The University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Girls Who Code and The Creative Coast presented a one-of-a-kind experience for middle school girls in Chatham County to learn about marine science and computer coding at UGA Skidaway Institute on Monday, July 11. The Girls Code Games Summer Camp taught campers to design and program a playable game related to marine science, all under the guidance of female scientists and programmers.
The program was created by UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards and Savannah Arts Academy (SAA) senior and Girls Who Code co-founder Sage Batchelor. It included girls from 20 different public schools between the 5th-8th grades. Edwards and her team introduced the girls to underwater robots, including what they do, how they are programmed, what type of data they produce and how that data is used by scientists.
The camp continued the remainder of the week at Georgia Southern University, where Batchelor and a group of female counselors (seniors and recent graduates of SAA) taught campers to design and build a computer game using the information they learned about underwater robots.
Sponsors for the program include the City of Savannah, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Georgia Southern Business Innovation Group and Elevate Savannah.
Georgia’s low-lying coastal communities are on the front lines of sea level rise, storm surge and flooding.
A new video series developed by UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant shares how communities are responding to these challenges by identifying solutions that protect infrastructure and coastal habitats.
The six-part series, “Faces of Resiliency,” features interviews with coastal residents and researchers who share stories of adapting to coastal hazards through community engagement and collaboration with scientists, nonprofits and government agencies.
“The videos can serve as a roadmap for other communities facing similar issues,” said Anne Lindsay, associate director of education at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and lead on the project. “They show how resilience projects can be successful by involving communities in planning and implementing science-based solutions.”
Each video highlights a different example of how communities are increasing resilience, including preserving salt marsh habitat, implementing green infrastructure, restoring dunes, engaging in environmental justice and community planning, and improving science communication.
Conserving Georgia’s Salt Marshes Georgia’s extensive salt marshes protect the coast by reducing erosion, buffering wave energy and filtering runoff. Rising sea levels are causing marshes to migrate inland; however, development along estuarine shorelines can impede their natural migration. Living shorelines are a form of green infrastructure that use oysters and native plants to stabilize shorelines while providing space for marshes to migrate in the future.
Adapting with Green Infrastructure Roads, buildings, or parking lots are a necessary part of communities but these impervious surfaces lead to stormwater runoff that carries pollutants to local waterways, impacting human and environmental health. Green infrastructure uses nature-based materials to treat and filter stormwater, like the large-scale bioretention project implemented at Howard Coffin Park in Brunswick that is improving water quality of the surrounding area.
Restoring Dunes to Protect Coastal Communities Storm surge from hurricanes has significant impacts on coastal communities. Healthy dune systems act as a natural barrier to storm surge. Communities like the City of Tybee Island are conserving and restoring Georgia’s coastal dunes by raising their elevation, planting grasses and installing beach fences that help build and protect these habitats.
Enhancing Equity in Flood Resilience Marginalized communities in coastal Georgia are at risk of flooding due to higher density housing, less green space and failing stormwater management systems. Residents in Savannah and Brunswick are getting involved in the decision-making process by working with municipalities to raise awareness of the need to adapt infrastructure in flooding hotspots and build resilience.
Planning for Future Flooding and Sea Level Rise As sea levels rise and flooding becomes more frequent Georgia’s coastal municipalities and resource managers are proactively planning ahead by elevating homes and participating in federal programs that reward communities for implementing resilience measures.
Improving Flood Literacy in Coastal Georgia Terms related to flood hazards are being used inconsistently among professionals that work in coastal management and emergency response. This can create confusion among residents who rely on experts for information during extreme weather events. The Georgia Flood Literacy Project is establishing consistent definitions and flood terminology to be used by professionals, improving communication and public safety.
The Faces of Resiliency project was funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division. Learn more about the project at https://gacoast.uga.edu/faces/
By MD Masud-Ul-Alam Light, physics, sensors, satellites, and the ocean! All these are essential components of the International Ocean-Colour Coordinating Group Summer Lecture Series on Ocean Optics. I am a doctoral student at Sara Rivero-Calle’s Bio-Optics and Satellite Oceanography Lab and was one of the 24 selected participants from 19 countries. This was a training program that provided knowledge on advanced topics on marine optics and remote sensing. It was held at the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, which is part of the Institut de la Mer, de Villefranche at Villefranche-sur-Mer from July 18-19.
