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 Archived News 

Posted:
10/13/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 Due to complications presented by Hurricane Matthew, Skidaway Marine Science Day, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, October 22, will NOT be presented. Unfortunately, rescheduling the event is not feasible this fall. The event will be back bigger and stronger next year. Meanwhile, the UGA Aquarium will be open with its regular Saturday hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

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Posted:
9/28/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Savannah residents Michelle and Barry Vine presented a gift of $79,000 to the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography to support the institute’s cutting-edge oceanographic research. In recognition of the gift, UGA Skidaway Institute plans to name an observation laboratory in honor of Michelle Vine’s father, Albert Dewitt Smith Jr. The Vines’ gift is the largest monetary donation ever given to UGA Skidaway Institute.

 Michelle Vine presents her gift to UGA Skidaway Institute interim director Clark Alexander in front of the soon-to-be-renovated show barn.

“We are pleased to support the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in its continuous effort to conduct research and protect our coastal environment,” said Michelle Vine. “Every day we enjoy the benefits of living on the coast, and as a community, we should never forget how important Skidaway Institute is to us.” 

Vine’s father, Al Smith, was a World War II Marine Corps veteran, and, like his daughter, a UGA graduate.  He worked in industrial relations for General Motors in Doraville, Lockheed in Marietta and Union Camp Corp. in Atlanta and Savannah. For the last 12 years before his death in 1998, he owned Complete Security Systems.

The Albert Dewitt Smith Jr. Observational Laboratory will be located in the soon-to-be-created Center for Hydrology and Marine Processes. Earlier this year, the Georgia General Assembly approved a $3 million appropriation to renovate and repurpose a circa-1947 concrete cattle show barn for laboratory and meeting spaces and as a home for the center. Innovative for its time, the cattle barn was constructed by the Roebling family. The Roeblings established the Modena Plantation in the mid-1930s, and raised black angus cattle and Hampshire hogs before they donated their land to the state in 1967 to create Skidaway Institute.

“We are very grateful to the Vines for their generous gift,” said UGA Skidaway Institute Interim Director Clark Alexander. “This will help support our education and research activities, both here on the coast and around the world.”

“The UGA Skidaway Institute is a division of the University of Georgia, but it also relies heavily on local support,” Vine said. “Please join us by donating online at www.skio.uga.edu, and becoming a member of ASI, the Associates of Skidaway Institute.”

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Posted:
7/21/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography have received a $527,000 grant from the National Science Foundation Chemical Oceanography Program to answer one of the long-standing questions about carbon in the ocean—the rate sunlight produces carbon dioxide from organic carbon molecules in the sea.

Researchers Aron Stubbins (l) and Jay Brandes

Jay Brandes, Leanne Powers and Aron Stubbins will use a new technique they developed to measure this process, which is known as photo-degradation.

The ocean is full of millions of different types of organic compounds. Some are consumed by bacteria, but many are not easily consumed and remain in the ocean for hundreds or thousands of years. However, near the surface, sunlight causes the breakdown of organic compounds and converts them into carbon dioxide through photo-degradation. Until recently, this process has been nearly impossible to measure directly in most of the ocean because the additional carbon dioxide produced per day is tiny compared to the existing high concentration of CO2 present in the sea.

Brandes described the problem as looking for a needle in a haystack.

“You might think this is not important because it is hard to measure, but that’s not true,” he said. “We’re talking about a process that takes place across the whole ocean. When you integrate that over such a vast area, it becomes a potentially very important process.”

Researcher Leanne Powers

The project became possible when the team developed a new technique to measure the change in CO2 concentration in a seawater sample. The concept was the brainchild of Powers, a Skidaway Institute post-doctoral research associate. The technique uses carbon 13, a rare, stable isotope of carbon that contains an extra neutron in its nucleus. Researchers will add a carbon 13 compound to a sample of seawater and then bombard the sample with light. The scientists will then use an instrument known as an isotope ratio mass spectrometer to measure the changes in CO2 concentration. 

According to Brandes, this project will be breaking new ground in the field of chemical oceanography.

“We don’t know what the photo-degradation rates are in most of the ocean,” he said. “We are going to establish the first numbers for that.”

The team plans to take samples off the Georgia coast, as well as from Bermuda and Hawaii.

While they will continue to refine the carbon 13 technique, Brandes said it is now time to put that tool to work.

“It is now a matter of establishing what the numbers are in these different locations and trying to develop a global budget,” he said. “Just how much dissolved organic carbon is removed and converted to CO2 every year?”

The project is funded for three years. The team will also create an aquarium exhibit at the UGA Aquarium on the Skidaway Island campus to help student groups and the public understand river and ocean color. 

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Posted:
7/6/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 The soil in the Arctic holds a massive store of carbon. These remnants of plants and animals that lived tens of thousands of years ago have been locked in permafost, soil that is always frozen…until now. 

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Aron Stubbins is part of a team that travelled to Siberia to discover what happens to that carbon when the permafrost thaws.

 https://youtu.be/ahoo3qeyBmY

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Posted:
7/1/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Catherine Edwards is leading a team that has received a five-year, $750,000 grant from the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association, or SECOORA, to establish a regional glider network.

 UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Catherine Edwards assembles the tail cone assembly of a glider. 

Also known as autonomous underwater vehicles, the gliders are torpedo-shaped crafts that can be packed with sensors and sent on underwater missions to collect oceanographic data. Equipped with satellite phones, the gliders surface periodically to transmit their recorded data and to receive new instructions during missions that can last from weeks to months.

The team will work collaboratively to operate regular glider missions on the continental shelf in an area from North Carolina to Florida known as the South Atlantic Bight. Regular coordinated experiments will involve simultaneous deployment of gliders at multiple locations off Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Sensors on the gliders will allow the team to map temperature, salinity, density, dissolved oxygen and other scientific data over the entire South Atlantic Bight. The data will help scientists understand ocean processes and how the ocean physics may affect fisheries—for example, the location of fronts or areas of increased productivity where fish often congregate. 

“This glider observatory is the first time regular glider efforts have been funded in the South Atlantic Bight and is complementary to larger SECOORA efforts in observing and modeling,” Edwards said. “The work is highly leveraged by contributions from each of the team members and partnerships with fisheries and observing groups at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.” 

Edwards and her team have designed the deployments with input from fisheries management partners and interests of commercial and recreational fisheries. Gliders will also be outfitted with passive and active acoustics receivers that will record sound and measure signals from tagged fish.   Fisheries managers at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, state Department of Natural Resources offices, the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and others will be able use this information to better understand the ocean “soundscape,” fish migrations and key species use of their habitat. 

“The glider missions will contribute important information related to research underway at Gray’s Reef,” said Sarah Fangman, superintendent of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. “We have been studying fish movement patterns inside the sanctuary, and the gliders’ acoustic receivers will provide a valuable new tool to expand where we can observe fish movements.”

In addition to regular coordinated experiments with multiple gliders and maximum regional coverage, the project will leverage opportunities to develop regular transects in areas where glider data may be of interest, for example near marine protected areas like Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and other critical habitat zones designated by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.

The glider data will provide valuable information for validation of ocean models—regional models of ocean circulation funded by SECOORA as well as the larger modeling community. Further, the data will be packaged and used to improve ocean model forecasts.

“We’re sending all of the glider data to the National Glider Data Assembly Center as it comes in so that it can be assimilated into the U.S. Navy’s operational models,” Edwards said. “The gliders will improve Navy forecasts on the fly with real time data.”

The remainder of the research team includes Chad Lembke from the University of South Florida, Ruoying He from North Carolina State University, Harvey Seim from the University of North Carolina and Fumin Zhang from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Data and maps from the project will be shared freely and made available to the research community, fisheries managers and other stakeholders and the general public in near-real time through SECOORA at http://secoora.org/ and the National Data Buoy Center.

 

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Posted:
6/9/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

JoCasta Green became a teacher after she was told as a child she couldn’t be a scientist because she was a girl. In May, the pre-K teacher from Decatur, Georgia, achieved a small piece of her childhood dream by joining a research cruise on board the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s Research Vessel Savannah. Green was one of two teachers on the overnight cruise, some of the first to participate in a cooperative program between UGA Skidaway Institute and Georgia Southern University’s Institute for Interdisciplinary STEM Education (i2STEMe).

“Because I am an elementary teacher, I was afraid that maybe I shouldn’t have applied,” Green said. “However, once I got here and everyone was so interested and wanted to share, I really did learn a lot.”

 JoCasta Green (right) learns how to prepare a conductivity-temperature-depth sensor array for deployment with the help of Natalia Lopez Figueroa from Hampton University.

 

UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer led the cruise with the aim to hunt, collect and study doliolids -- a small gelatinous organism of great significance to the ecology and productivity of continental shelf environments around the world. Green and middle school teacher Vicki Albritton of Savannah were the only teachers on board and were able to actively participate in the research activities.

“I think giving any teacher the opportunity come to out to sea is an amazing experience,” Frischer said. “I think it’s transformative, but to have them integrated into the research, we haven’t really done that before.”

Green and Albritton participated in the deck activities. They helped launch the CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth) sensor packages mounted on heavy metal frames and deployed plankton nets that concentrated a wide variety of tiny marine creatures into a small container. The two teachers then worked with the science team in the darkened wet lab to sort through gallons of water and to isolate the doliolids they were seeking. 

“I was hoping to see science in action, and I did that all day long,” Albritton said. “I got to participate and learn what was going on and take many pictures, and now I have a wealth of information to take back to the classroom.”

Albritton says an experience like the cruise raises teachers’ credibility in the classroom, because the students see the teachers going out to learn more themselves. “If I want them to be perpetual learners, then I need to demonstrate that same trait,” she said.

Although Green admitted she was nervous about the cruise initially, she credited the scientists with making her comfortable. “They were great teachers,” she said. “I understood what we were doing and why we were doing it.”

Albritton echoed Green’s thoughts and cited the graciousness of everyone she encountered on the cruise. “There wasn’t condescension or an implication that we didn’t know anything,” she said. “There was genuine respect for all of us as professionals in our fields. That was really wonderful.”

A research cruise on the 92-foot R/V Savannah will never be confused with a luxury vacation cruise. Green and Albritton agreed the food was good, but the working spaces were tight and the bunks and cabins even more so.

Green and Albritton were the second group of teachers to join an R/V Savannah research cruise through the partnership with Georgia Southern’s i2STEMe program. The goal of the i2STEMe program is to improve the teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at all levels from kindergarten through college throughout coastal Georgia.

The partnership between UGA Skidaway Institute and i2STEMe is expected to grow. Five additional doliolid cruises are scheduled this year with space available for as many as four teachers on each cruise. UGA Skidaway Institute will also offer two half-day cruises this month as part of i2STEMe’s summer professional development workshop for teachers.

According to Frischer, the ultimate goal of scientific research is to generate and communicate information. “Teachers are some of our most important communicators,” he said. “They communicate to the next generation, so I think it is really special to be able to bring teachers right to where the research is happening. It gives them a total perspective, not only on what we are doing, but how research works and to communicate that to their students.”

