Pitching a tent in the woods and fighting off mosquitos may not sound like logistics of a typical oceanography experiment, but that is how researchers at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography completed an intensive, round-the-clock sampling regimen this month. The project, dubbed “26 Hours on the Marsh” was designed to investigate how salt marshes function and interact with their surrounding environment—specifically how bacteria consume and process carbon in the marsh.
The team set up a sampling station and an outdoor laboratory on a bluff overlooking the Groves Creek salt marsh on the UGA Skidaway Institute campus. The scientists collected and processed water samples from the salt marsh every two hours, beginning at 11 a.m. on July 16 and running through 1 p.m. July 17. By conducting the tests for a continuous 26 hours, the team can compare the samples collected during the day with those collected at night, as well as through two full tidal cycles.
“We wanted to be able to compare not only what is happening to the carbon throughout the tidal cycle, but also what the microbes are doing at high and low tides and also during the day and night,” said Zachary Tait, a UGA Skidaway Institute research technician. “So we had to have two high tides and two low tides and a day and night for each. That works out to about 26 hours.”
The research team ran more than 30 different tests on each sample. The samples will provide data to several ongoing research projects. A research team from the University of Tennessee also participated in the sampling program. Their primary focus was to identify the bacterial population using DNA and RNA analysis.
This sampling project is one of many the researchers conduct during the year. They use an automatic sampling system for most of the other activities. The automatic system collects a liter of water every two hours, and holds it to be collected and processed at the end of the 26-hour cycle. The team could not use the auto sampler this time for several reasons; the scientists needed to collect much more water in each sample than the auto sampler could handle and the auto sampler tends to produce bubbles in the water, so it is not effective for measuring dissolved gasses.
“The UT scientists wanted to conduct enzyme analysis as well as RNA and DNA tests on the samples, and for those, the samples must be very fresh,” said Megan Thompson, a UGA Skidaway Institute research technician. “You can’t just go out and pick them up the next day.”
About a dozen scientists and students were involved in the project, including Thompson, Tait, a group of undergraduate students completing summer internships at UGA’s Skidaway Institute and a similar group from UT. They split their time between the tent and outdoor laboratory on a bluff overlooking Groves Creek, and the UGA Skidaway Institute laboratories a mile away.
“It was an interesting experience, and I think it went very well,” said Thompson. “However, when we wrapped it up, we were all ready to just go home and sleep.”
“26 Hours on the Marsh” is supported by two grants from the National Science Foundation, totaling $1.7 million that represent larger, three-year, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary research projects into salt marsh activity. These projects bring together faculty, students and staff from UGA’s Skidaway Institute, UT and Woods Hole Research Center. UGA Skidaway Institute scientists include principal investigator Jay Brandes; chemical oceanographers Aron Stubbins and Bill Savidge; physical oceanographers Dana Savidge, Catherine Edwards and Jack Blanton; and geologist Clark Alexander. Additional investigators include microbial ecologist Alison Buchan and chemical oceanographer Drew Steen, both from UT; as well as geochemist Robert Spencer from WHRC.
An undergraduate student who conducted her research at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will attend a prestigious international science conference as a reward for winning the Outstanding Research Paper in the Savannah State University’s Bridge to Research program.
Candilianne Serrano Zayas’ paper was chosen from 10 others and tied for first place. She will attend the international science conference sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography meeting in Granada, Spain, in February 2015.
Zayas is a rising junior and biology major at the Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her research project studied the microbiological community present in dolphins.
“One of the reasons this is important is because bottlenose dolphins are a marine sentinel species,” Zayas said. “This means that their health can be indicative of the health of the overall environment, which in the case of dolphins is our coastal waters.”
Zayas believes what made her project special was that it involved both field and lab work, and it created an interesting and important relationship between human health and animal health. “You don’t need to take a molecular biology class to understand how it works, so it makes it so much easier to explain to different audiences.”
Zayas worked in the lab of Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer, who praised her and her mentors.
“The combination of a good student, an appropriate project and, most importantly, a stellar mentor shoots these students to the stars,” Frischer said.
Zayas was mentored by SSU graduate student Kevin McKenzie, who is also a member of the Frischer research team. Zayas echoed Frischer’s praise. “Kevin took the time to explain it all to me, even two or three times, and he taught me everything I did on this project,” she said.
In the 2013, McKenzie mentored another REU student who also won this prestigious award. Kristopher Drummond, an SSU student and star football player for SSU, has continued the research he started and plans to continue his studies.