The course consisted of practical and laboratory sessions, and theory lectures. The lab work included hands-on training on how to collect the highest quality in situ data and how to calibrate different optical sensors (in situ and satellite). The theoretical lectures covered the optical properties of light, interactions with marine particles, inherent optical properties, apparent optical properties and more.
In addition, the intensive lab sessions incorporated trainings on different software and optical instrumentation, such as AC-S and HydroLight, different models for atmospheric corrections and working on a group project using Sentinel-2, and Sentinel-3 datasets.
Overall, this summer course gave me and my fellow students the opportunity to meet experts across the globe and develop networks for future collaborative research work.
I am so glad I was able to participate in this course. This was such a great opportunity to meet the ocean-optics experts across the globe and make new friends to work with. Beside the course, I enjoyed the beauty of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Nice!
University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography director Clark Alexander was voted the 2022-23 president-elect of the Southern Association of Marine Laboratories (SAML) and will serve as president for 2023-2024.
SAML is a regional organization within the National Association of Marine Laboratories. It is comprised of 48 marine laboratories and governmental agencies stretching from Virginia to Texas and including Bermuda. Its purpose is to promote cooperation and effectiveness of member institutions in their work on marine and coastal resources, as well as share solutions to issues facing coastal field installations.
Alexander is a coastal and marine geologist who joined the Skidaway Institute as a post-doctoral scientist in 1989, achieved the rank of full professor in 2003 and was appointed director in 2016. He earned bachelor’s degrees in oceanography and geology from Humboldt State University in California. He went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in marine geology from North Carolina State University.
As a researcher, Alexander has participated in 64 field programs from New Zealand to Siberia and has been the chief scientist on 29 oceanographic cruises with a total of more than two years at sea. He has published 92 papers in scientific journals, and, in the past decade, has received more than $4 million in direct research funding. From 2003-2017, he also served as the director of the Georgia Southern University Applied Coastal Research Laboratory on Skidaway Island.
Alexander has been very active on federal, state and regional advisory boards and has worked closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers, South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, Governors’ South Atlantic Alliance, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to identify and address pressing coastal management needs. He served on the Georgia Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and the Georgia Shore Protection Committee, which permit all major activities within the state’s marshes and beaches, from 1998 to 2006.
Graduate students from the University of Georgia’s Department of Marine Science gathered at UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography on the weekend of May 27 for a program aimed at improving graduate student retention, inclusion, well-being and a sense of belonging.
The marine science graduate students are split between the UGA Skidaway Institute and the main campus in Athens. Given the 250-mile distance between Athens and the Georgia coast, these two groups of students typically only interact during online instruction, webinars, meetings or on an occasional research cruise. They rarely gather in-person in a casual setting.
“It was a really great experience,” said UGA Skidaway Institute assistant professor Sara Rivero-Calle. “Because they are split between the two campuses, many of these students had never met in person. They had worked together remotely on assignments and seen each other through the computer screen, but this was the first time they could relax and enjoy each other’s company in real life.”
The event included a guest speaker, Virginia Schutte, who led a workshop on science communication and the best ways for students to market themselves. The students also organized a clean-up of some of the trails on Skidaway Island, utilizing bags from UGA Marine Extension’s trawl-to-trash program.
“The UGA marine science students had a wonderful event supported by the UGA Marine Science Department and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography,” said Frank Mcquarrie, president of the marine sciences graduate student association. “Meeting in person was invaluable, and it reminded us that we are stronger together.”
The program was funded by a $5,000 grant from the UGA Graduate School.
After two years of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Georgia Skidaway Institute scientists participated in the first cruise of their four-year project to study how dust in the atmosphere is deposited in the ocean and how that affects chemical and biological processes there. The team of Daniel Ohnemus and Chris Marsay, along with graduate students Charlotte “Charlie” Kollman and Mariah Ricci, joined the University of Hawaii Research Vessel Kilo Moana on a cruise out of Oahu. They collected samples at the Hawaii Ocean Time-Series Station Aloha – a six-mile wide section of ocean approximately 122 miles from Oahu – where oceanographers from around the world study ocean conditions over long time spans. The cruise was the first of six planned during the four-year project.
Ohnemus is one of two chief scientists on the project along with fellow UGA Skidaway Institute researcher Clifton Buck, who did not join this cruise. He called the cruise a success.