Both Green and Albritton said they would encourage their fellow teachers to take advantage of opportunities like this. “You would be crazy not to, in terms of learning and what you can bring back to the kids in your classroom,” Albritton said. “It’s an experience you will never forget.”

 The cruise was part of a research project, The Cryptic Diet of the Globally Significant Pelagic Tunicate Dolioletta Gegenbauri, funded by a grant (Grant numbers OCE 1459293 & OCE 1459510) from the National Science Foundation’s Biological Oceanography program. The grant includes two ship days per year to support broader impact goals of providing experiential learning opportunities for educators.

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Posted:
6/6/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

How much of a nutrient load is too much for Georgia’s coastal rivers and estuaries? A research team from University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is helping Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division answer that question. Their primary focus is on the estuary at the mouth of the Ogeechee River, where the researchers are measuring nutrient concentrations and other water properties to determine how they change as they flow through the estuary.

The nutrients are chemicals like nitrates and phosphates typically introduced into the rivers by agricultural runoff, storm water or sewage effluents, and the natural decay of organic matter in the river. When present in high concentrations, the nutrients act as fertilizer, promoting excessive growth of marine plants, especially microscopic marine plants called phytoplankton.

“The Georgia EPD wants to know how much nitrogen is coming down the river and whether it has any consequences when it gets to the estuary,” said UGA Skidaway Institute scientist William Savidge. “It doesn’t really matter if you have high nutrient concentrations if it is not having a harmful effect.”Elsewhere on the East Coast, excessive nutrients in estuaries have been linked to toxic algal blooms that can cause fish kills or shellfish closures. Death and decay of algal blooms by bacteria can drive oxygen concentrations down to levels that are unhealthy for other marine life. These are not presently known to be significant problems in Georgia’s waters, but scientists and regulators do not know what the thresholds are for developing water quality problems.

The EPD is interested in these issues because they are mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on nutrient levels for Georgia’s estuaries. Savidge describes the mandate as a difficult problem for several reasons.

“There is not any current and systematic information on nutrient conditions in most of the estuaries,” he said, “nor is there much information on the consequences of nutrient availability in the estuaries, and it’s those consequences that are the most important.”

As they expected, Savidge and his team observed a wide range of conditions depending on the season. Nutrient inputs tend to be highest in the spring when agricultural fields are fertilized.They are currently mapping the biological and chemical properties of the Ogeechee River estuary each season to assess the nutrient changes throughout the year and to see what effects can be seen in the river and the estuary. Twice every quarter for the last year, the researchers have followed the incoming tide and sampled the river continuously as they moved upstream from the mouth of the estuary to fresh water. They used an onboard set of sensors to obtain continuous surface measurements of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll (indicative of phytoplankton), turbidity and colored dissolved organic matter. In addition to the continuous surface measurements, the team stopped periodically and collected water samples from the bottom and throughout the water column. The product of each of these expeditions was a detailed map of conditions on the river, and when and where they are changing.

“Nutrient delivery is high in the spring, but we don’t have a high chlorophyll concentration in the Ogeechee River because, presumably, the nutrients are being washed off into the coastal ocean before any effect is noticed,” Savidge said

On the other hand, chlorophyll levels -- which indicate phytoplankton population -- are highest in the summer. Low summer river flow means water remains in the system longer. When combined with more sunlight and warmer temperatures, this slow flow this allows more time for the microscopic plants to grow.

In addition to sampling the Ogeechee River, the team is also conducting a smaller sampling project in the Altamaha River for comparison purposes.

Field work on the project will end in June, and Savidge expects to report the team’s findings to Georgia EPD by mid-summer.

“The Georgia EPD is going to have to balance the potential negative risks of nutrient loading versus the economic consequences of restricting nutrient additions,” Savidge said. “If, for example, most of the nutrient additions are agricultural, and that is creating problems downstream, the Georgia EPD may be forced by EPA to regulate nutrient additions, either by restricting how much fertilizer is placed on fields or mandating larger buffer zones around rivers and creeks.”

In addition to Savidge, the research team includes UGA Skidaway Institute scientists Jay Brandes and Aron Stubbins, research associate Kate Doyle and graduate student Lixin Zhu. UGA researchers Brock Woodson and Mandy Joye are also contributing.

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Posted:
6/2/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 Savannah, Ga. -- As the 2016 Georgia shrimping season gets underway, the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will host a meeting to present the latest research and other information on black gill in Georgia and South Carolina shrimp. The meeting will be held at the UGA Marine Extension Aquarium at the north end of Skidaway Island in Savannah, Ga. on Wednesday, June 22, from 1-4 p.m.

Black gill is a condition affecting the coastal shrimp population. It is caused by a microscopic parasite. Many shrimpers believe black gill may be largely responsible for reduced shrimp harvests in recent years. UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer is leading a research project, now in its third year, into the causes and effects of black gill on the Georgia and South Carolina shrimp population.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide stakeholders, such as shrimpers, fish house owners, wholesalers or anyone else interested in black gill, with an update on black gill research efforts.  Frischer and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources scientist Amy Fowler and will present their latest research findings. UGA Marine Extension and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will also provide updates. The meeting will be open to the public.

The meeting is for information purposes only. No management decisions will be made.

For additional information, contact Bryan Fluech, UGA Marine Extension, at (912) 264-7269.

What: Black Gill Stakeholders Meeting

When: Wednesday, June 22, 1-4: p.m.

Where: UGA  Aquarium, 30 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, Ga., 31411

Directions: http://marex.uga.edu/visit_aquarium/

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Posted:
4/5/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Savannah, Ga. – Sometimes called the “graveyard of the Atlantic” because of the large number of shipwrecks there, the waters off of Cape Hatteras on the North Carolina coast are some of the least understood on the U.S. eastern seaboard. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Dana Savidge is leading a team, which also includes UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards, to investigate the dynamic forces that characterize those waters.

The four-year project, informally called PEACH: Processes driving Exchange at Cape Hatteras, is funded by $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Skidaway Institute will receive $1.2 million for its part.

UGA Skidaway Institute scientists Dana Savidge (l) and Catherine Edwards

Two opposing deep ocean currents collide at Cape Hatteras, making the Atlantic Ocean near there highly dynamic. The warm Gulf Stream hugs the edge of the continental shelf as it flows north from the tip of Florida.  At Cape Hatteras, it opposes a colder current, the Slope Sea Gyre current, that moves southward along the mid-Atlantic coast and breaks away from the coast toward northern Europe. As in the deep ocean, the cool shelf waters of the mid-Atlantic continental shelf meet the warm salty shelf waters from the south at Cape Hatteras. 

The convergence of all of these currents at one place means that, after long lifetimes in the sunlit shallow shelves, these waters may export large quantities of organic carbon—small plants and animals that have grown up on the shelf—to the open ocean. Scientists have little understanding of the details of how that happens and how it is controlled by the high-energy winds, waves and interaction the between the constantly changing Gulf Stream and Slope Sea Gyre currents.

According to Savidge, the area is very difficult to observe because the water is shallow, the sea-state can be challenging and the convergence of strong currents at one place make it hard to capture features of interest.

“It’s difficult to get enough instruments in the water because conditions change rapidly over short distances, and it’s hard to keep them there because conditions are rough,” she said. “Ships work nicely for many of these measurements, but frequently, the ships get chased to shore because of bad weather.”

To overcome the limitations of ship-based work, the research team will use a combination of both shore- and ocean-based instruments to record the movement and characteristics of the streams of water. A system of high-frequency radar stations will monitor surface currents on the continental shelf all the way out to the shoreward edge of the Gulf Stream, providing real-time maps of surface currents. 

“Measuring surface currents remotely with the radars is a real advantage here,” Savidge said. “They cover regions that are too shallow for mobile vehicles like ships to operate while providing detailed information over areas where circulation can change quite dramatically over short times and distances.”

Edwards will lead a robotic observational component in which pairs of autonomous underwater vehicles called gliders will patrol the shelf to the north and south of Cape Hatteras.  Packed with instruments to measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and bio-optical properties of the ocean, both shelf- and deep-water gliders fly untethered through the submarine environment, sending their data to shore at regular intervals via satellite.

To compensate for the notoriously difficult conditions, Edwards will take advantage of a novel glider navigation system she developed with students and collaborators at Georgia Tech that automatically adjusts the glider mission based on ocean forecasts as well as data collected in real time.

“Our experiments show that we can keep the gliders where they need to be to collect the data we need,” she said. “The best part is that we get to put the maps of surface currents together with the subsurface information from the gliders, and we can make all of this information available in real time to scientists, fishermen and the general public.”

The researchers will also place a number of moorings and upward-pointing echo sounders on the sea floor. These acoustic units will track the water movement while also recording temperature and density.  PEACH will focus primarily on the physics of the ocean, but the information the researchers gather will also help scientists more fully understand the chemistry and biology, and may cast light on issues like carbon cycling and global climate change. 

“Everyone is interested in the global carbon budget, and the effect of the coastal seas on that budget is not well understood,” Savidge said. “For example, many scientists consider the continental shelf to be a sink for carbon, because there is a lot of biology going on and it draws in carbon. 

“However, there are indications that the shelf south of Hatteras is both a sink and a source of carbon. This project may help clarify that picture.”

The project will run through March 2020. The remaining members of the research team are Harvey Seim and John Bane of the University of North Carolina; Ruoying He of North Carolina State University; and Robert Todd, Magdalena Andres and Glen Gawarkiewicz from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

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Posted:
3/9/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Athens, Ga. – From beach shallows to the ocean depths, vast numbers of chemical compounds work together to reduce and store atmospheric carbon in the world’s oceans.

 In the past, studying the connections between ocean-borne compounds and microbes has been impractical because of the sheer complexity of each. Three University of Georgia faculty members—along with an international team of scientists—bring to the forefront technological developments that are providing scientists with the analytical tools needed to understand these molecular-level relationships.

 Their perspective article appears March 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It focuses on dissolved organic matter, or DOM, in the world’s oceans as a central carbon reservoir in the current and future global carbon cycle.

 “Dissolved organic carbon is an amazing and confounding molecular soup,” said Aron Stubbins, co-author and associate professor of marine sciences at UGA housed at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah. “It sits at the center of the ocean carbon cycle, directing the energy flow from the tiny plants of the sea, phytoplankton, to ocean bacteria. Though around a quarter of all the sunlight trapped by plants each year passes through dissolved organic carbon, we know very little about the chemistry of the molecules or the biology of the bacterial players involved.”

 The carbon the microbes process is stored in seawater in the form of tens of thousands of different dissolved organic compounds.

 Researchers thought they had a handle on how some aspects of the process works, but “a number of new studies have now fundamentally changed our understanding of the ocean carbon cycle,” said the paper’s lead author Mary Ann Moran, Distinguished Research Professor at UGA.

