Tag Archives: national marine sanctuary

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.

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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.

Underwater robot competition offers impressive display of technical and design skills

by Michelle Riley

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary

Sixteen student teams from middle, junior and high schools competed in the 2016 Gray’s Reef Southeast Regional MATE ROV Competition at the Chatham County Aquatic Center on April 30. After a full day of competition, seven-time regional champion Carrollton High School won the right to advance to the international round, held in June at the NASA Johnson Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston.

Carrollton High School, located west of Atlanta, has fielded strong teams that have placed as high as ninth in the global competition. Its team InnovOcean holds high hopes of taking home the top prize this year and will compete against students from various locations including Canada, Russia, Hong Kong and Scotland.

Beginning in 2004, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary partnered with the Marine Advanced Technology Education, or MATE, Center to offer underwater robotics as a vehicle to teach science, technology, engineering and math.

Two Atlanta area schools competing. Photo credit: Brian Greer

Two Atlanta area schools competing. Photo credit: Brian Greer

The ROV competition requires students to build tethered underwater robots — called remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs — from scratch, and then challenges them to perform tasks simulating real-world operations conducted by exploration organizations like NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries, NASA and other marine agencies worldwide. Teams are able to choose from four different classes of competition defined by skill level, instead of age, which further illustrates real-world circumstances. Only two classes — the Explorer and Ranger levels — are eligible to compete at the international competition.

In order to win, teams must not only build and successfully pilot an underwater robot, they have to create a company to market and sell their ROV. Students prepare posters, product spec sheets, safety procedures, design abstracts, business cards and presentations to working professionals who serve as contest judges.

Led by Jody Patterson, events coordinator at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, staff and sanctuary volunteers organize the regional competition and create simulated workplace scenarios for the ROV pilots. This year’s regionals focused on “innerspace” ROV tasks, including recovering equipment, conducting forensic fingerprinting of oil spills, analyzing deep water studies of corals and capping wellheads of oil rigs.

The sanctuary’s Team Ocean volunteer divers worked all day with NOAA divers to continually set up the underwater task components. Other volunteers served as judges and safety inspectors.

“It is a privilege to host the Southeast Regional ROV competition each year,” said Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Sarah Fangman. “To properly protect marine life and special areas like Gray’s Reef, we need tools to help us explore and understand the mysteries of the ocean. These students — future engineers and scientists — will create the next generation of instruments used at NOAA, NASA and the maritime industries.”

Gray’s Reef NMS organizes FareWhale Festival

Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will present the second annual FareWhale Festival on Saturday, March 21, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion.

Parade Mag Ad 2015 BIG

“We want people to come out and celebrate the end of the calving season for the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale as they leave our coastal waters and make their way north off the coast of New England near Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary,” said Gray’s Reef’s Abbigail Murphy.

Visitors can experience the trials and tribulations these whales encounter in the right whale obstacle course; learn more about whales from experts and educators in the field; and enjoy live music and artwork from local artists. Other activities will include a guided beach walk on the shores of Tybee and a beach cleanup held from 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

More information is available at:
http://graysreef.noaa.gov
Contact: abbigail.murphy@noaa.gov