“Everything we put in the ocean, we got back, and that’s a good thing in oceanography,” he said. “And also, most importantly, it all worked.”
The overall goal of the project is to look at the rate at which dust is deposited into the ocean and what happens to it once it is in the water column. The chemistry of the ocean can be changed by the introduction and removal of elements, including trace elements which are present in low concentrations. In some cases, these elements are known to be vital to biological processes and ocean food webs. After waiting for two years for the pandemic to ease, the science team still had additional waiting once they arrived in Hawaii. They were required to quarantine in a hotel for six days before being allowed to board the ship.
“We flew in about a week before we were expected on the ship. We got tested multiple times,” Ohnemus said. “We tested at the airport. We got a PCR test mid-quarantine. And we were tested again before boarding the ship.
“We knew we definitely did not have COVID.”
“The hardest part is that we were out there for five days and four nights, and all of our research and sampling took place in the last eight hours of the cruise,” Ohnemus said.
For the students Charlie Kollman and Mariah Ricci the cruise was a new experience. It was Ricci’s first research cruise ever. Ironically, she and Ohnemus both took their first cruise on the RV Kilo Moana, only their cruises were 15 years apart.
For Kollman, the best part of the cruise was participating in all the work necessary to conduct the science activity from the planning process all the way through to the end and then seeing the fruits of her labor.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “It is really rewarding to see all the different things we had to do like all the mechanical work.
“I think people often think of science as being constantly high value or in the lab doing really complicated stuff, but a lot of times it’s running to Home Depot four times because you don’t have the correct pipe fitting.”
Ohnemus sings the praises of his collaborators at the University of Hawaii. “They are excellent. It was great to be able sail with them after all this time,” he said. “We first wrote the proposal in 2018, and to actually get to sail together four years later was very rewarding and time well spent.”
When the Slocum glider known as NG645 was deployed about 80 miles south of New Orleans on Oct. 10, 2021, it became one of the most closely watched ocean-observing instruments in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s because it was a small robot with a big mission – to investigate features of the Loop Current and Loop Current Eddies in the Gulf as part of the Hurricane Glider Project – then navigate on a mission never attempted by an unmanned glider before.
“Our goal with this project was to deploy a glider in the Gulf of Mexico and then navigate it through the spatially variable currents of the Loop Current and into the Gulf Stream all the way around the bend of Florida up to the coast of South Carolina,” said UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Catherine Edwards, one of the glider team leaders and who was responsible for the glider once it rounded the tip of Florida.
The trip was a test to see whether the glider could successfully navigate around Florida and up the East Coast while gaining information about multiple marine systems – all during a single mission. With no propeller or motor, it would have to do so using minimal battery power and only buoyancy to travel.
Slocum gliders, also known as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), are torpedo-shaped underwater robots about six feet long and eight inches in diameter that carry instrument packages to gather data on water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and other ocean parameters, depending on ocean-observation needs. The gliders use buoyancy to move throughout the water column in a vertical yo-yo pattern, taking in water to move down through the water column and expelling water to return to the surface. The wings on the glider then give it lift that allows it to move forward. When the glider surfaces, it sends data to a satellite, which beams it back to scientists in the lab. Back in the laboratory, glider pilots can update and adjust glider trajectories to ensure they remain on course, or even change their paths.
NG645’s initial mission was to gather information on the Loop Current and Loop Current Eddies, major oceanographic features in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The Loop Current is sort of an arm of the western boundary current that eventually becomes the Gulf Stream,” Edwards said. “That’s one of the major features that this project seeks to capture. Just like we’re monitoring the edge of the Gulf Stream with our gliders, these are areas where the models need the most improvement, and where our observations can have the greatest impact.”
The glider was a part of the Hurricane Glider Project, a series of gliders monitoring the ocean in the Gulf, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic that are programmed to collect information on ocean parameters from areas where tropical storms and hurricanes typically form or strengthen. Gliders gather temperature and salinity readings from throughout the water column, not just at the surface, and send it back to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in near-real time to improve the accuracy of upper ocean models used to create hurricane intensity forecasts. This was the first-time glider operators attempted such an ambitious mission.