 In the context of methodological and technological innovations, the researchers examine several questions that illustrate how new tools—particularly innovations in analytical chemistry, microbiology and informatics—are transforming the field.

 From how different major elements have cycles linked though marine dissolved organic matter to how and why refractory organic matter persists for thousands of years in the deep ocean to the number of metabolic pathways necessary for microbial transformation, the article infers a scale of enhanced and expanded understanding of complex processes that was previously impractical.

 The perspective article, Deciphering Ocean Carbon in a Changing World,” was shaped in discussions at a 2014 workshop supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Microsoft Research Corporation. Moran’s research has been supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Marine Microbiology Initiative.

 Co-authors on the paper include UGA’s Patricia Medeiros, assistant professor in the department of marine sciences. Others involved are with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute; the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California, San Diego; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Oregon State University; Columbia University; The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland Washington; the University of Washington; University of Oldenburg, Germany; Sorbonne Universités; and the University of Chicago.

 Writer: Alan Flurry, 706-542-3331, aflurry@uga.edu

Contacts: Mary Ann Moran, 706-542-6481, mmoran@uga.edu; Patricia Medeiros, 706-542-6744, medeiros@uga.edu; Aron Stubbins, 912-598-2320, aron.stubbins@skio.uga.edu

 

 

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This release is online at http://news.uga.edu/releases/article/molecular-level-relationships-ocean-carbon/

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Posted:
3/3/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 Georgia Power erected a meteorology tower on the UGA Marine Science Campus. The tower is the first construction of a two-year project that will also include three wind turbines. The 198-foot tower was raised into position on February 24.

The structures are part of a demonstration project to study the feasibility of generating wind power in Georgia using small scale wind turbines. The Georgia Power-sponsored project will feature small scale turbines, up to 10 kW each—the size customers might install on their own property—plus a meteorological tower.

Georgia Southern University is also partnering in the research on this project. GSU’s primary focus is to study the environmental aspects of small wind turbines including the impact on noise levels and avian life.

A time-lapse video of the raising can be seen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKx0SX5ds1U&feature=youtu.be

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Posted:
2/25/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists have completed a study to predict the effects of rising sea level on the Georgia coast. THe project is described in this video: 

 https://youtu.be/vNFrxb4cytU

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Posted:
1/7/2016
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:
 Beaches like Glory Beach on Jekyll Island may potentially benefit from the sand resource study.

Photo Credit: www.GoldenIsles.com

 If a hurricane hits the Georgia coast, a major priority for coastal communities will be finding sand to rebuild beaches destroyed by erosion. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Clark Alexander has received funding approval from Georgia Sea Grant for a two-year study to collect and analyze new, high-resolution data to identify the sand resources available near the Georgia coast. 

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars in damages to communities along the east coast of the U.S. Coastal communities in Georgia are vulnerable to future storms, and some have begun to develop strategies to increase their resilience to such storms and to speed their recovery from one. When it comes to restoring storm-eroded beaches, those communities will require a detailed understanding of the locations and characteristics of the available sand resources they will need.  

“Sand resources are needed to rebuild beach and dune systems to provide the same or better levels of protection to lives and property,” Alexander said. “These sand resources data are critically needed in Georgia, as the sand resources in our state waters are the most poorly known of all the states along the East Coast.”

The study will focus on three developed barrier islands that have not been renourished -- Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. The project will gather new samples and data on seabed sediment texture and composition from the beach out to the state-waters boundary, three nautical miles offshore. The researchers will merge that data with existing samples from the beaches and the sea bed and integrate all the samples to determine where sand deposits are located that would be suitable for beach renourishment.

“Typically, we find a wide range of sand, and not all of it is beach-quality,” Alexander said. “We need to locate sand deposits that have similar size and composition to the natural beach.”

The team will collect beach grain size samples during both the summer and winter to assess the differences in texture and composition in the beach in response to changing storm, tide and wave conditions.

The sea floor in the study region has not been comprehensively surveyed since the 1930s. Another part of the project will be to use an echosounder to collect data on the depth and morphology of the sea bed. This data will be used to create bathymetric maps of the ocean bottom. These maps will also identify regions of thicker sand deposits, which indicate greater volumes of sand.

The researchers will then combine the new information with existing data in a Geographic Information System tool to integrate the sand resource and bathymetry information and model the extent of beach-quality deposits in the Sea Island to Jekyll Island region.

The results of the project will be made available online to government officials, the management community and the general public on a number of Web sites, including the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal (http://gchp.skio.usg.edu/) developed by Alexander.

Georgia Sea Grant is a unit of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach.

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Posted:
12/3/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 

Samplesof microplastics collected off the Georgia coast

Images such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have attracted much attention to the problem of large-size marine debris, but another serious issue has garnered less visibility—marine microplastics. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists Jay Brandes and Thais Bittar and UGA Marine Extension educator Dodie Sanders are hoping to change that and have received funding from Georgia Sea Grant to examine the extent of the microplastics problem along the Georgia coast. 

Microplastics are particles smaller than five millimeters in size (about one fifth of an inch). They have many sources, from manufactured particles like microbeads used in cosmetics and skin cleaning creams to plastic pieces formed from the breakdown of larger debris. Microplastics are often consumed by marine organisms and may cause them significant harm. Until now, there has been no study on the possible extent of microplastic pollution in Georgia estuarine waters and the organisms that live there.

The project has three primary goals: The researchers will quantify the amount of plastics found in the gut contents of shellfish, fish and shrimp; determine the types of plastic pollution ingested by Georgia estuarine organisms; and educate stakeholders, the public, educators and their students about the issue of microplastic pollution. 

The research team will collect marine organisms through the trawls routinely conducted by UGA Marine Extension and will separate, identify and measure the microplastics they find in the fish. As a part of its regular K-12 educational programs, Marine Extension conducts nearly 60 trawls annually and collects fish, shrimp and other organisms to assess the composition and health of local food webs.

“With this information, we expect to get a pretty good idea of how serious the microplastics problem is here in Georgia,” Brandes said.

The team will integrate the entire process into the UGA Marine Extension’s ongoing education programs. They will involve regional educators and their students in both sampling and counting efforts as part of overall marine debris educational programs. The trawls will be conducted with the assistance of visiting school groups, composed of roughly 20 students each. During the trawls, the various species will be identified and counted by the students.  In addition, discussions of microplastic pollution and the potential of ingestion by marine life will be incorporated into the year-round education programs at Marine Extension, such as a fish dissection lab, the invertebrate lab and the plankton lab.

The researchers also plan to enhance an existing marine debris exhibit in the UGA Aquarium by adding a microplastic component.

The UGA Aquarium, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are all part of the university’s Office of Public Service and Outreach.

Tools:
Posted:
11/30/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:
 Arctic rivers are the major way black carbon is transported to the ocean.

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Aron Stubbins led a team of researchers to determine the levels of black carbon in Arctic rivers and found that the input of black carbon to the Arctic Ocean is likely to increase with global warming. The results of their study were recently published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science.

Black carbon, or biochar, is formed when vegetation and other organic matter burns. Today black carbon is a massive store of carbon in global soils, where it is thought to be very stable -- so stable, that researchers have previously suggested that adding black carbon to soils might be a good way to lock away carbon dioxide and reduce climate change. This new research reveals that the black carbon stored in Arctic soils is being exported to the oceans.

The Arctic is warming faster than other regions of the planet due to climate change. The scientists report that, as the planet warms, the amount of black carbon transported to the Arctic Ocean will likely increase. Once dissolved in the ocean and exposed to sunlight, black carbon may be rapidly converted back to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

In ongoing work at UGA and partner universities, Stubbins and his colleagues are trying to determine just how much black carbon will be exported to the Arctic Ocean as the Arctic continues to warm, and once it reaches the oceans, what percentage will reach the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

The article is titled “Utilizing Colored Dissolved Organic Matter to Derive Dissolved Black Carbon Export by Arctic Rivers.” In addition to Stubbins, the co-authors include Robert Spencer from Florida State University; Jutta Niggemann and Thorsten Dittmar from the University of Oldenburg, Germany; Paul Mann from Northumbria University; Max R. Holmes from Woods Hole Research Center; and James McClelland from University of Texas Marine Science Institute. 

The entire article can be viewed online at: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/feart.2015.00063/abstract

Stubbins has a website detailing this and other work on black carbon at:

http://www.skio.usg.edu/?p=research/chem/biogeochem/blkcarbon

Tools:
Posted:
11/13/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Marine biogeochemist Julia Diaz has joined the faculty of the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography as an assistant professor.

Diaz graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in biology and went on to earn her doctorate in earth and atmospheric sciences from Georgia Tech. She conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

Diaz’s research examines how the chemistry and microbiology of the oceans shape each other and ultimately how this interaction affects ecosystem health from local to global scales.

Tools:
Posted:
10/29/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 

  Photo credit: NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, INDEX-SATAL 2010

Savannah, Ga. – University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Aron Stubbins joined a team of researchers to determine how hydrothermal vents influence ocean carbon storage. The results of their study were recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Hydrothermal vents are hotspots of activity on the otherwise dark, cold ocean floor. Since their discovery, scientists have been intrigued by these deep ocean ecosystems, studying their potential role in the evolution of life and their influence upon today’s ocean.

Stubbins and his colleagues were most interested in the way the vents’ extremely high temperatures and pressure affect dissolved organic carbon. Oceanic dissolved organic carbon is a massive carbon store that helps regulate the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—and the global climate.

Originally, the researchers thought the vents might be a source of the dissolved organic carbon. However, their research showed just the opposite.

Lead scientist Jeffrey Hawkes, currently a post-doctoral fellow at Uppsala University in Sweden, directed an experiment in which the researchers heated water in a laboratory to 380 degrees Celsius, 716 degrees Fahrenheit, in a scientific pressure cooker to mimic the effect of ocean water passing through hydrothermal vents.

The results revealed that dissolved organic carbon is efficiently removed from ocean water when heated. The organic molecules are broken down and the carbon converted to carbon dioxide.

The entire ocean volume circulates through hydrothermal vents about every 40 million years. This is a very long time, much longer than the timeframes over which current climate change is occurring, Stubbins explained. It is also much longer than the average lifetime of dissolved organic molecules in the ocean, which generally circulate for thousands of years, not millions.

“However, there may be extreme survivor molecules that persist and store carbon in the oceans for millions of years,” Stubbins said. “Eventually, even these hardiest of survivor molecules will meet a fiery end as they circulate through vent systems.”

Hawkes conducted the work while at the Research Group for Marine Geochemistry, University of Oldenburg, Germany. The study’s co-authors also included Pamela Rossel and Thorsten Dittmar, University of Oldenburg; David Butterfield, University of Washington; Douglas Connelly and Eric Achterberg, University of Southampton, United Kingdom; Andrea Koschinsky, Jacobs University, Germany; Valerie Chavagnac, Université de Toulouse, France; and Christian Hansen and Wolfgang Bach, University of Bremen, Germany.

