Tag Archives: Georgia Sea Grant

Devotion to the Ocean: Savannah YOCS 2017

By: McKenna Lyons
Georgia 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.

Marine Extension educator Mare Timmons works with a summit student.

This event had been many months in the making, organized by 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. 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, 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.

 

Registration is now open for the 2017 Youth Ocean Conservation Summit

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is hosting Georgia’s third annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island. This summit, one of several taking place across the country, empowers students with the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to successfully implement ocean conservation projects.

The event will include skill-building workshops, brainstorming sessions, citizen science presentations and panels featuring professionals working on coastal issues in Georgia. At the end of the day, students will work together to develop and present ideas for conservation efforts that they could lead in their local communities. The event is being organized by the 2016-2017 Georgia Sea Grant Marine Education Interns Kira Krall, Hannah Kittler, Hannah Edwards and McKenna Lyons.

Online registration opens Dec. 5 and closes Jan. 18. The summit is limited to 50 students on a first-come, first-served basis. A $10 registration fee includes lunch and all materials. To register, complete the online registration form and payment.

For more information, visit the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant website http://marex.uga.edu/yocs/.

 

Georgia Sea Grant seeks applicants for 2018 Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program is taking applications for the 2018 Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, which places graduate students for a year in various executive and legislative branch offices throughout Washington, D.C.

pagetop_knaussfellowship_647_255-1The fellowship provides a unique educational experience in the policies and processes of the federal government to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting these resources. The fellowship period begins Feb. 1, 2018, and ends on Jan. 31, 2019.

Any graduate student, regardless of citizenship, who on Feb. 10, 2017, is enrolled in an academic institution in Georgia is eligible to apply. A full list of application materials and additional information on eligibility can be found online at:

http://seagrant.noaa.gov/Portals/0/Documents/funding_fellowship/knauss_fellowship/prospective/NOAA-OAR-SG-2018-2004993%20Full%20Announcement.pdf

Applications must be submitted to Georgia Sea Grant by 5 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2017, via its online submission system, eSeaGrant, that can be accessed using the following link http://eseagrant.uga.edu/index.php

Potential applicants are also encouraged to contact Mona Behl, associate director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, at 706-542-6621 or mbehl@uga.edu to discuss application content and submission. For more information on applying for the Knauss Fellowship, please visit the Georgia Sea Grant website at http://georgiaseagrant.uga.edu/article/knauss_marine_policy_fellowship/

 

Fall black gill cruise rolls out new smartphone app for better data collection

The University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography entered the fourth year of its black gill research program with a daylong cruise on board the Research Vessel Savannah and the introduction of a new smartphone app that will allow shrimpers to help scientists collect data on the problem.

Led by UGA scientists Marc Frischer, Richard Lee, Kyle Johnsen and Jeb Byers, the black gill study is being conducted in partnership with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and is funded by Georgia Sea Grant.

Black gill is a condition Georgia shrimpers first noticed in the mid-1990s. Many shrimpers have blamed black gill for poor shrimp harvests in recent years, but until Frischer began his study, almost nothing was known about the condition. Now the researchers know black gill is caused by a parasite—a single-cell animal called a ciliate—although the exact type of ciliate is still a mystery.

The October cruise had three goals. The first was simply to collect data and live shrimp for additional experiments.

“We were able to collect enough live shrimp in good shape to set up our next experiment,” Frischer said. “We are planning on running another direct mortality study to investigate the relationship between temperature and black gill mortality. This time, instead of comparing ambient temperature to cooler temperatures as we did last spring and summer, we will investigate the effects of warming.”

Researchers Marc Frischer (UGA Skidaway Institute), Brian Fluech and Lisa Gentit (both UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant) examine shrimp for signs of black gill.

Researchers Marc Frischer (UGA Skidaway Institute), Brian Fluech and Lisa Gentit (both UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant) examine shrimp for signs of black gill.

If his hypothesis is correct, Frischer believes researchers would expect that raising fall water temperatures to warmer summer levels in a laboratory setting will induce black gill associated mortality in the shrimp caught in the fall.

Those studies will be compared to those that are being conducted in South Carolina in a slightly different manner. Frischer expects the results should be similar.

“However, as it goes with research, we are expecting surprises,” Frischer continued. “We also collected a good set of samples that will contribute to our understanding of the distribution and impact of black gill.”

A second goal was to introduce and begin field testing a new smartphone application developed by Johnsen. The app is intended to be a tool that will allow shrimp boat captains and recreational shrimpers to assist the researchers by filling some of the holes in the data by documenting the extent of black gill throughout the shrimp season. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducts surveys of the shrimp population up and down the coast throughout the year. However, those surveys do not provide the researchers with the rich data set they need to really get an accurate assessment of the black gill problem.

A screenshot of the smartphone app for tracking black gill.

A screenshot of the smartphone app for tracking black gill.

“Instead of having just one boat surveying the prevalence of black gill, imagine if we had a dozen, or 50 or a hundred boats all working with us,” Frischer said. “That’s the idea behind this app.”

The fishermen will use the app to document their trawls and report their data to a central database. Using GPS and the camera on their smartphone, they will record the location and images of the shrimp catch, allowing the researchers to see what the shrimpers see. If repeated by many shrimpers throughout the shrimping season, the information would give scientists a much more detailed picture of the prevalence and distribution of black gill.