“There were so many firsts during this mission,” said Kerri Whilden, a researcher from Texas A&M University, who led the collaboration in the Gulf before handing it off to Edwards as it rounded Key West and navigated up the East Coast. “It would be the first time we started piloting a glider in the Gulf and then sent it through the Gulf Stream around the tip of Florida, then on to South Carolina. It involved coordinating a lot of different organizations to deploy the glider, to pilot it and then to retrieve it at the end of its mission. It was a big team collaboration for sure.”
In addition to UGA Skidaway Institute and Texas A&M, other partners in the project included the Naval Oceanographic Office, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System, the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, the Underwater Glider User Group, the University of Southern Mississippi, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Planning is under way for a repeat mission in 2022.
For 30 years, John “Crawfish” Crawford has regaled campers and school children on field trips to the UGA Aquarium, guiding them on nature walks through the salt marsh and introducing them to the many creatures that call coastal Georgia home.
His tenure officially ended Dec. 1, when Crawford retired from the University of Georgia. But his legacy will continue through an endowed educator position at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, funded by a generous estate gift made by longtime supporters.
The John “Crawfish” Crawford Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellowship will generate incentive for a leading naturalist to fill a faculty educator role at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium and provide the resources to support traditional naturalist practices that maintain an emphasis on exploration, curiosity, field interpretation and personal connection to the world.
A new film by Motion House Media tells the story of Crawford’s impact through interviews with individuals who have been inspired by the larger than life conservationist over the years. Watch it here.
The endowed funds will also enhance the faculty fellow’s ability to make a difference in the lives of students and help fulfill the university’s public service and outreach mission—as Crawford has.
“Someone who gets the endowed fellowship will need to know who John is, what he cared about, and what he’s like,” says Ruth McMullin, who, with her husband Tom, made the gift. “We want to make sure the way (John) teaches, his enthusiasm, and his methodology remain when he’s no longer here.”
McMullin, who lives on Skidaway Island, has been volunteering at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium for 23 years. She is inspired by Crawford’s curiosity, enthusiasm and ability to mold minds and develop stewards of Georgia’s coastal environments.
“He’s just so special,” McMullin said. “I was really happy to volunteer because I knew I would get to spend more time learning from him.”
“I have learned an awful lot from watching how he interacts with children and adults and how he shares his excitement with other people. You can’t be somebody you admire, but you can copy them.”
Crawford grew up in Savannah, where he explored the coast’s mud flats and maritime forests, discovering corn snakes, fiddler crabs and other animals that often found their way into his house. At age 15, he had dozens of pet snakes, all of which he kept in his room.
He cultivated his knowledge of coastal resources at Armstrong State College and Florida Keys Community College in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After his time in Florida, he made his way back to the Georgia coast where he continued to make his mark on the conservation and environmental education community.
He joined UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in 1990, where as a marine educator he has spent 30 years sharing his knowledge with K-12 students, teachers, education fellows, coastal residents and conservation professionals.
“He has taught hundreds of professional educators, tens of thousands of students, and changed the landscape of environmental and marine education along the coast,” says Anne Lindsay, associate director of marine education at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “He knows boats, plants, animals and people and a little about every other natural science or coastal topic you can think of.”
Lindsay, who was mentored by Crawford when she was hired at what was then the UGA Marine Extension Service in the 1990s, explains how he laid the foundation for the education programs that are still offered at the facility today.
“He has helped us expand our reach, establish new collaborations and partnerships, nurture long standing relationships with educators, scientists and citizens,” Lindsay said. “He has cemented the reputation of the Marine Education Center and Aquarium as an institution with a standard of educational quality that we aspire to uphold.”
Learn more about Crawford and the importance of this endowed position in a short film by Motion House Media, a video production company based in Athens, Georgia. The film tells the story of Crawford’s impact through interviews with individuals who have been inspired by the larger than life conservationist over the years.
On the deck of the Sea Dawg, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s 43-foot research vessel, Marine Educator Dodie Sanders sets up her computer, webcam and teaching props, which include live fish, corals and a stingray.
She introduces herself through her webcam and asks her first question, “What do we call water that’s in between fresh and salty?”
“Brackish!” responds a chorus of students from the speakers of her computer.
A few hundred miles away in Rome, Georgia, 25 fifth graders at the Darlington School are watching Sanders’ program on their iPads. Typically, this conversation would happen aboard the Sea Dawg while trawling for live specimens in Wassaw Sound. For the next two days, educators at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium are bringing the on-site, outdoor experiences to the classroom for the first time by way of virtual school trips.
