Tag Archives: university of georgia

Benthic chambers and the R/V Savannah

By Debbie Jahnke

Editor’s Note: Rick and Debbie Jahnke were long time fixtures at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Rick was a faculty scientist and, for a short time, interim director. Debbie was his research coordinator. They retired in 2008 and now reside in Port Townsend, Wash.

Wandering through the latest Skidaway Campus Notes (Fall 2017), I encountered “R/V Savannah Demonstrates a Broad Geographic Range in 2017,” and there was a photo of an autonomous vehicle being recovered by the R/V Savannah in the Gulf of Mexico. That particular autonomous vehicle appears to be one of a family that started life as a BECI (Benthic Experimental Chamber Instrument), first built at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and then trucked across country in 1987 when the Jahnkes moved to Savannah and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. (Back then, we weren’t “the Jahnkes” yet. That didn’t happen until 1999.)

Two more BECIs of this type were built at Skidaway Institute but Lee Knight (emeritus Assistant Director/Engineer) had them constructed with hexagonal structural horizontals rather than the circular original. Skidaway Institute’s machine shop didn’t have the equipment to make the round bend. One of the BECIs was lost at sea on the Ceara Rise, an underwater feature off the east coast of Brazil in 1994.

When we departed Skidaway for our “left coast” retirement in 2008, Martial Taillefert (Georgia Tech) was kind enough to adopt the old BECIs and various other benthic instruments and all their paraphernalia. It’s a pleasure to see what appears to be a BECI or a close relative in active use. There’s an additional float on her frame now, which must mean there is also more of a scientific payload to buoy.

It is a bonus to note that the BECI is going to sea on the R/V Savannah, as Rick had been closely involved in the design of the vessel and was acting director of Skidaway Institute when Trish Windom christened our brand-new, almost-finished ship in the Bath, Maine shipyard. Rick served briefly as acting director between Herb Windom’s retirement and the arrival of Jim Sanders as new director.

The completed R/V Savannah arrived from the shipyard in Maine just after midnight on September 12, 2001. Rick and I were waiting on the Skidaway Institute dock with Lee Knight when our ship appeared out of the dark downriver, heading for her new home. The World Trade Towers had just fallen, and chaos was in force. The crew hadn’t had radio contact, so we didn’t even know if they were okay. Skidaway Institute had a muted commissioning celebration for our new ship.

Now, Skidaway Institute has gained a new director who originally arrived as a post-doc quite a few years ago, and now has quite a bit of gray in his beard (Congratulations, Clark!). We’ve been retired more than nine years, but the BECI and her benthic companions are still hard at work. We wish the BECIs, the R/V Savannah and all their human collaborators past, present and future, a happy and successful 2018.

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NSF grant funds Diaz’s research

Julia Diaz

UGA Skidaway Institute researcher Julia Diaz is the lead scientist on a $852,906 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation titled “Collaborative Research: Assessing the role of compound specific phosphorus hydrolase transformations in the marine phosphorus cycle.” Diaz and her colleague, Solange Duhamel from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, will study how phytoplankton cope with shortages of phosphorus in the ocean, and if phytoplankton in phosphorus-rich environments also exhibit some of the same strategies. Skidaway Institute’s share of the grant is $296,831 and the funding began on Sept. 1, 2017.

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.

Evening @ Skidaway launches UGA Skidaway Institute’s 50th anniversary celebration

Since 1968, when the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography was founded, the science of oceanography has grown by giant proportions. Now a part of the University of Georgia, Skidaway Institute has been in the middle of that growth, conducting marine research from the coast of Georgia to sites all over the world.

The story of that growth and how UGA Skidaway Institute contributed to it will be the focus of a special Evening @ Skidaway program on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in the McGowan Library on the University of Georgia Skidaway Marine Science Campus. (10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411) The event will begin with a reception at 6:15 p.m., followed by the program at 7 p.m.