The study on “Efficient removal of recalcitrant deep-ocean dissolved organic matter during hydrothermal circulation” is available at http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v8/n11/full/ngeo2543.html.

Tools:
Posted:
9/14/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Chris Marsay is on top of the world—literally.

Marsay arrived at the North Pole in early September. He is taking part in the US GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, a polar icebreaker.

The project is part of an international, multiple icebreaker effort to conduct geochemical sampling of the Arctic Ocean. The cruise arrived at 90 degrees north on Sept. 5 in what is the first occupation of the North Pole by an unaccompanied U.S. surface ship—submarines usually follow ships below the ice. While at the pole, the Healy rendezvoused with the German ship conducting the German leg of the GEOTRACES Arctic program.

Marsay is working with UGA Skidaway Institute professor Cliff Buck and scientists from Florida State University and Rutgers University. The research team has been funded by the National Science Foundation to collect samples from the atmosphere, precipitation and surface water from melt ponds during the cruise.

“Our research goals are to describe the chemistry of atmospheric deposition to the region and quantify flux rates,” Buck said. “These data will then be shared with the scientific community to better understand biogeochemical cycling of trace elements and isotopes in the Arctic Ocean.”

Tools:
Posted:
9/3/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Biological oceanographer Elizabeth Harvey has joined the faculty of the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography as an assistant professor.

Harvey received her bachelor’s degree in marine science from the University of Maine and a master’s in environmental science from Western Washington University. She earned her doctorate in oceanography from the University of Rhode Island. Immediately prior to joining Skidaway Institute, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  

Harvey’s research focus is on the mechanisms of mortality in the planktonic environment in the ocean and how that influences food web structure and biogeochemical cycling.

Tools:
Posted:
9/1/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:
Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are a popular activity at Skidaway Marine Science Day. 

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

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.

Visitors can also visualize themselves SCUBA diving at Gray's Reef with a photo booth and 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 also 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 www.skio.uga.edu.

SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES

 CONTINUOUS ACTIVITIES NOON – 4 pm

Jay Wolf Nature Trail, Interpretive Cabin, Learning Garden

UGA Aquarium Open 10 am-5 pm / Free Admission & Special Activities Noon-4 pm

Behind the scenes peeks at the Aquarium. Every 20 minutes (12 –4 pm) – pick up your FREE ticket in the lobby to reserve your time!

New Touch Tank Display (Aquarium)

Touch Tanks (Aquarium Day Group Room)

Phytoplankton Lab Demo (Aquarium Plankton Lab)

Invertebrate Explorations (Aquarium Invertebrate Lab)

Dock Discoveries (Aquarium Dock) – Learn more about organisms found in our estuary and get your hands wet at a stingray touch tank!

Interactive Reptile Exhibit – Meet and greet some common reptiles of the Georgia coast (MAREX screened porch)

Oyster Hatchery Display and Hatchery Tours (Shellfi­sh Parking Lot)

PhotoBooth (McGowan Library auditorium)

Plankton World & CytoSense (Library overhang & lobby)

Build a Plankton (Tent outside McGowan Library)

Plankton Sink-O­ff (Tent outside McGowan Library) A Sink-Off round every 30 minutes

Environmental Group Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Tours of Research Vessel Savannah (Skidaway Institute Dock)

Microbe Hunt – Grab a swab and find the microbes in the world around you. (Skidaway Institute

Quad)

Gray’s Reef’s “Fly an Underwater ROV” -- (Skidaway Institute Quad)

SCHEDULED ACTIVITIES

12:30 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

12:45 pm – Science Talk (Skidaway Institute Quad) “Arctic Carbon Cycling”

1:00 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

1:15 pm – Science Talk (Skidaway Institute Quad) “Sea Level Rise”

1:30 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

1:45 pm -- Science Talk (Skidaway Institute Quad) “Underwater Robots”

2:00 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

2:00 pm – Science Talk (MCSRIC Conference Room) “Your tax dollars at work”

2:15 pm - Science Talk (Skidaway Institute Quad) “How do phytoplankton smell?”

2:30 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

2:45 pm - Science Talk (Skidaway Institute Quad) “Black Gill in Georgia Shrimp”

3:00 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

3:15 pm - Science Talk (Skidaway Institute Quad) “Weather Reports from Inside the Ocean”

Tools:
Posted:
8/27/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Clark Alexander is working on a project to predict how the Georgia coast—characterized by a complex system of barrier islands, salt marshes, estuaries, tidal creeks and rivers—may look 25, 50 and 100 years from now. As sea level rises over the next century, that picture is changing.

 Researcher LeeAnn DeLeo lowers the sensor to measure conductivity, temperature and depth from the surface to the bottom. 

Predictions of sea level rise over the next century vary from the current rate of roughly 30 centimeters—about a foot—to as much as two meters—about 6 feet. Although scientists disagree on the ultimate height of the rise, they all agree that salty water is moving inland and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, Alexander said. Here on the Georgia coast, islands will become smaller or disappear entirely; salt marshes will be inundated by the rising waters and migrate towards the uplands; and some low-lying uplands will become salt marshes.

To predict the extent of these changes, scientists are using the predictive Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model, or SLAMM, which was originally developed for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

SLAMM predicts the effects of future sea level rise based on two key inputs: an elevation mapping of the coastal zone and salinity profiles up the rivers and waterways. Salinity and elevation are two key factors that determine the type of plants, and thus habitat, that will be present at any particular location.

“As sea level rises, the fresh water in rivers will be pushed further upstream,” Alexander said. “The brackish and salty water will also move up, and the salt marshes will expand.”

Funded by a Coastal Incentive Grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, Alexander and his team have been studying the five key river systems along the coast and numerous salt marsh estuaries. Salinity along the coast is dominantly affected by river discharge into the estuaries, so the team has been conducting its surveys during both winter—high river flow—and the summer—low river flow—conditions.

“We start at the mouth of a river about an hour before high tide and then we follow that high tide up the river, mapping the surface salinity along the way,” Alexander said. “We find the maximum inshore intrusion of salinity at high tide during a spring tide. That is the location that defines the boundary between the brackish marshes and the freshwater marshes.”

In addition to tracking surface salinity, the researchers also stop periodically and measure the salinity throughout the water column to determine if what they measure at the surface is similar to what is present near the bottom. They lower a device that measures the water conductivity (which is related to salinity), temperature and depth from the surface to the bottom. Also equipped with GPS capability, the device automatically captures the location of every water column profile.

In many coastal regions, denser, saltier water tends to sink to the bottom and the lighter, fresh water remains near the surface. However, because of the energy produced by Georgia’s wide tidal range, the team found that most of the water on the Georgia coast is well mixed and doesn’t show up as layers.

The second part of the project is to fine-tune existing elevation data. Scientists have an extensive set of elevation information from airplane-mounted Light Detection And Ranging systems. LIDAR is usually very accurate, except in marshes, because it cannot see through the vegetation to the actual ground surface.

“You might be off by 30 centimeters or more, and in a low-lying, flat area like our coastal zone, that can make a big difference in predicting where the water will flood,” Alexander said.

The Skidaway Institute team is working with Georgia Southern University scientist Christine Hladik on a fix. By comparing LIDAR data with the true elevation in a particular area, Hladik observed that the LIDAR error varied according to the type of plants growing there. For example, if the area contained the dense, tall spartina, the error was large and, on average, a consistent number of centimeters. If the region was covered with a different, less-dense-growing salt marsh plant, like short spartina, the error was smaller but also consistent.

“She discovered that if you know what type of vegetation is covering a section of marshland, you can plug in the correction and come back with an accurate measure of the elevation,” Alexander said.

The research team observed the vegetation and measured the true ground level at 400 randomly selected points throughout coastal brackish and salt marshes in Georgia. That information and knowledge of plant types is being used to correct the existing marsh elevations.

The research team will complete one more set of river surveys before the project ends in September. Alexander hopes to obtain continued funding to use this newly acquired elevation and salinity data in a fresh SLAMM model run for the Georgia coast, using all the high-resolution data developed in this project.

“We should be able to look out as much as 100 years in the future and see where the different wetlands will be by then,” he said. “That way we can plan for marsh sustainability, retreat and sea level rise.”

Tools:
Posted:
8/10/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

  The University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography has produced an informational video to educate the public about black gill, a condition affecting Georgia shrimp, and the institute’s research into the problem.

Black gill is a mysterious condition affecting shrimp from Florida to North Carolina. A number of shrimpers have blamed black gill for their reduced harvests.

Almost nothing was known of the condition until the UGA Skidaway Institute began looking into the issue in early 2014. Since then, researchers have learned much about the condition, but much is still unknown. This video provides background on the condition and the results of the investigation thus far.

The video can be accessed through the UGA Skidaway Institute Website at www.skio.uga.edu. It can also be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xJQkORTHuVE.

 The black gill research is funded by Georgia Sea Grant. The video was produced in cooperation with the UGA Marine Extension, the university’s Office of Public Service and Outreach, Georgia Sea Grant and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Tools:
Posted:
6/29/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography joined researchers around the globe in a worldwide Ocean Sampling Day on Sunday, June 21, the summer solstice.

This was the second year Skidaway researchers have participated in the Ocean Sampling Day event. The first was conducted last year, also on the summer solstice. The event focuses on simultaneous sampling of microbes in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters.

This year, 191 marine research locations—from the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica to Göteborg University in Sweden—participated. The sampling program supports international missions to provide information on the diversity of microbes, their function and their potential economic benefits.

“It’s a global effort to take a snapshot of microbes across the world’s oceans at the same time, on the same day, in this case, the summer solstice,” said Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer.

Frischer cited the significance of the project by describing microbes as the “engines of our planet” and said half the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by microbes in the ocean.

Skidaway Institute scientists collected samples at two locations. One team collected and processed samples from the Skidaway River estuary immediately adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus. That also served as part of an ongoing water-quality monitoring program Skidaway Institute has supported for more than 25 years. A second group teamed up with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and collected samples from Gray’s Reef. The 14,000-acre marine sanctuary is located about 17 miles off the Sapelo Island coast.

“We helped Gray’s Reef by collecting and processing their samples in the way they needed to be done,” Frischer said. “You really need a laboratory for that, and we were able to provide that.”

One goal of the global project is to note the commonalities and the differences among the microbial communities around the globe. Some of those differences were seen just in the samples collected at Gray’s Reef and at the Skidaway campus, two sites only 40 miles apart.

“We generally observe a larger number of smaller organisms out in the ocean, which makes sense because they are adapting to a system with lower nutrients,” Frischer said. “We also saw a different kind of photosynthetic organisms since there is much more light available in the ocean compared to rather turbid waters in our estuary.”

Much of the fieldwork at both Skidaway Institute and Gray’s Reef was handled by undergraduate college students gaining research experience at Skidaway Institute this summer. These included students from UGA and Savannah State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. 

