Tag Archives: marine extension

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.

 

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Rider helped educate UGA Aquarium visitors, now back in his natural habitat

by Emily Woodward

Rider, a loggerhead sea turtle which spent the last three years at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, was returned to his natural home in the ocean.

Lisa Olenderski gives Rider a little encouragement to walk to 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. 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 help Rider into the surf.

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 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. Prior to the release, the aquarium staff also received approval from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Terry Norton, a veterinarian, and director and founder of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.

“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.”

Symposium highlights UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant impacts

When Hurricane Matthew hit the Georgia coast last October washing away some of its sandy shoreline, UGA was ready.

With funding from Georgia Sea Grant, the UGA 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.

“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.”

Clark Alexander

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. 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.

Marc Frischer describes research into black gill in shrimp.

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.

Jay Brandes presents his research into microplastics on the Georgia coast.

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.

“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.”

Kayla Clark describes the Sea Grant intern program.

Other presenters from the Skidaway Marine Science Campus included UGA Skidaway Institute professors Jay Brandes and Marc Frischer, and from Marine Extension, associate director for marine education Anne Lindsay and public programs coordinator Kayla Clark.

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/.

 

Hundreds turn out to raise money for oyster hatchery

An oyster roast on the banks of the Skidaway River drew more than 200 people on a perfect fall night to celebrate and raise money for Georgia’s first oyster hatchery.

Guests used their commemorative Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant shuckers to crack open the wild oysters, served roasted and raw. Local chefs Matthew Roher of Sea Pines Resort and Dusty Grove from Pacci Italian Kitchen roasted Springer Mountain Farms chicken and vegetables.

John "Crawfish" Crawford cooks a  batch of oysters.

John “Crawfish” Crawford cooks a batch of oysters.

SweetWater beer and music by the Accomplices rounded out the evening.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, whose district includes Skidaway Island and Savannah, stopped by to enjoy the food and learn more about the hatchery.

“This is a terrific turnout and I’m encouraged by the support we are getting for the hatchery,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.  “A lot of people don’t know it, but Georgia led the nation in oyster production in the early 1900s. We hope to be back at the forefront in the oyster industry in a few years, which would help the local economy by providing more aquaculture-related jobs.”

Supporters enjoy the oyster feast.

Supporters enjoy the oyster feast.

UGA launched the oyster hatchery on its Skidaway Marine Science Campus last year. There they create baby oysters, or spat, which are given to local aquaculturists with state permits to farm along the Georgia coast. So far, the hatchery has produced 700,000 spat, which have been given to 10 growers. The potential harvest value of those will be between $140,000 and $245,000.

By 2018, the hatchery is expected to produce between 5 million and 7 million spat per year, with an annual estimated value between $1 million and $2 million.

The goal is to attract a commercial hatchery and businesses related to oyster production to the area, which would provide jobs and greater economic development opportunities on the coast.

Program educates students about the impacts of marine debris to the coastal ecosystem

About 80 students and teachers from four coastal area schools know a bit more about microplastics and the impact they can have on sea life, thanks to a program launched by Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and funded by the Landings Landlovers Inc.

Marine Educator Dodie Sanders began the Debris Detectives program to help young people better understand how microplastics, tiny fragments of plastic found in water and sediment, as well as marine debris negatively impact the coast.

Educator Dodie Sanders discusses microplastics with a class from St. Andrews School.

Educator Dodie Sanders discusses microplastics with a class from St. Andrews School.

Microplastics are ingested by organisms, such as fish, oysters and crabs, which then become imbedded in their digestive tracts. Little is known about the damaging effects of microplastics on marine life, though studies focused on this topic are being conducted around the world.

The students and teachers participating in the program went on a trawl aboard the R/V Sea Dawg and collected, sorted, identified and counted the organisms they caught, including shrimp, blue crabs and fish. Sanders discussed how microbeads in toothpaste and cosmetic products can end up in waterways and eventually in the stomachs of these marine organisms. They also collected water samples and took those back to the Marine Education Center lab to examine for the presence and abundance of microplastics.

Nick DeProspero, an environmental science teacher at St. Andrew’s School in Savannah, was with his students for the program. Prior to his position at St. Andrew’s, DeProspero worked at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium as a Sea Grant marine education intern.

St. Andrews' students receive close instruction from teacher Nick DeProspero (right).

St. Andrews’ students receive close instruction from teacher Nick DeProspero (right).e as an education intern at the center, I saw the value in getting kids outside and engaging them in hands-on, interactive activities,” DeProspero said. “It was a great experience, which is why I bring my kids out here. Science is interactive and certainly isn’t best-learned through textbooks and lectures. Getting them out and working as a real scientist, especially right in their backyard, is crucial for them to making a connection between their role as a consumer and the environment.”

Not only does the Debris Detectives program cover subject matter that aligns with the classroom curriculum, it provides scientific sampling experience and teaches how to use scientific equipment to analyze data. This type of real-world application allows for a deeper understanding and awareness of how their daily actions may impact the important and fragile ecosystems along the Georgia coast. It also instills a sense of pride and ownership of these ecosystems, hopefully inspiring them to be environmental stewards of the Georgia coast.

Landings Landlovers Inc. is a nonprofit organization that promotes fellowship through social and cultural activities while working toward the continued improvement of community life at The Landings, a residential community on Skidaway Island, through its philanthropic efforts.

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.”