Tag Archives: marine extension

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.

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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.”

Marine Extension pilots program to grow individual oysters off Georgia coast

By Kelly Simmons

UGA Marine Extension is poised to launch the state’s first oyster hatchery, bringing the popular shellfish back to the Georgia coast after more than 50 years, and diversifying the state’s aquaculture industry.

The shellfish research lab on Skidaway Island began piloting oyster growth last year, using funding from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to give wild spat—oyster seed—and advice to aquaculturists in the area who have DNR approval to farm and harvest in specific areas along the coastal rivers and tributaries. DNR funding also paid to outfit part of the shellfish laboratory to be used as a hatchery to hire a hatchery manager.hatchery_flyer-fpo-678x394

“We hope eventually to attract a commercial hatchery to supply large amounts of seed,” said Thomas Bliss, director of the Marine Extension Shellfish Research Laboratory on Skidaway Island. “We can focus here on research.”

So far, 10 growers have cultivated the seedlings, protected in mesh bags on racks in shallow water. The first full size single shell oysters are expected to be ready for harvest this fall.

By summer, some were already 1.75 inches long, about a quarter inch smaller than the legal size for commercial harvesting in Georgia, said Bliss. The survival rate was high—about 99 percent had survived so far.

John Pelli, who owns the Savannah Clam Co., was among the local aquaculturists who agreed to try raising oysters. On a windy but sunny day in March, he was on his skiff, moving his mesh bags of shells from one location to another. He hopes to produce about 300,000 oysters a year to supply retailers locally and across the state.

In the early 1900s, Georgia was the largest wild oyster producer in the country, harvesting more than eight million pounds of oyster meat in 1908. By the 1940s and 1950s, however, production declined significantly. In the 1960s, canneries built to process the native oysters had closed.

In the 1980s, marine extension again began to explore opportunities in aquaculture. Clams, which are easier to grow, were first. In 2013, Georgia clammers harvested more than 105,000 tons of clams, up from 54,000 tons just five years earlier and 4.2 tons in 1993.

Clams are much easier to grow because you can buy seed from other states. Georgia doesn’t allow oyster spat from outside the state because it could contain disease.

To grow the spat, Bliss and hatchery manager Justin Manley have to recreate the natural spawning process of oysters inside tanks of water. Once the larvae is formed it attaches to a small piece of shell in the tank. The baby oysters, called spat, can be transplanted to other areas to grow into adults. They may be harvested when they are two inches long.

This year, Bliss says they’ll produce about 100,000 to 200,000 seeds, or spat. By 2020, he hopes that will increase to five to eight million.

The payoff would be worth it. The 100,000-500,00 oysters grown in 2015 have an estimated dock value of $75,000. Five to eight million would bring in about $1.6 million.

“Everybody’s crazy about single oysters,” Pelli said. “People are willing to pay good money for them.”

UGA Marine Extension pilots new education programs that investigate sustainable oyster aquaculture

The University of Georgia Marine Extension is piloting a new program for visiting school groups in the fall of 2015. The overall project, funded by the Landings Landlovers Inc., will provide hands-on educational experiences for approximately 190 students and the general public in a unique setting.

The UGA MAREX Shellfish Research Laboratory has developed an oyster hatchery, the first in the state of Georgia, to support a growing oyster aquaculture industry. They have created a program that will expose participants to sustainable aquaculture practices and provide enrichment activities that emphasize the ecological and economic importance of oyster reef communities and the important role that oyster hatcheries play in the sustainability of this important shellfish species.

Skidaway Marine Science Day to feature Georgia’s first oyster hatchery

A close-up look at Georgia’s first oyster hatchery will be one of the featured attractions at Skidaway Marine Science Day on Saturday, Oct. 24. The campus-wide open house will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on the University of Georgia’s Skidaway Island campus, located on the north end of the island.

The oyster research team will provide behind-the-scenes tours of the new hatchery, which is a project of the UGA Marine Extension’s Shellfish Laboratory and Georgia Sea Grant, units of UGA Public Service and Outreach. It is hoped the oyster hatchery will make the Georgia oyster industry more durable, contribute to aquaculture diversification and elevate one of Georgia’s best-kept culinary secrets from the backyard roast to the tables of the finest restaurants from Savannah to Atlanta and beyond.

The hatchery tour is just one feature of a lengthy program of activities, displays and tours making the annual event one that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

The UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s 92-foot ocean-going Research Vessel Savannah will be open for tours and will exhibit science displays.

Tour the Skidaway Institute’s ocean-going Research Vessel Savannah.

Tour the Skidaway Institute’s ocean-going Research Vessel Savannah.

Elsewhere on campus, Skidaway Institute will present a variety of marine science exhibits and hands-on science activities, including the ever-popular Microbe Hunt and Plankton Sink-Off. Skidaway Institute scientists will present a series of short, informal talks and question-and-answer sessions on current scientific and environmental issues.

The UGA Aquarium, operated by UGA Marine Extension, will be open to visitors with no admission fee. Aquarium educators will offer visitors an afternoon full of activities including a hands-on reptile exhibit, behind-the-scenes peeks of the aquarium, fish feedings and microscope investigations.

The Reptile Experience fascinates nature lovers of all ages.

The Reptile Experience fascinates nature lovers of all ages.

A brand new touch tank exhibit will allow guests of all ages to get up close and personal with common coastal invertebrates.

Touch tanks allow visitors to experience sea creatures   up close.

Touch tanks allow visitors to experience sea creatures up close.

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will offer visitors the experience of using the tools of the trade. They can explore an underwater reef with a remotely operated vehicle and find out how youth can participate in Savannah’s own MATE ROV competition. ROVs are underwater robots used on NOAA research vessels worldwide and are crucial for data collection in marine environments.

"Fly" an underwater ROV with Gray's Reef.

“Fly” an underwater ROV with Gray’s Reef.

A photo booth will allow visitors to visualize themselves SCUBA diving at Gray’s Reef or in other exotic settingsand will be able to post their pictures on social media.

Along with the campus organizations, Skidaway Marine Science Day will also include displays, demonstrations and activities from a wide range of science, environmental and education groups, such as The Dolphin Project, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and The Nature Conservancy. Georgia Power will be on hand to provide information on the upcoming wind turbine project planned for the Skidaway Institute campus.

All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day are free. For additional information, call 912-598-2325, or see http://www.skio.uga.edu.

Intern Sean Russell receives Brower Youth Award

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeorgia Sea Grant Intern, Sean Russell, has been selected as a recipient of one of six prestigious Brower Youth Awards, a national prize awarded to exceptional environmental leaders, ages 13-22, in North America.

Sean is received this award for his work on the Stow It-Don’t Throw It Project, a youth-driven fishing line recycling and marine debris prevention initiative he launched in high school. Since then, the project has grown into an international program. He was also credited for his work directing the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, an annual event designed to train students from across the country how to launch their own ocean conservation projects.

Russell is an intern at UGA Marine Extension’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island. Both UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are units of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach.

For more information on the 2014 Brower Youth Awards, visit: http://www.broweryouthawards.org/awardees/