Sanders describes the importance of Georgia’s brackish water estuaries where so many different species, like red drum, shrimp and blue crabs spend all or part of their lives. She talks about the different animals in her touch tank, explaining the physical and biological characteristics that are unique to each animal.
The educational trawl is just one of 16 different virtual classes now available to K-12 classrooms across the state. Available classes include marine debris, squid dissection, maritime forest hikes and more.
“Shifting from on-site to virtual programs has made us approach everything we do from a very different perspective with the goal of creating meaningful and impactful education programs,” says Sanders, who, along with her marine educator colleagues, spent several months modifying on-site programs for a virtual setting.
“How do you virtually capture searching for invertebrates living on the underside of a floating dock, the smell of salt marsh mud, hiking across an undeveloped barrier island, or touching cool organisms collected in a trawl net?” Sanders asks. “We’re incorporating the same teaching methods, the same tricks of the trade but perhaps on a more complicated and elevated level.”
The education team developed program templates, wrote teaching outlines, created new pre- and post-activities and tested new audio-visual equipment to prepare for the virtual school programs.
They keep the students engaged by showing pre-recorded videos of local environments and up-close live shots of animals that are native to the coast.
They also frequently pause instruction for question and answer sessions and encourage opportunities for students to share their own stories.
“Do you ever not want to go trawling and just sit on the boat instead?” asks one student during the virtual trawl.
“What happens if you catch a shark?” asks another.
Julie Fine, a fifth-grade teacher at Darlington School, says students at Darlington have been visiting the education facility on Skidaway Island for 10 years.
“We were really concerned that our kids would be missing out on a lot of the things that make fifth grade special. So much has already changed in their world,” says Fine. “When we reached out to see what you guys might be able to offer, we were really excited to hear about the virtual experience.”
Fine and fellow fifth grade teacher Bebe Cline chose the classes they would normally have done on-site, like the squid dissection and dolphin excursion, but they also picked new classes, like the trawling trip and coastal reptiles, which ended up being big hits with their students.
“At one point, one of the fish jumped out of the little tray and they loved that. They loved seeing them up close,” Fine says.
Their goal was to make the two days as full and as exciting as possible, without actually being at the coast, Fine says. They also chose topics that aligned with their studies of classification and coastal Georgia as part of the fifth-grade curriculum.
“Our students were definitely focused and learning and really getting the material, much the same that they do while they are actually there,” Fine says.
This positive feedback from Darlington is encouraging for educators at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium, who plan to further enhance virtual school programming and reach more students in the coming year.
In the past, transportation, funding and logistics have often made field trips a challenge for schools who want to come to the Marine Education Center and Aquarium.
With the virtual programs up-and-running, teachers can bring the coast to their students with the click of a mouse and at a fraction of the cost.
“Our new world of teaching virtually affords the opportunity to reach and serve more diverse communities, especially those who may not be able to take part in our on-site programs,” says Sanders. “Virtual programs make us more accessible.”
The University of Georgia has granted tenure to UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography / Department of Marine Sciences scientist Catherine Edwards. Edwards was also promoted from assistant professor to associate professor, effective Aug. 1.
Edwards is a physical oceanographer, with broad interdisciplinary interests in marine sciences and engineering. She earned a B.S. in physics with highest honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and worked as an ocean modeler at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory before earning her Ph.D. in physical oceanography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined Skidaway Institute in 2010.
Edwards’ research focuses on answering fundamental questions in coastal oceanography and fisheries sciences with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Using AUVs, also called gliders, she and her team are developing novel ways to optimize their use with engineering principles and real-time data streams from models and observations.
While at UGA Skidaway Institute, Edwards has been awarded more than $2 million dollars on 12 projects totaling more than $12 million from NOAA/Navy sources, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and four different programs within the National Science Foundation. As the founder of a regional glider observatory, she serves as the lead scientist in a new project that places gliders in the paths of hurricanes to better predict their intensity at landfall. Edwards is a co-primary investigator in a large $5 million observational program studying exchange between the coastal and deep ocean at Cape Hatteras. In an effort funded by NSF’s Smart and Autonomous Systems program, Edwards is also working with researchers from Georgia Tech and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary to utilize gliders and acoustic tagging to track fish migrations.