All samples and data were sent to Bremen, Germany, for DNA extraction and sequencing to ensure maximum comparability. The resulting data will be made publicly available as soon as quality checks are finished. These cumulative samples, related in time, space and environmental parameters, will provide insights into fundamental rules describing microbial diversity and function and contribute to the blue, or oceanic, economy through the identification of novel, ocean-derived biotechnologies.

Ocean Sampling Day was jointly coordinated by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oxford in the U.K. and is part of the European Union-funded Ocean of Tomorrow research project Micro B3.

“It is really important to have a global perspective,” Frischer said. “We are glad we can participate in what they are now calling “gigascience” where we are collecting a snapshot from all over the world. It is amazing!”

Additional information on the global Ocean Sampling Day project is available at www.microb3.eu/osd.

Tools:
Posted:
6/16/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will join researchers around the globe in a worldwide Ocean Sampling Day on Sunday, June 21, the summer solstice.

Kevin McKenzie and Tina Walters pull samples during Ocean Sampling Day 2014. 

This will be the second year Skidaway researchers have participated in the Ocean Sampling Day event. The first was conducted last year, also on the summer solstice. The event focuses on simultaneous sampling of microbes in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters.

This year, 191 marine research locations—from subtropical waters in Hawaii to extreme environments such as the Fram Strait in the Arctic Ocean—will participate. 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 estuary immediately adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus as part of an ongoing water-quality monitoring program Skidaway Institute has supported for more than 25 years. A second group will team up with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and collect samples from Gray’s Reef. The 14,000-acre marine sanctuary is located about 17 miles off the Sapelo Island coast.

Much of the fieldwork at both Skidaway Institute and Gray’s Reef will be handled by undergraduate college students gaining research experience at Skidaway Institute this summer. These will include students from UGA and Savannah State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. 

All samples and data will be sent to Bremen, Germany, for DNA extraction and sequencing to ensure maximum comparability. The resulting data will be made publicly available as soon as quality checks are finished. These cumulative samples, related in time, space and environmental parameters, will provide insights into fundamental rules describing microbial diversity and function and contribute to the blue, or oceanic, economy through the identification of novel, ocean-derived biotechnologies.

Ocean Sampling Day is jointly coordinated by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oxford in the U.K. and is part of the European Union-funded Ocean of Tomorrow research project Micro B3.

Additional information on the global Ocean Sampling Day project is available at www.microb3.eu/osd

Tools:
Posted:
4/29/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

In recent years, Georgia shrimpers have been very concerned about black gill, a mysterious condition affecting the coastal shrimp population, and one many shrimpers believe may be largely responsible for reduced shrimp harvests. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Marc Frischer is leading a research project involving scientists, regulators and shrimpers from three states in an effort to determine the cause, effects and possible solutions to the black gill problem. 

Frischer will discuss his ongoing research into black gill in shrimp in an Evening @ Skidaway program on Tuesday, May 12. The program will be in the McGowan Library at the UGA Skidaway Institute, beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and followed by the lecture at 7:15 p.m.

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Associates of Skidaway Institute. The free program is open to the public.

For additional information, call 912-598-2325. 

Tools:
Posted:
4/23/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Savannah, Ga. – While climatologists are carefully watching carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, another group of scientists is exploring a massive storehouse of carbon that has the potential to significantly affect the climate change picture.

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Aron Stubbins is part of a team investigating how ancient carbon, locked away in Arctic permafrost for thousands of years, is now being transformed into carbon dioxide and released into the atmosphere. The results of the study were published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“However, if you allow your food to defrost, eventually bacteria will eat away at it, causing it to decompose and release carbon dioxide,” Stubbins said. “The same thing happens to permafrost when it thaws.”The Arctic contains a massive amount of carbon in the form of frozen soil—the remnants of plants and animals that died more than 20,000 years ago. Because this organic material was permanently frozen year-round, it did not undergo decomposition by bacteria the way organic material does in a warmer climate. Just like food in a home freezer, it has been locked away from the bacteria that would otherwise cause it to decay and be converted to carbon dioxide.

Scientists estimate there is more than 10 times the amount of carbon in the Arctic soil than has been put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution. To look at it another way, scientists estimate there is two and a half times more carbon locked away in the Arctic deep freezer than there is in the atmosphere today. Now, with a warming climate, that deep freezer is beginning to thaw and that long-frozen carbon is beginning to be released into the environment.

“The study we did was to look at what happens to that organic carbon when it is released,” Stubbins said. “Does it get converted to carbon dioxide or is it still going to be preserved in some other form?”

Stubbins and his colleagues conducted their fieldwork at Duvanni Yar in Siberia. There, the Kolyma River carves into a bank of permafrost, exposing the frozen organic material. This worked well for the scientists, as they were able to find streams that consisted of 100 percent thawed permafrost. The researchers measured the carbon concentration, how old the carbon was and what forms of carbon were present in the water. They bottled it with a sample of the local microbes. After two weeks, they measured the changes in the carbon concentration and composition and the amount of carbon dioxide that had been produced.


The study also confirmed what the scientists had suspected: The carbon being used by the bacteria is at least 20,000 years old. This is significant because it means that carbon has not been a part of the global carbon cycle in the recent past. 
Lead author Robert Spencer of Florida State University added, “Interestingly, we also found that the unique composition of thawed permafrost carbon is what makes the material so attractive to microbes.”“We found that decomposition converted 60 percent of the carbon in the thawed permafrost to carbon dioxide in two weeks,” Stubbins said. “This shows the permafrost carbon is definitely in a form that can be used by the microbes.”

“If you cut down a tree and burn it, you are simply returning the carbon in that tree to the atmosphere where the tree originally got it,” Stubbins said. “However, this is carbon that has been locked away in a deep-freeze storage for a long time. 

“This is carbon that has been out of the active, natural system for tens of thousands of years. To reintroduce it into the contemporary system will have an effect.”

The carbon release has the potential to create what scientists call a positive feedback loop. This means as more carbon is released into the atmosphere, it would amplify climate warming. That, in turn, would cause more permafrost to thaw and release more carbon, causing the cycle to continue. 

“Currently, this is not a process that shows up in future (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate projections; in fact, permafrost is not even accounted for,” Spencer said.

“Moving forward, we need to find out how consistent our findings are and to work with a broader range of scientists to better predict how fast this process will happen,” Stubbins said.

In addition to Stubbins and Spencer, the research team included Paul Mann from Northumbria University, United Kingdom; Thorsten Dittmar from the University of Oldenburg, Germany; Timothy Eglinton and Cameron McIntyre from the Geological Institute, Zurich, Switzerland; Max Holmes from Woods Hole Research Center; and Nikita Zimov from the Far-Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science. 

Tools:
Posted:
2/24/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Marc Frischer will discuss his on-going research into black gill in shrimp in an Evening @ Skidaway program on March 12th. The program will be in the McGowan Library at the UGA Skidaway Institute, beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m. to be followed by the lecture program at 7:15 p.m.

A Georgia shrimp with the Black Gill characteristics clearly visible.

In recent years, Georgia shrimpers have been very concerned about black gill, a mysterious condition affecting the coastal shrimp population. While the condition does not affect the edibility of the shrimp, many shrimpers believe that black gill may be largely responsible for reduced shrimp harvests. Frischer is leading a research project involving scientists, regulators and shrimpers from three states in an effort to determine the cause, effects and possible solutions to the black gill problem.  

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Associates of Skidaway Institute. 

The free program is open to the public.

For additional information, call 912-598-2325.

Tools:
Posted:
2/3/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 

A sample of marine debris collected along the Georgia coast sits on a table at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

University of Georgia researchers are hoping to find a consistent way to record the marine debris—particularly pieces of plastic—crowding Georgia's beaches as part of an effort to find a solution for the growing problem.

Marine debris has been washing up on Georgia beaches and uninhabited islands for years. Combatting the issue starts with figuring out how big it is, and a new two-part study from the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marine Extension published online in the Marine Pollution Bulletin finds that marine debris reporting can improve if it becomes standardized.

The problem right now is this: A volunteer group goes out and records the weight or volume of the marine debris collected. However, volunteers don't often record the specific square feet measured or the contents of the debris. Due to a lack of report standardization, researchers often can't compare the marine debris, especially plastic fragments, reported by different groups.

"We've seen plastic usage go up dramatically," said study co-author Dodie Sanders, a marine educator and outreach coordinator for UGA Marine Extension, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach. "It's an important 21st century global issue. We need to learn more to better understand the issues of marine debris."

The study's lead author Richard F. Lee, professor emeritus with the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, agrees.

"Plastic debris is created on land and then it goes into rivers, flows into the ocean and washes up on land," he said. "We've found that plastic debris ends up not only on populated beaches, but on inaccessible islands as well. We've found plastic everywhere on the coast."

The first part of the study gathered debris from 20 sites along Georgia's coast, including Tybee, Cumberland and Ossabaw islands. The debris was reported from volunteer organizations like Clean Coast, which hold monthly beach and marsh cleanups in Georgia.

"The volunteer groups reported the weight of the debris, though we didn't know the exact amount of plastic," Lee said. "Based off the volunteer information we received, we did a follow-up study to more precisely measure the marine debris in a fixed location and period of time."

The total collected debris ranged from 180 to 1,000 kilograms. The levels of plastic debris differed at each site over the course of the study, though plastic was consistently among the mix. Found plastic included plastic bottles, wrappers, food utensils and fragments of fishing gear.

Sanders spearheaded the second part of the study, where she and students collected plastic debris from Skidaway and Wassaw islands over a period of two years.

"While Dr. Lee did data analysis, I did some of the field work," Sanders said. "We picked the two islands in the second part of the study because they were accessible sites where Marine Extension often takes students for marine education."

For the fieldwork, Sanders and students visited the islands each month. They took inventory of what kinds of plastics were on specific areas of the coast.

"On about a monthly basis, I would take students to learn about debris and tally all the items on the islands," Sanders said. "We took areas of 200 meters by 40 meters and recorded the items found. We also used GPS units to mark what areas we had done."

The students, many of them in middle and high school, came from all over Georgia to assist. As part of Marine Extension, Sanders regularly teaches visiting students about marine life. When students volunteered to clean up, she tried to emphasize the issues surrounding debris.

"The bulk of the plastic comes from land," Sanders said. "When people think of marine debris, they think of the ocean. I try to emphasize watershed concepts—what happens upstream ultimately gets downstream."

"It can take years for plastic to degrade," Lee said, adding, "80 percent of the plastic found at Wassaw turned out to be fragments. The fragments then spread and can have a number of environmental effects."

Sanders says that since plastic debris is everywhere on the coast, it has to be addressed and reported efficiently to reduce its effects.

"There are proactive and reactive approaches to the issues of marine debris, and both are important," she said. "We've been reactive so far by picking up debris. The proactive approach is our role in educating the public and researching the negative impacts of marine debris."