“The app is complete and available on the app store, but we are still in the testing stages,” Johnsen said. “We want to make sure that it will be robust and as easy to use on a ship as possible before widely deploying it.”

Recruiting, training and coordinating the shrimpers will be the responsibility of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“I think it should be entirely possible to at least have a small group of captains comfortable and ready to start using it when the 2017 season begins,” Frischer said.

Johnsen is excited about the app for what it can provide to the shrimping and research community, but also the implications it has for using apps to involve communities in general.

“There is still work to be done to improve the usability of these systems,” he said. “But I’m confident that we are going to see an increasing number of these ‘citizen science’ applications going forward.”

The final aim of the cruise was to bring together diverse stakeholders, including fishery managers, shrimpers and scientists, to spend the day together and share ideas.

“This was a good venue for promoting cross-talk among the stakeholder groups,” Frischer said. “I had many good conversations and appreciated the opportunity to provide a few more research updates.”

Frischer says he thinks the communication and cooperation among the various stakeholder groups has improved dramatically since the beginning of the study. He recalled that when the study began in 2013, tensions were high. Shrimpers were angry and demanded that something be done to address the problem of black gill. Meanwhile, fishery managers were unclear if black gill was even causing a problem and frustrated that no one could provide them any reliable scientific advice. The research community had not been engaged and given the resources to pursue valid investigations.

“In 2016, we still have black gill. The fishery is still in trouble, but it does feel like we are at least understanding a bit more about the issue,” Frischer said. “Most importantly, it is clear that all of us are now working together.

“My feeling is that the opportunity for us to spend a day like that together helps promote understanding, communication and trust among the shrimpers, managers and researchers.”

Shrimpers, others join UGA Skidaway Institute Black Gill research cruise

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists are studying a condition in shrimp found along the Southeast Coast known as Black Gill. As part of this effort, a group that included UGA Skidaway Institute scientists and representatives from Georgia Sea Grant, UGA Marine Extension, Georgia DNR, the shrimping industry and researchers from North and South Carolina joined a one-day research cruise on board the R/V Savannah on October 9. The focus of the cruise was to collect shrimp for the Black Gill research project, and also to give the various groups the opportunity to exchange ideas. This account of the project comes from UGA Skidaway Institute scientist and cruise-organizer Marc Frischer.

We had 20 people on board (not including the ship’s crew), representing three states (Ga. S.C. and N.C.) and interests from the industry, management, research, and education/outreach communities. Although sometimes the conversations were outside of my comfort zone, I found the discussions and interactions that I had interesting, significant and useful. I found particularly interesting the perspectives from some of the professional shrimpers who were onboard made it clear to me that a research priority should be investigating the relationship between shrimp mortality in the field and the incidence of Black Gill. Discussions with the management community also provided me new insights into the difficulties we are facing with management and regulation. Conversations with those charged with communicating with the broader public remind me to choose words carefully to avoid misunderstanding.

A shrimp with the Black Gill condition clearly evident.

A shrimp with the Black Gill condition clearly evident.

In terms of the science, the day was largely successful despite the very low shrimp catches. Our priority was to collect enough live shrimp to conduct experiments to investigate black gill transmission and to explore the effect of ciliate infection on molting frequency. Although there were not many shrimp caught, we caught enough to conduct our planned experiments, and we were able to bring live shrimp into our facilities with almost no mortality. Utilizing the relatively large R/V Savannah and being able to dock within feet of our labs made this possible.

Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer examining a shrimp.

Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer examining a shrimp.

Thanks goes to the director of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (Jim Sanders) for making the vessel available to us. Cost for the ship is not covered by funding provided by Georgia Sea Grant and was provided as matching funds by the Institute.

Experiments got underway immediately upon our return and will continue for the next several weeks. If anyone is interested and wants to visit the lab for an update you are welcome to do so.

DNR's Pat Geer and Sea Grant's Jill Gambill sort through the marine life caught in a trawl.

DNR’s Pat Geer and Sea Grant’s Jill Gambill sort through the marine life caught in a trawl.

In addition to collecting live specimens, we were able to collect and preserve samples for a large variety of other analyses that will contribute to our identification of the Black Gill agent and to understanding its impact on shrimp. Several of the samples we collected are now on their way to various labs around the world where researchers with expertise beyond ours will study them.

Also, for the first time, we, collected water and sediments to be examined using our novel molecular-based diagnostic tools that are just now coming online. These studies will form the basis of a student project and thus generate both new information and new talent.

The team from the October Black Gill cruise.

The team from the October Black Gill cruise.

Unfortunately, because we were not able to catch more shrimp, we were not able to quantify the prevalence of Black Gill along the transect we sampled (offshore Wassaw Island, Wassaw Sound, and the Wilmington and Skidaway Rivers). However, this is a task valiantly undertaken by the GA DNR who had just visited the area in September and will be at it again. However, in addition to observing that catches were low everywhere, we were able to estimate a prevalence in the neighborhood of 50 percent. Except for offshore where we only caught one shrimp and it had black gill (so 100 percent). Two insights from this experience — first, our observations agree very well with DNR’s estimates and it is clear that we are probably not sampling sufficiently. Second — engaging the fishing community in this effort, if we can do so in a scientifically sound manner, will be truly helpful.