

“Unquestionably, it was spartan but you probably wouldn’t have known it by the time Mother finished decorating the place with cozy couches, tapestries, Persian rugs and game trophies that surrounded two side-by-side grand pianos in the center of the room, creating a lodge effect,” Roebling recalled.

World-famous composer Johnny Mercer (far left) visits with Robert (seated with pipe) and Dorothy Roebling in the Roebling House.

The Roeblings were heavily involved in the Savannah social scene and entertained at their island home. One notable visitor was world-famous composer Johnny Mercer.

In 1968, the Roeblings donated their land to the state to create the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. The Roebling House was the site of the institute’s administrative offices until a laboratory and administration building could be built a couple of years later. In recent years, the institute has used the building for meetings, group meals and social events. The years have taken a toll on the building, however, and a kind description would have been “rustic.”

In stepped Lowe’s Heros, spearheaded by Molly and Owen Riggs from Lowe’s Abercorn Street store. Lowe’s Heros is a program by which the company and its employees reach out to their communities through each individual store.

“The couple said they have done annual projects around town including the Ronald McDonald house, but this year they wanted to look around for a new recipient,” Chuck Hartman, Skidaway Institute’s director of land and facilities, said.

“With the assessment we made of the Roebling House, we saw that the kitchen area needed some updating, and the paint inside the building was needed,” Owen Riggs said. “Also, we decided to do some work in the restrooms to bring them to more of a comfortable atmosphere.”

Riggs assembled a team of 20 volunteers from the store. They included colleagues from management, sales and the delivery staff. In addition to the associates, the team also had two of Lowe’s plumbing installers help.

The volunteers replaced the kitchen cabinets, counters, sink and installed new vinyl flooring. Upstairs they installed lauan plywood to the railing to screen from below. They also replaced flooring in the bathrooms, installed new toilets and added a fresh coat of bright white paint on the downstairs walls that brightened the room. The work was completed over two days, with all the materials supplied by Lowe’s.

Along with other improvements, Lowe’s Heros installed new cabinets, counters and flooring in the Roebling House kitchen.

“Each store is given a grant through our corporate headquarters,” Riggs said. “If a contractor were to do this type and amount of work, the labor costs alone would reach $5,000 to $6,000.” Adding the cost of materials – roughly $2,500 – would have brought the total price tag close to $8,000. However, the project was free to Skidaway Institute.

“No charges were given to the Skidaway Institute, because this was the project we wanted to work on,” Riggs said.

According to Riggs, the project was a bit of an eye opener. Many of his volunteers had visited the campus in the past, but they had never seen the Roebling House.

“Learning about it and its history from Chuck Hartman was very interesting,” he said.

Environmental group honors Skidaway campus employees

The environmental group One Hundred Miles recently honored three campus employees by inducting them into their second class of the One Hundred Miles 100: Individuals and Businesses Making a Difference for Georgia’s Coast.

Jay Brandes

UGA Skidaway Institute researcher Jay Brandes was recognized for his research and efforts on plastics and microplastics in the coastal environment.

Each of the first 50 nominees was asked to choose someone they wished to honor to complete the second set of 50. Brandes chose his partner on the microplastics project, Dodie Sanders from the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“I can honestly say that I would not have been able to ramp up this work without her encouragement, assistance and wisdom about the coastal environment here,” Brandes said. “Dodie is a relentlessly positive, innovative educator who has taught me a great deal about working with the public, K-12 teachers and students.”

In addition, Becky Shortland from Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary was also honored. Sapelo Island Manager Fred Hay nominated Shortland “for her pivotal role in bringing the Coastal Management Program to Georgia.”

One Hundred Miles hosted a reception to celebrate the honorees on January 13th following their Choosing to Lead Conference on Jekyll Island.

Evening @ Skidaway launches UGA Skidaway Institute’s 50th anniversary celebration

Since 1968, when the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography was founded, the science of oceanography has grown by giant proportions. Now a part of the University of Georgia, Skidaway Institute has been in the middle of that growth, conducting marine research from the coast of Georgia to sites all over the world.

The story of that growth and how UGA Skidaway Institute contributed to it will be the focus of a special Evening @ Skidaway program on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in the McGowan Library on the University of Georgia Skidaway Marine Science Campus. (10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411) The event will begin with a reception at 6:15 p.m., followed by the program at 7 p.m.

Herb Windom

In a talk titled “50 Years of Science at Skidaway Institute: People, Platforms and Partnerships,” Skidaway Institute scientist Herb Windom will look back at the amazing progress of marine research and the way it has opened mankind’s eyes to the wonders and mysteries of the ocean.

In 1968, Windom was the first faculty scientist hired at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. As he conducted his own research, he also watched the science grow as new researchers and technology allowed scientists to answer questions they hadn’t known to ask years earlier. Windom also served as director of the Institute for several years in the 1990s. He retired in 2001, but remains active as an emeritus professor, conducting research and advising other scientists.

The program is open to the public, and admission is free. Space is limited. To reserve a seat, please call (912) 598-2325 or email mike.sullivan@skio.uga.edu.

The Evening @ Skidaway program will kick off a year-long series of special events to celebrate the Institute’s 50th anniversary.

March 13 — Dr. Bill Savidge / So how much is a salt marsh really worth?
April 10 – Dr. Dana Savidge / Ocean Forces in the Graveyard of the Atlantic
May 15 — Open Lab Night / Visit informally with researchers in their labs.
June 12 –Dr. Catherine Edwards/ Exploring the Ocean with Underwater Robots
July 10 — Open Lab Night
August 14 — Dr. Cliff Buck / Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Problem
September 11 — Dr. Clark Alexander / Sea Level Rise and What It Means to Coastal Georgia
October 9 —  Dr. Jay Brandes / Microplastics: The New Pollution
November 13 — Dr. Elizabeth Harvey / The Magnificent World of Plankton