The study was supported by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Incentive Grant, NOAA Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The full article on "The amount and accumulation rate of plastic debris on marshes and beaches on the Georgia coast" is available at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1400820

Tools:
Posted:
12/18/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

A research team from the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography has completed the first high-resolution, bathymetric (bottom-depth) survey of Wassaw Sound in Chatham County.

Led by Skidaway Institute scientist Clark Alexander, the team produced a detailed picture of the bottom of Wassaw Sound, the Wilmington River and other connected waterways. The yearlong project was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  

The survey provides detailed information about the depth and character of the sound’s bottom. This information will be useful to boaters, but boating safety was not the primary aim of the project. The primary objective was to map bottom habitats for fisheries managers. DNR conducts fish surveys in Georgia sounds, but, according to Alexander, they have limited knowledge of what the bottom is like. “One of the products we developed is an extrapolated bottom character map,” Alexander said. “This describes what the bottom grain size is like throughout the sound. Is it coarse, or shelly or muddy? This is very important in terms of what kind of habitat there is for marine life.”

A second goal was to provide detailed bathymetric data to incorporate into computer models that predict storm surge flooding caused by hurricanes and other major storms. Agencies like the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration use mathematical models to predict anticipated storm inundation and flooding for specific coastal areas. A key factor in an accurate modeling exercise is the bathymetry of the coastal waters.

 “You need to know how the water will pile up, how it will be diverted and how it will be affected by the bottom morphology,” Alexander said. “Since we have a gently dipping coastal plain, storm inundation can reach far inland. It is important to get it as right as we can so the models will provide us with a better estimate of where storm inundation and flooding will occur.”

Funded by an $80,000 Coastal Incentive Grant from DNR, Alexander and his research team, consisting of Mike Robinson and Claudia Venherm, used a cutting-edge interferometric side-scan sonar system to collect bathymetry data. The sonar transmitter/receiver was attached to a pole and lowered into the water from Skidaway Institute’s 28-foot Research Vessel Jack Blanton. Unlike a conventional fishfinder, which uses a single pinger to measure depth under a boat, the Edgetech 4600 sonar array uses fan-shaped sonar beams to both determine water depth and bottom reflectivity, which identifies sediment type, rocky outcroppings and bedforms, in a swath across the boat’s direction of travel.

The actual process of surveying the sound involved long hours of slowly driving the boat back and forth on long parallel tracks. On each leg, the sonar produced a long, narrow strip indicating the depth and character of the sound bottom. Using high-resolution Global Positioning System data that pinpointed the boat’s exact location, the system assembled the digital strips of data into a complete picture of the survey area.

All the other sounds on the Georgia coast were mapped in 1933, but for some reason data from that time period for Wassaw Sound was unavailable. When the team began this project, they believed they were conducting the first survey of the sound. However, just as the researchers were finishing the project, NOAA released data from a 1994 single-beam survey that had been conducted in advance of the 1996 Olympic yachting races that were held in and near Wassaw Sound.

“This worked out very well for our project, because we are able to compare the differences between the two surveys conducted 20 years apart,” Alexander said. “We see areas that have accumulated sediment by more than 2 meters, and we also see areas that have eroded more than 2 meters since 1994. Channels have shifted and bars have grown or been destroyed.” 

Because of advances in technology, the current survey is significantly richer in detail than the one conducted in 1994. “We can zoom down to a square 25 centimeters (less than a foot) on a side and know the bottom depth,” Alexander said.

The survey produced a number of findings that were surprising. The intersection of Turner Creek and the Wilmington River is a deep, busy waterway. Although most of the area is deep, the survey revealed several pinnacles sticking up 20 feet off the bottom. “They are round and somewhat flat, almost like underwater mesas,” Alexander said.

The researchers determined that the deepest place mapped in the study area was a very steep-sided hole, 23 meters deep, in the Half Moon River where it is joined by a smaller tidal creek. They also found several sunken barges and other vessels.

The survey data set is available to the public on the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal at http://gchp.skio.usg.edu/. Alexander warns that while boaters should find the survey interesting, the information is intended for habitat research and storm surge modeling, not for navigation. “Because the bottom of Wassaw Sound is always shifting and changing, as our survey showed, don’t rely on the data for safe navigation,” he cautioned.

Alexander has already received a grant for an additional survey, this time of Ossabaw Sound, the next sound south of Wassaw Sound. He expects work to begin on that survey in early 2015.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a research unit of the University of Georgia located on Skidaway Island near Savannah. The mission of the institute is to provide the state of Georgia with a nationally and internationally recognized center of excellence in marine science through research and education.

Tools:
Posted:
12/17/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Catherine Edwards is part of a research team that has received an $18.8 million grant to continue studies of natural oil seeps and track the impacts of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

Known as ECOGIG-2 or “Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf,” the project is a collaborative, multi-institutional effort involving biological, chemical, geological and chemical oceanographers led by the University of Georgia’s Samantha Joye. The research team has worked in the Gulf since the weeks following the 2010 Macondo well blowout.

The three-year, $18.8 million ECOGIG-2 program was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GoMRI.

“Our goal is to better understand the processes that have affected the oil spill since 2010,” Edwards said. “How the droplets were dispersed? Where the oil went?  How it was taken up by small microbes and also the effects on animals further up the food chain?”

Edwards’ role in the project is to use autonomous underwater vehicles, also called “gliders,” to collect data on conditions around the spill site. Equipped with sensors to measure characteristics such as depth, water temperature, salinity and density, the gliders can cruise the submarine environment for weeks at a time, collecting data and transmitting it back to a ship or a shore station.  

“We want to understand the ocean currents—how they change over time and how they change in depth,” Edwards said. “Surface measurements give us a two-dimensional picture of the ocean.  Glider data in the vertical provides more valuable information for more fully understanding ocean currents and how they arise.”

The gliders will operate both in conjunction with shipboard instruments and also independently. One advantage of using the gliders is they can operate during storms and rough weather, when it may not be possible to use ships. Edwards said shipboard work doesn’t always give a full picture of ocean dynamics simply by the fact that they can only go out when the weather is reasonably clear.

When working in conjunction with research ships, the gliders can provide additional observations, significantly improving the quality of the data set.  The gliders also report dissolved oxygen concentrations and optical measurements of chlorophyll and organic matter, and may also be used as a test vehicle for new instruments in development. 

Edwards will use “GENIoS,” a new software package, to help navigate the gliders. GENIoS uses high-resolution forecast models of wind and ocean currents, along with information from the glider itself, to calculate the optimal path for the gliders. This will improve the quality of the scientific data collected.

GENIoS is a collaboration among Edwards, Fumin Zhang from the Georgia Institute of Technology and their two Georgia Tech Ph.D. students, Dongsik Chang and Sungjin Cho. GENIos has been tested for more than 210 glider-days on the continental shelf off Georgia and South Carolina. This experiment will be its first test in the Gulf of Mexico.

Edwards also hopes to use this project to test the gliders as platforms for new, experimental sensors developed by other members of the ECOGIG-2 team.

Others involved in ECOGIG-2 include UGA marine sciences faculty Christof Meile, Renato Castelao and Catherine Edwards as well as Annalisa Bracco and Joe Montoya of Georgia Tech.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at (912) 598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu.

Tools:
Posted:
12/4/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Educators and scientists from the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the UGA Marine Extension Service have developed a novel education program based on ocean robots to spark an interest in science and mathematics in middle and high school students. The team invented a board game that lets students explore different strategies for navigating autonomous underwater vehicles, called AUVs or gliders, through the ocean.

The program, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” capitalizes on Skidaway Institute’s expertise with AUVs and MAREX’s extensive history of marine education. Skidaway Institute scientist and UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards and MAREX faculty members Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons are directing the one-year project, which demonstrates the decision-making process in “driving” gliders. 

Gliders are untethered, torpedo-shaped vehicles that are launched into the ocean to collect data as they move through the water. They glide up and down by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time, equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and other biological and physical conditions, even under the roughest weather. Every four to six hours over their mission, they surface and connect to servers on land to report their position and vehicle and mission information. They also can send data back to shore or receive new instructions from pilots anywhere in the world. Skidaway Institute’s glider, nicknamed “Modena,” has been used in several recent projects, including “Gliderpalooza,” a simultaneous, cooperative launch of dozens of AUVs from different institutions in 2013 and again in 2014.

“Gliders are education-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale,” Edwards said. “We are developing the next generation of AUV outreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with educational activities and strong STEM components.”

The AUV activity/game is a part of an outreach program targeting mostly middle school students and it highlights the problem of working with the strong tides that are characteristic of the Georgia coast. A big issue in operating gliders is developing a guidance and navigation system that will function well in strong currents. The fast-moving Gulf Stream, located roughly 100 miles off the Georgia beaches, also introduces navigation problems.

“Although the AUVs have Global Positioning Systems and can be programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceed the glider’s forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keep us from collecting data where we need it,” Edwards said. “By estimating forecasts of these currents in advance, our software system can predict the best possible route for the glider to take, which helps collect the best possible data.”

On the education side, the predictability of tides makes the proposed program highly intuitive and education-friendly. The activity/game incorporates student role-playing as an AUV maneuvers through a playing field of vector currents on a game board. The student decides how many of his or her moves to spend fighting the current and how many to spend moving toward the finish line. Successful arrival at the destination depends on how the individual pilot responds to currents en route.

Activities depend on grade level, so middle school students have different objectives than those in high school. However, all the activities address the direction and speed the AUV travels to a destination. The AUV direction and speed will depend on the sea state, such as strong currents, storms or high winds.

Teachers April Meeks and Ben Wells from Oglethorpe Academy have offered their classes as a test-bed for the game. The two have worked closely with the team to integrate classroom concepts into the game and guide discussions about strategy based on the math. Since the activities are multidisciplinary, the teachers’ expertise in building a math curriculum has been valuable as the team integrates concepts of marine science, math and engineering into classroom activities. Rolling giant dice is a fun activity that attracts the students—everyone wants to roll the dice. So far, the feedback has been very positive.

“The students really seem to love it,” Sweeney-Reeves said. “More importantly, they are making the connection between the game and science, and learning.

“It took a period of time for some students to understand the concept but after starting the second round, they had the game/activity figured out. The excitement peaked at Oglethorpe Middle School when Mr. Wells played against the students and we really saw the competition heat up.”

Edwards added, “We knew we had a hit when we saw students jump up in celebration when the currents were favorable and pout when they were blown off course.”

The team demonstrated the game at the campus’s annual open house, Skidaway Marine Science Day, in late October, with a life-sized version of the board game with giant dice. Over 120 students played the game, racing against each other as they explored different strategies to win in three- to five-person heats. Sweeney-Reeves and Timmons also rolled out the game for educators at the Georgia Association of Marine Educators annual conference on Tybee Island earlier this month.

“The conference attendees were excited to use the giant dice to roll and hedge their bets on where they could navigate to the finish line,” Timmons said. “This is much like how the AUV is programmed to reach its sampling assignment in the ocean.” 

