Lisa Wooninck began as acting superintendent of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary in September 2018. Lisa has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of California Santa Barbara. Her interest in policy and marine resource management stems from her time as a 2000 Knauss Sea Grant Fellow in former Congressman Sam Farr’s office. She began her NOAA career as a research fishery biologist at NOAA Fisheries headquarters and Santa Cruz lab. Her passion for using science to inform policy however was awakened and she jumped at the opportunity to join the sanctuary team in 2008. She initially worked at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary as a policy analyst, and then joined the West Coast Regional team in 2010 as the policy coordinator for the five sanctuaries on the west coast.
Lisa has experience in policy and planning. She has also worked to coordinate conservation and user groups, and state and federal partners to develop integrated ecosystem-based management systems, and ecologically and economically sustainable practices. She has represented sanctuary interests to fishery managers and educated them on the common goals shared by sanctuaries and fisheries management. She has also led an Office of National Marine Sanctuaries team to highlight the world-class recreational activities, such as whale watching and sport fishing, offered by thriving ecosystems of national marine sanctuaries.
Lisa is guided by “malama,” a Hawaiian concept that expresses care, respect and stewardship for the environment and humans, and our obligation to care for both. Lisa also believes strongly in team work and looks forward to working with the GRNMS team, their partners and friends.
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.
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.
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) has awarded Michelle Riley the Sea to Shining Sea: Excellence in Interpretation and Education Award for her project “Georgia Public Broadcasting Live Exploration of Gray’s Reef.”
According to a statement from ONMS, “Michelle and the Live Exploration of Gray’s Reef through Georgia Public Broadcasting are recognized for the creation of a livestream, virtual dive event featuring Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary that engaged more than 45,000 viewers from 44 states as well as internationally.”
The program was streamed live from the UGA Aquarium on May 10, 2017. During the event viewers were introduced to Gray’s Reef NMS through video, heard from scientists and had the chance to submit questions to be answered live. This program directly introduced tens of thousands of mostly elementary and middle school students to the wonders of Gray’s Reef and the challenges it faces.
GPB host Ashley Mengwasser, GRNMS Superintendent Sarah Fangman and UGA research scientist Scott Noakes, Ph.D. discuss Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary during the livestream. Photo M. Riley/GRNMS
This is the fifth year that ONMS has recognized outstanding achievement in the fields of interpretation and environmental education. This annual award is given to employees, contractors and volunteers for their demonstrated success in advancing ocean and climate literacy, and conservation through national marine sanctuaries, as well as for their innovation and creative solutions in successfully enhancing the public’s understanding of the National Marine Sanctuary System and the resources it protects.
Michelle received the award at the National Association for Interpretation’s annual conference in Spokane, Wash. in November. It was presented in conjunction with several other agency awards including the U.S. Forest Service’s “Gifford Pinchot Award” and the National Park Service’s “Freeman Tilden Award.”
“It is fitting for sanctuaries to be at the forefront of interpretation and education alongside some of the country’s best interpreters,” said John Armor, Director of Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
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.
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, in collaboration with Georgia Public Broadcasting, created a livestream virtual dive event on May 10 from the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium. More than 35,000 viewers from as far away as Romania tuned in from their homes, schools and offices to dive into a 30-minute virtual field trip of Gray’s Reef, located approximately 20 miles off the coast of Georgia’s Sapelo Island. The virtual expedition included underwater surgery on a fish to insert a tagging transmitter and beautiful views of the vibrant and abundant marine life found at Gray’s Reef. Viewers learned how Gray’s Reef was formed, how the seafloor serves as a habitat and how they can help protect the reef from threats.
GPB host Ashley Mengwasser, GRNMS Superintendent Sarah Fangman and UGA research scientist Scott Noakes discuss Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary during the livestream. Photo M. Riley/GRNMS
The sanctuary’s communications coordinator, Michelle Riley, worked with GPB’s Education division in Atlanta to create the event using underwater footage of Gray’s Reef and featuring sanctuary superintendent Sarah Fangman and UGA researcher Scott Noakes as experts. Emily Woodward and her colleagues at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant provided substantial support to the event, and aquarium staff updated the tanks with a colorful new interpretation of Gray’s Reef. UGA’s Skidaway Institute of Oceanography provided technical assistance, utilizing the expertise of senior system administrator Wayne Aaron.
Targeted to students, the livestream included a question-and-answer session with Fangman and Noakes, during which viewers submitted more than 1,000 questions. The event was accompanied by supplemental materials tailored to Georgia Department of Education standards for K-12. GPB had hoped for an audience of 3,000 – 5,000, and was pleased that the participation level was substantially higher than originally expected.
To view the archived event, go to http://www.gpb.org/education/explore/grays-reef.
By Michelle Riley
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary hosted its annual Southeast Regional Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) competition on April 22 at the Chatham County Aquatics Center.
Spearheaded by Gray’s Reef’s events and volunteer coordinator Jody Patterson, staff and volunteers from the sanctuary as well as Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation welcomed 16 teams of students who came to compete for first place and a shot to compete in the national MATE competition. The competition is open to young scientists from kindergarten to college, and it challenges them to create innovative solutions to real-world problems faced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other marine industries.
The Wolfpack Robotics Team from North Paulding High School competing, first place winners. Photo Credit: Michelle Riley
This year’s theme was “Port Cities of the Future,” which prompted students to use their underwater robots to perform tasks that could be utilized to clean and maintain the waters of port cities. MATE encourages students to develop their entrepreneurial skills by creating a business plan that supports their innovative marine technology as well as marketing materials that showcase their work. Students choose from four classes of competition in which they can present their marketing materials and demonstrate their robots.
Vying for a spot at the international competition was the eight-time champion team named InnovOcean from Carrollton High School as well as five other teams in the ranger class. Although the competition was fierce all day, in the end, first place fell to the Wolfpack Robotic Team from North Paulding High School in Dallas, Georgia. Gray’s Reef congratulates all the teams that competed in the Southeast regional competition and will be cheering on the Wolfpack Robotic Team in June as they compete in the international competition in Long Beach, California.