Herb Windom

In a talk titled “50 Years of Science at Skidaway Institute: People, Platforms and Partnerships,” Skidaway Institute scientist Herb Windom will look back at the amazing progress of marine research and the way it has opened mankind’s eyes to the wonders and mysteries of the ocean.

In 1968, Windom was the first faculty scientist hired at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. As he conducted his own research, he also watched the science grow as new researchers and technology allowed scientists to answer questions they hadn’t known to ask years earlier. Windom also served as director of the Institute for several years in the 1990s. He retired in 2001, but remains active as an emeritus professor, conducting research and advising other scientists.

The program is open to the public, and admission is free. Space is limited. To reserve a seat, please call (912) 598-2325 or email mike.sullivan@skio.uga.edu.

The Evening @ Skidaway program will kick off a year-long series of special events to celebrate the Institute’s 50th anniversary.

March 13 — Dr. Bill Savidge / So how much is a salt marsh really worth?
April 10 – Dr. Dana Savidge / Ocean Forces in the Graveyard of the Atlantic
May 15 — Open Lab Night / Visit informally with researchers in their labs.
June 12 –Dr. Catherine Edwards/ Exploring the Ocean with Underwater Robots
July 10 — Open Lab Night
August 14 — Dr. Cliff Buck / Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Problem
September 11 — Dr. Clark Alexander / Sea Level Rise and What It Means to Coastal Georgia
October 9 —  Dr. Jay Brandes / Microplastics: The New Pollution
November 13 — Dr. Elizabeth Harvey / The Magnificent World of Plankton

Glider partners come to the rescue during Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma presented an interesting problem to UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards and other glider operators in the Southeast. They had several autonomous underwater vehicles or “gliders” deployed off the east coast as the hurricane approached, including Skidaway Institute’s glider, “Modena.” Edwards and the others were confident the gliders themselves would be safe in the water, but the computer servers that control them would not.

Catherine Edwards works on “Modena.”

The gliders are equipped with satellite phones. Periodically, they call their home server, download data and receive instructions for their next operation. It was expected that Skidaway Institute would lose power for at least several days (as did happen). However, Skidaway’s backup server partner at the University of South Florida’s marine science facility in St. Petersburg, Fla. was also directly in the storm’s projected path.

“In the week before she hit, Irma sort of blew up our hurricane emergency plans,” Edwards said.

Several other options, including Teledyne Webb’s back-up servers and Rutgers University were not feasible for technical reasons. Glider operators at Texas A&M University came to the rescue. Catherine was able to instruct “Modena” to switch its calls over the Texas A&M server. No data was lost and “Modena” continued its mission.

According to Edwards, two big lessons emerged from the experience.

“First, most of us rely on nearby or regional partners for emergency and backup support, but disasters are regional by nature, and the same Nor’easter or hurricane can take you down along with your backup,” she said. “Second, there aren’t a lot of glider centers that can absorb several gliders on a day’s notice, and there are some compatibility and operations issues involved, so it is best to identify our potential partners and build out these steps into our emergency plans well in advance.”

Skidaway Island Marathon organizers support UGA Skidaway Institute

The organizers of the 2017 Skidaway Island Marathon recently presented a donation of $600 to the Associates of Skidaway Institute. Endurance Race Services organized the March 25 race, which had both its start and finish lines on the UGA Skidaway Marine Science Campus. The marathon organizers support a number of area nonprofits with the race proceeds. This was the third year the Skidaway Island Marathon was based out of the Skidaway campus.

Dan Pavlin (l) from Endurance Race Services presents a check to Skidaway Institute interim executive director Clark Alexander.

Jay Brandes collaborator on research paper

UGA Skidaway Institute professor Jay Brandes is a collaborator on a recent publication focusing on the roles of methane, iron and microbes in regulating the temperature of the primordial ocean. The research team was led by Georgia Tech Ph.D. student Marcus Bray. An article describing the project, can be found here.