Timmons said the teachers at the conference laughed as they saw the big game board spread out on the sidewalk. “Towards the end as teachers were close to the finish line they shouted, ‘right!’, mentally trying to encourage the roll of the die to their advantage.”

Timmons and Sweeney-Reeves think the game has real-life applications and hope the students can use the concepts they learn in the classroom for swimming in our own local waters. The next step is to expand the classroom demonstrations to Coastal Middle School in Chatham County and Richmond Hill Middle School.

The activities allow students to develop analytical skills in a program that will be compliant with Next Generation Science Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

“We hope this one-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continued joint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension,” Edwards said. “We’d love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobile phones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenarios based on the measurements we collect in real time.”

The program is being funded through a joint grant from Skidaway Institute, UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President’s Venture Fund. The UGA President’s Venture Fund is intended to assist with significant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports small programs and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a research unit of the University of Georgia located on Skidaway Island. Its mission is to provide a nationally and internationally recognized center of excellence in marine science through research and education. The UGA Marine Extension Service is a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at 912-598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu; Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912-598-2350 or msweeney@uga.edu; or Maryellen Timmons at 912-598-2353 or mare@uga.edu.

Tools:
Posted:
11/10/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Exploring the ocean with underwater robots will be the focus of an Evening @ Skidaway at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography on Thursday, November 13. The program will held in the McGowan Library at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m. to be followed by the lecture program at 7:15 p.m.

UGA Skidaway Institute professor Catherine Edwards will discuss her adventures and misadventures in the exciting field of underwater robots.  Shaped like a six-foot long torpedo with stubby plastic wings, these autonomous underwater vehicles, or gliders, can be packed with sensors and  are set lose to cruise the submarine environment for weeks on end. They produce amazing results, and sometimes face unusual and unexpected perils. 

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Associates of Skidaway Institute. 

The program is open to the public, and admission is free.

For additional information, visit www.skio.uga.edu or call (912) 598-2325.

Tools:
Posted:
10/20/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

For some Skidaway Islanders, the history of our island goes back only to the early 1970s, when the first modern bridge was built across Skidaway Narrows and development began in The Landings. Yet Skidaway Island has been home for human residents since pre-colonial times. In the middle decades of the 20th century, visitors from all over the world were attracted to the annual cattle auctions at the Roebling family’s Modena Plantation at the north end of the island.

Landings resident and University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Bill Savidge will examine the island’s history and lead a walking tour of the Roebling’s cattle plantation (now Skidaway Institute) in a reprisal of his popular program on Saturday, October 25, at 1:00 p.m. in the Marine and Coastal Science Research and Instructional Center the Skidaway Institute campus. The program, entitled “Bridges and Bulls: A History of Skidaway Island,” is part of the annual Skidaway Marine Science Day open house event.

“There is really a fascinating story here that pre-dates the island’s modern development,” Savidge said. “It includes the Guale Indians and the Franciscan monks, after whom Priest’s Landing is named.”

For example, few island residents may be aware of the direct tie between Skidaway Island and the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. 

The first Roebling to emigrate to the United States was John Augustus Roebling in the 1830s. An engineer, Roebling was one of the original developers of “wire rope” or twisted wire cable that made possible the construction of large suspension bridges. Roebling designed and began construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in the 1870s and 80s. The manufacture of twisted wire cable became the source of the family fortune.

“Three generations later, Roebling’s great-grandson, Robert Roebling, purchased the northern part of Skidaway Island,” Savidge said. “He moved here with his wife, Dorothy, and their children and set up Modena Plantation as a breeding facility for angus cattle. In 1967 he donated his land to the state to become the home of Skidaway Institute.” 

Savidge’s talk and tour is one of a wide range of activities that will be presented at Skidaway Marine Science Day, a campus-wide open house with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science and the coastal environment. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

Along with UGA Skidaway Institute, the event will be presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.   

The UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the Research Vessel Savannah and smaller research vessels; science displays and talks on current research programs; and hands-on science activities.

The UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. One highlight will be the public debut of “Rider,” a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle who will go on public display for the first time. In addition, the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including a reptile experience, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium. 

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will be given the opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will bring in remotely-operated-vehicles (ROVs) that are used in underwater exploration. Visitors will have the opportunity to operate some simple, hand-made ROVs in a swimming pool and pick up objects from the bottom. Gray’s Reed has also invited participating teams from the annual student ROV competition. The high school and middle school teams will demonstrate the ROVs they designed and operated in this year’s contest. 

Also on display will be exhibits from environmental and education groups, such as The Dolphin Project, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.

For the second year in a row, Skidaway Marine Science Day will be targeted as a “landfill free” event. Last year the event attracted nearly 2,000 visitors, but generated only nine pounds of unrecyclable trash. The event organizers will use recycling and composting bins to collect and recycle materials in an attempt to reduce the stream of trash ultimately headed to a landfill.

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

Tools:
Posted:
9/9/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography invites applications for two, nine-month, tenure-track positions, resident in Savannah. Successful candidates will be interdisciplinary, self-motivated and interested in pursuing innovative research and education in a highly supportive environment. The successful candidate will enhance existing programs within the Marine Sciences Department at SkIO (http://www.skio.uga.edu) and in Athens (http://www.marsci.uga.edu).

Appointments will be made at the Assistant Professor level, but consideration will be given to exceptional applicants seeking more senior appointments. Applicants working in diverse marine settings are encouraged to apply, although experience and a desire to work in estuarine, coastal and shelf environments are preferred as are researchers who focus on the roles of anthropogenic forcing on marine processes.

A full job posting and directions for applying can be found at: http://www.skio.uga.edu/aboutus/jobs/skiofaculty.pdf

Tools:
Posted:
9/4/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

A young loggerhead sea turtle will make its public debut at the University of Georgia Aquarium on Saturday, Oct. 25, as part of Skidaway Marine Science Day. The campus-wide open house will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on the campus of the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography on the north end of Skidaway Island. (A full list of events and activities is below.)

The juvenile sea turtle, named Rider, was hatched on August 29, 2013 on Wassaw Island. Rider was a straggler, meaning he did not successfully get out of his nest when he was hatched. He was brought to the aquarium by the Caretta Research Project after being approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The staff at the aquarium has been caring for Rider for the past year, allowing him to grow large enough for public display. Rider will replace another sea turtle, named Ossabaw, who has lived at the aquarium for the past three years. Ossabaw outgrew its tank and will be released Sept. 8.

Rider’s debut is just one feature of a lengthy program of activities, displays and tours making the annual event a popular family event that attracts thousands of visitors each year.  

The UGA Aquarium, operated by the UGA Marine Extension Service, will be open to visitors with no admission fee. In addition to Rider’s debut, the Aquarium will unveil a new gray whale exhibit and an expanded touch-tank activity. The aquarium education staff will also offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium. 

The UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s Research Vessel Savannah is another popular attraction. The 92-foot ocean-going research vessel will be open for tours and will exhibit science displays, including a display on the developing field of underwater robots. Elsewhere on campus, Skidaway Institute will present a variety of marine science exhibits and hands-on science activities. 

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will have an opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will show visitors how to operate a remotely-operated-vehicle in a swimming pool and pick up objects from the bottom. The Gray’s Reef activity will include some of the participating student-teams from the annual MATE ROV competition. The high school and middle school teams will demonstrate the ROVs they designed and operated in this year’s MATE contest.

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.

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

SCHEDULE AND EVENTS

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2014

NOON TO 4 PM

CONTINUOUS ACTIVITIES (Noon-4 pm)

Jay Wolf Nature Trail, Interpretive Cabin, Learning Gardens (Open at 10 am)

University of Georgia Aquarium Open – Free Admission

Behind the Scenes peeks at the UGA Aquarium. Every 20 minutes (12-4 pm) – pick up your FREE ticket in the aquarium lobby and meet at the back door of the aquarium at your specified time! (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. No strollers, please.)

Touch Tanks (Aquarium)

Touch Tanks (Aquarium Day Group Room)

Phytoplankton Lab Demo (Aquarium Plankton Lab)

Invertebrate Explorations: A Floating Dock Study (Aquarium Invertebrate Lab)

“Choose Your Own Adventure” – Interactive AUV Game (Bluff behind the UGA Aquarium)

New Gray Whale Exhibit (Aquarium)

Rider the Loggerhead Sea Turtle on display (Aquarium)

Interactive reptile exhibit – Meet and greet some common reptiles of the Georgia coast (Screened porch near Aquarium)

Environmental Group Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Tours of Research Vessel Savannah (Skidaway Institute Dock)

Plankton World (McGowan Library overhang)

Build a Plankton (Tent outside the McGowan Library)

Plankton Sink-Off (Tent outside the McGowan Library) A Sink-Off round every 30 minutes

Create your personal marine life postcard – McGowan Library

Boats & Science Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad & R/V Savannah)

Microbe Hunt – Grab a swab and find the microbes in the world around you.  (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Gray’s Reef ROV Activity (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Oyster Reef Restoration Displays and Activities (Shellfish Parking Lot)

Aquaculture and oyster farming exhibit (Field next to Shellfish Lab)

SCHEDULED EVENTS

12:15 pm -- Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

12:45 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

1:00 pm – “Bridges and Bulls: A history of Skidaway Island” A talk and walking tour by Dr. Bill Savidge (MCSRIC Conference Room, behind library)

1:15 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

1:45 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

2:15 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

2:45 pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

Participating Environmental and Educational Groups

Georgia DNR-CRD

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

The Dolphin Project

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Tybee Marine Science Center

Skidaway Island State Park

Georgia DNR - Law Enforcement

Savannah State University Marine Sciences Department

Armstrong Atlantic State University Diamondback Terrepin Project

Youth for a Cleaner Environment

LTER Research Project

Friends of the Wildlife Refuge

CCA

Clean Coast

The Nature Conservancy

Friends of the Wildlife Refuge

Coastal Wildscapes

Tools:
Posted:
8/11/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Severe beach erosion can be a significant problem for coastal communities affected by hurricanes and tropical storms like Hurricane Sandy. To assist Georgia communities in future recovery efforts, the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography entered into a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to evaluate existing data on Georgia’s offshore sand resources and identify where more data are needed. This consolidated information will increase knowledge of Georgia’s offshore sand resources and contribute to long-term coastal resilience planning.

“Georgia’s sand resources are arguably the least well-known of those along the East Coast, and this project will provide critical data and insights to enhance coastal resilience,” said UGA Skidaway Institute professor Clark Alexander. “The work is being coordinated closely with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the state geologist to assure that our findings are disseminated rapidly and broadly.”

Under the $200,000 agreement, UGA Skidaway Institute will gather, evaluate and analyze existing geological, geophysical and benthic habitat data off Georgia’s coast and identify gaps in the information. Based on the data gaps, project scientists will suggest areas for future geologic studies to confirm previously identified sand resources and locate new ones. 