Zayas says she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in Puerto Rico and then attend graduate school.
Zayas shared the first place honor with SSU student Darius Sanford, who worked at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and who will also attend the ASLO meeting.
Launched in 2009, the SSU Bridge to Research in Marine Sciences program is a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program. The SSU program has proven successful in inspiring under-represented student populations to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology-based research fields.
“African-Americans are greatly underrepresented in the ocean sciences,” SSU professor Tara Cox explained. “Of the 28 students who have completed the program, 20 are African-American.”
The seven-week 2014 Bridge to Research program began with field trips and classroom work covering research basics. The students then took a two-day research cruise on Skidaway Institute’s Research Vessel Savannah. They then were paired with a mentor at one of the participating organizations—Savannah State University, UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary or Georgia Tech-Savannah. During this partnership, they conducted research and then presented it at a public forum.
Skidaway Island, Ga. – Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography participated in Ocean Sampling Day—an ambitious, international project to produce a single-day snapshot of microbial populations around the world. On Saturday, June 21, researchers collected water samples at 185 global sites, ranging from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean and from New Zealand to Iceland.
This was the first global, simultaneous sampling of microbes in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters. The sampling program will support international missions to provide information on the diversity of microbes, their functions and their potential economic benefits.
Skidaway Institute scientists collected water at two locations. One team collected and processed samples from the Skidaway River, which is immediately adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus. This activity will also be part of an ongoing water-quality monitoring program that Skidaway Institute has supported for more than 25 years. A second group teamed up with scientists from NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and collected samples from Gray’s Reef. The 14,000-acre marine sanctuary is located approximately 17 miles off the coast of Georgia’s Sapelo Island.
“Simultaneous sampling provides a reference for direct comparison between different types of ecosystems,” said Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer, who supervised Skidaway Institute’s activities. “The observation of similarities and differences between ecosystems provides a context for understanding how complex natural aquatic ecosystems work.”
Scientists at all the sites used the same protocol to collect and process their samples. The samples will be analyzed at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. However, shipping liters of water would be both impractical and expensive. So the Skidaway Institute collection team of Tina Walters, Kevin McKenzie and LaGina Frazier ran the water through filters fine enough to collect the microbes and other particulates in the water. The filters, which are about the size of a lipstick tube, were then frozen to minus 80 degrees Celsius and shipped to Germany where they will be analyzed.
“It is important that this program provides a standard method for sample collection and analysis,” Frischer said. “Having a standard set of methods makes it easier to make direct comparisons.”
According to Frischer, the Ocean Sampling Day project will advance scientists’ understanding of the diversity and role of microbes in aquatic environments. Microbes, such as viruses, bacteria, algae, fungi and microzooplankton, account for the majority of biomass and genetic diversity of life on Earth and they play critical roles in all living systems.
“Because microbes play such a central role in ecosystem function, a deeper understanding of them in aquatic systems will advance our understanding of every aspect of these systems,” Frischer said. “It is hard to predict direct benefits, but the information we gain will certainly be relevant to many issues that are of concern, including climate change, fisheries, water quality, human impacts, discovery of novel pharmaceuticals, and diseases of important fishery organisms.”
The Ocean Sampling Day project was coordinated jointly by Jacobs University and the University of Oxford, U.K. The effort was launched under the umbrella of the European-funded project Micro B3, which aims to boost marine research and innovation opportunities.
Additional information on the global Ocean Sampling Day project is available at http://www.microb3.eu/osd.
Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will join researchers around the globe in a worldwide Ocean Sampling Day on Saturday, June 21. Ocean Sampling Day is the first global, simultaneous sampling of microbes in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters.
The sampling will be conducted at more than 160 marine research locations from Iceland to Antarctica and from Moorea in French Polynesia to South Africa. The sampling program will support international missions to provide information on the diversity of microbes, their function and their potential economic benefits.
Skidaway Institute scientists will take samples in two locations. One team will collect and process samples from the Skidaway River, immediately adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus. This activity also will be part of an on-going water-quality monitoring program that Skidaway Institute has supported for more than 25 years. A second group will team-up with scientists from NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, and collect samples from Gray’s Reef. The 14,000-acre marine sanctuary is located approximately 17 miles off the coast of Georgia’s Sapelo Island.
The sampling program is coordinated jointly by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany and the University of Oxford, UK. The effort was launched under the umbrella of the European-funded project Micro B3, which aims to boost marine research and innovation opportunities.
Additional information on the global Ocean Sampling Day project is available, http://www.microb3.eu/osd.
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