Tag Archives: gray’s reef

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.

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Gray’s Reef’s Michelle Riley wins national award

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.”

Michelle Riley

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.

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.

 

Gray’s Reef teams with GPB to present “Live Exploration”

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.

Gray’s Reef hosts MATE ROV competition

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.

14th Annual Gray’s Reef Film Festival expands to Tybee Island and adds second 3D Night

by Michelle Riley / Gray’s Reef NMS

Moviegoers gave rave reviews to the Gray’s Reef Film Festival’s first-ever “3D Night” last year, spurring Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary to offer two consecutive nights of 3D fun at the Trustees Theater in downtown Savannah for the upcoming festival. The sanctuary also is expanding the event’s reach by adding a daytime slate at the Tybee Post Theater.

“We’re having a lot of fun putting together this year’s festival,” organizer Chris Hines, deputy superintendent of Gray’s Reef, said.  “Our theme this year is ‘Our Community, Our Ocean.’ These beautiful movies highlight the deep bond with nature and the ocean we are so fortunate to experience as a coastal community, and how important a healthy ocean is to preserving our way of life.”

On tap for the 3D showings at the Trustees Theater Feb. 3-4 are “Galapagos 3D: Nature’s Wonderland,” “The Last Reef 3D,” “Wonders of the Artic 3D” and “Secret Ocean 3D.” “Galapagos 3D” is directed by award winner Martin Williams, who is well known for his documentaries with David Attenborough. “The Last Reef 3D” was shot in five countries and is the production of Academy Award nominees Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, while “Wonders of the Arctic 3D” is a sweeping film by David Lickley, who describes himself as a “wilderness environmental-themed filmmaker. “Secret Ocean 3D” is a beautiful jewel of a movie by Jean-Michel Cousteau.

Galapagos sea lion and lava lizard from "Galapagos 3D"

Galapagos sea lion and lava lizard from “Galapagos 3D”

The Tybee Post Theater offerings on Feb. 5 will include a delightful sampling of films from the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival, the premier venue in North America for ocean-related movies, most of which are largely unavailable to the general public.

“Our partnership with the Tybee Post Theater this summer exceeded our expectations, with more than 1,000 attendees expressing their interest in ocean-themed movies,” said Hines. “We are excited to expand the film festival and deepen our engagement with our beach communities.”

Like last year, Gray’s Reef suggests a donation of $10 per day for adults, $5 per day for children, students and military, to benefit the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The foundation will host a pre-festival party on Feb. 2, with limited tickets available.

K-12 teachers learn from Rivers to Reefs

by Michelle Riley / Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary

In June, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary hosted the 13th annual Rivers to Reefs Workshop for Educators in association with the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the Georgia Aquarium and Gordon State College. Cathy Sakas, chair of the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and Kim Morris-Zarneke, manager of education programs at Georgia Aquarium, served as the primary leaders of the workshop, with assistance from Theresa Stanley of Gordon State College.  Michelle Riley from Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary served as communications lead.

Rivers to Reefs is an educational expedition for teachers, focused on Georgia’s Altamaha River watershed. During the six-day trip, 16 Georgia science teachers canoed the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha rivers into the Sapelo estuary, crawled through salt marshes, traveled to Gray’s Reef and trawled the Wilmington River. They learned and explored the connections between the watershed and the ocean.

Teachers Marilyn Kinney (foreground) and Candace Bridges collect water samples in Flat Shoals Creek. Photo: Michelle Riley

Teachers Marilyn Kinney (foreground) and Candace Bridges collect water samples in Flat Shoals Creek. Photo: Michelle Riley

The week was packed with activities that most teachers never experience, beginning with a behind-the-scenes orientation at Georgia Aquarium, and it included an offshore trip to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary aboard the first working research vessel the educators had ever seen close up, Skidaway Institute’s R/V Savannah. In between, the group explored creeks, waterfalls, rivers and estuaries, and saw an abundance of flora and fauna. They frequently stopped to collect water samples, conduct water quality tests and record environmental factors to determine the overall health of the creeks and streams that flow to the river system. As the week progressed, the teachers developed an understanding of the profound influence the waters flowing through the Altamaha River watershed have on the health of Gray’s Reef and were inspired to teach their students about environmental responsibility and ocean literacy.

Always a highlight of the workshop, the marsh crawl on Sapelo Island was a memorable experience. The group sloshed on their bellies through the thick dark mud to learn why marshes are considered some of the most important and productive habitats on Earth. The estuary that encompasses the salt marsh, where the freshwater from the Altamaha River mixes with the saltwater of the Atlantic, is one of the largest estuary systems on the Atlantic coast.

The teachers on board the Research Vessel Savannah.

The teachers on board the Research Vessel Savannah.

Waters were calm for the voyage out to Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary on the R/V Savannah under the command of Capt. John Bichy, marine superintendent at UGA Skidaway Institute. With extensive assistance from the R/V Savannah crew, the teachers conducted water quality tests at three separate points in the ocean. Meanwhile, the ship’s crew pulled a trawl net through the ocean at midwater depth and brought in many interesting fish, a large pile of Georgia shrimp and a handful of sharks, including a hammerhead and a small Atlantic sharpnose shark. During the trip, the teachers were delighted when they were treated to lessons by professor Marc Frischer of Skidaway Institute on black gill in shrimp and on pelagic tunicates called doliolids. While in the sanctuary, the crew deployed an underwater camera to allow the teachers to see the reef and its sea creatures in real time, without getting wet.

On the final day of Rivers to Reefs, the teachers boarded UGA’s R/V Sea Dawg, a smaller vessel used by the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, a unit of the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Capt. John “Crawfish” Crawford and Anne Lindsay, associate director for marine education, conducted a field class during the two-hour trawling voyage in the Wilmington River. The teachers recorded the catch for research purposes and ended their trip with a wrap-up by Frischer and the expedition leaders, before scattering across Georgia with great memories and a treasure trove of experiences to pass on to their students this fall.