“A reliable inventory of offshore sand resources will help the Department of Natural Resources be effective at representing the state’s interest in discussions with BOEM and other federal agencies. We appreciate the initiative of Dr. Alexander and the UGA Skidaway Institute and look forward to the results of this project,” explained Spud Woodward, director of the Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division.

The current project will be limited in scope – primarily evaluating and consolidating existing data regarding Georgia’s offshore resources.

“Since the 1960s, there have been quite a number of small studies, but the information is scattered,” Alexander said. “This project contributes significantly toward the goal of more fully understanding available sand resources by synthesizing existing information into a single, digital resource.” 

Much of the older information is only available in printed form, and needs to be converted to a digital format to be useful in the software that managers and scientists use for viewing and analyzing data. The goal of the project is to have all the compiled information readily accessible to coastal managers and municipal planners.

“This agreement demonstrates BOEM’s commitment to work with Georgia to help coastal communities recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy and enhance resilience efforts for the future,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “We are committed to continuing to work in a collaborative manner to help local communities withstand damage from future storms.”

This agreement is one in a series of partnerships with 14 coastal Atlantic states, using part of the $13.6 million allocated to BOEM through the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013. The combined agreements support research that will help to identify sand and gravel resources appropriate for coastal protection and restoration along the entire Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

Tools:
Posted:
7/30/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

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.

Tools:
Posted:
7/16/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

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.

Tools:
Posted:
6/26/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

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.

Tools:
Posted:
6/11/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

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.

Tools:
Posted:
5/5/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Jay Brandes will present an “Evening @ Skidaway” reception and lecture on Monday, May 19, on the campus of Skidaway Institute. The program will be an informative and visual detail on the problem of debris in the ocean. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a reception at the McGowan Library on the Skidaway Institute campus to be followed by the lecture at 7:15 p.m.

Brandes’ talk is titled, “Walking on Water: Our Plastic Oceans.” Brandes will examine the growing issue of plastic and other trash and debris in our oceans. Most recently, floating debris patches in the search area hindered the search for the missing Malaysian airliner. Oceans around the world contain vast garbage patches within their centers. Marine debris on local beaches ranges from unsightly to unhealthy, despite the volunteer efforts to clean up the coasts. Brandes will profile the issue and discuss efforts that can lead to a cleaner ocean.

The program is open to the public and admission is free.

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Associates of Skidaway Institute. 

For additional information, contact Michael Sullivan at 912-598-2325 or mike.sullivan@skio.uga.edu.

 

###

Tools:
Posted:
3/3/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Can underwater robots catch the imagination of middle and high school students and spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics? Researchers and educators from the University of Georgia's Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marine Extension (MAREX) think so. They are creating an education program focused on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), also called gliders or underwater robots.

The program, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” will capitalize on Skidaway Institute's expertise with AUVs and MAREX's extensive history of marine education. Skidaway Institute scientist and UGA faculty member Catherine Edwards, and MAREX faculty members Mary Sweeney-Reeves and Mare Timmons will direct the one-year project.

The AUVs are a cutting-edge technology in marine research. The torpedo-shaped vehicles can be equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations under all conditions. They are launched into the ocean and move through the water by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Because they are highly energy-efficient, gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time. Every four to six hours over their mission, they surface, report their data by satellite phone and receive instructions as needed.

Skidaway Institute's AUV, nicknamed "Modena," has been used in several recent projects, including “Gliderpalooza,” a simultaneous, cooperative launch of 13 AUVs from different institutions in 2013.

“Gliders are education-friendly, but the existing outreach activities are stale,” said Edwards. “Our program will develop the next generation of AUV outreach programs by combining cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research with educational activities and strong STEM components.”

The proposed work will highlight the problem of working with the strong tides that are characteristic of the Georgia coast. A big issue in operating gliders there is developing a guidance and navigation system that will function well in that kind of environment. The fast-moving Gulf Stream, located roughly 100 miles off the Georgia beaches, also introduces navigation problems.

“Although the AUVs have Global Positioning Systems and can be programmed to travel a set course, tidal and Gulf Stream currents can exceed the glider's forward speed, which can take the instrument off course and keep us from collecting data where we need it,” Edwards said.

However, on the education side, the predictability of tides makes the proposed program highly intuitive and education-friendly.

“Students who grow up and live on the water already have an intuitive sense of tidal currents," said Timmons. "Students understand why currents change during certain phases of the moon. This coastal intuition will provide a foundation for us to start an innovative, hands-on approach to STEM activities.”

Activities will depend on grade level so middle school students will have different objectives than those in high school. However, all the activities will address the direction and speed the AUV travels to a destination. The AUV direction and speed will depend on the sea state of coastal waters such as strong currents, storms or high winds.

To address the problem of strong tides, Edwards and a team of Georgia Tech graduate students, co-advised by Fumin Zhang, have developed the Glider Environmental Network Information System, called GENIoS, which optimizes a glider's path based on data from real-time observations and ocean models. Current doctoral students Dongsik Chang and Sungjin Cho are working to upgrade the system to integrate real-time maps of surface currents measured by Skidaway Institute radar systems.

The education plan is to involve two local educators, April Meeks and Ben Wells, who teach in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. Since the activities are multidisciplinary, their expertise in building math curriculum will be valuable as the team integrates concepts of marine science, math and engineering into classroom activities.

“After the initial planning phase, we will be taking the program on the road to Chatham County schools,” said Sweeney-Reeves.

Activities will include student role-playing as an AUV maneuvers through a playing field of vector currents on a large game board. Successful arrival at their destination depends on how the individual pilot responds to currents, wind and density changes in route.

“The real fun will begin when obstacles, like underwater volcanoes, a giant squid or other surprises, cause the pilot to reroute the course of the AUV,” said Sweeney-Reeves.

The activities will allow students to develop analytical skills in a program that will be compliant with Next Generation Science Standards for the 21st Century in the common core state curriculum.

The funded study will include two short glider deployments. A summer 2014 deployment will be used for field-testing, software validation and developing real-world scenarios for the outreach program. A fall deployment will serve as an opportunity for classroom participants to communicate with the glider in real time.

“We hope this one-year program will serve as a springboard for future funding and continued joint outreach by Skidaway Institute and Marine Extension,” said Edwards. “We'd love to develop computer games and apps for tablets and mobile phones that let students fly gliders through even more realistic scenarios based on the measurements we collect in real time.”

The program is being funded through a joint grant from Skidaway Institute, UGA Public Service and Outreach, and the UGA President's Venture Fund. The UGA President's Venture Fund is intended to assist with significant funding challenges or opportunities. The fund also supports small programs and projects in amounts typically ranging from $500 to $5,000.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at 912-598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu; Mary Sweeney-Reeves at 912-598-2350 or msweeney@uga.edu; or Maryellen Timmons at 912-598-2353 or mare@uga.edu.

Tools:
Posted:
1/10/2014
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography now has its own YouTube channel. This is a one-stop-shop for videos produced by or in conjunction with Skidaway Institute and its research projects. To view Skidaway Institute videos, visit this link.

 http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ClcBs7ohJ3_YjblFzunvg/feed

======================================================

If you are having problems viewing YouTube videos, please click on the link below from Firefox and click the Request the HTML5 button in the middle of the page.

http://www.youtube.com/html5

Tools:
Posted:
12/5/2013
Author:
bob
Description:

   Skidaway Island, Ga. – Delta, a loggerhead sea turtle, spent the first 15 months of her life in an aquarium tank, but now she is swimming free in the Atlantic Ocean, courtesy of the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and its Research Vessel Savannah.

Delta was hatched on Tybee Island on August 19, 2012 as a straggler, a juvenile sea turtle that does not successfully leave the nest. She was taken to the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. There, she served as the Science Center’s Ocean Ambassador and educated more than 49,000 thousand visitor.

Eventually, though, Delta grew too large for her tank and it became necessary to release her into the wild. Although the Atlantic Ocean is only a few steps from Science Center’s front door, the water on the Tybee beaches is fairly cool this time of year. Delta’s caretakers at the Science Center wanted to release Delta into the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center contacted Skidaway Institute for assistance. Conveniently, Skidaway Institute scientist Gustav Paffenhöfer had a similar research cruise on board the R/V Savannah scheduled for the coming weeks, and he agreed to allow Delta and her crew to “piggy back” on this trip.

In preparation for her release into the wild, Delta was fed live crabs and jellies, which helped her bulk up to a healthy twelve pounds. Delta was also checked out by veterinarian Terry Norton from the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island.

With Delta and her team of handlers aboard, the R/V Savannah left the Skidaway Institute dock on Monday morning, Dec. 2, for the ten hour cruise to the edge of Georgia’s broad continental shelf and the western edge of the Gulf Stream. Captain Raymond Sweatte identified a favorable release spot, approximately 82 miles southeast of Tybee Island, based on the location of the shelf edge and by monitoring the surface ocean temperature. At the point of release, the water temperature was approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Delta’s crew placed here in a plastic shrimp basket and lowered her off the R/V Savannah’s stern. Once in the water, Delta quickly emerged from the basket and swam out of sight.

Tybee may not have seen the last of Delta. “Since loggerhead sea turtles return to their natal beaches to nest, we can expect to see Delta back on Tybee around 2043,” said Cody Shelley from the Science Center.

Video of the release can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XGxcJ_Psvw

Tools:
Posted:
11/25/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography are investigating black gill in shrimp, a condition Georgia shrimpers are blaming for an ongoing downturn in shrimp harvests. Very little is known about black gill, so professors Marc Frischer and Dick Lee are working with shrimpers and a number of agencies in a collaborative project to answer some key questions about the condition.

Black gill is a symptom of a health problem in the shrimp. The affected shrimp are easy to identify because they exhibit large black areas on their gills, which are right behind their head. The black gill has no effect on the edible qualities of the shrimp. Shrimp affected with black gill are perfectly safe to eat, and the condition has no effect on the taste of the shrimp.

Black gill has been an issue for pond-raised shrimp for more than a decade, but it has only been within the last several years it has become a problem for wild shrimp fishermen. Black gill can be triggered by several factors among pond-raised shrimp. Skidaway researchers believe black gill in wild Georgia shrimp is caused by a microscopic parasite classified as a ciliate—a single cell animal with tiny hairs called cilia that help them move. The scientists don’t know yet exactly which ciliate is to blame. The blackened gills are the result of the shrimp’s immune system reacting to the ciliate invasion. It creates black nodules around the invasive ciliates in the shrimp’s gills.

Beyond the blackened gills, it is not known how the condition affects the health and morbidity of the shrimp. Shrimp shed their gills through their normal molting process. Scientists suspect the parasite triggers a molting response, causing the shrimp to shed their shells and gills repeatedly in an effort to rid themselves of the parasite. This may cause them to use up extra energy and leave them stressed and vulnerable to predators. Examination of infected gill tissue also reveals the ciliate can damage the shrimp gill and directly impact the ability of the shrimp to breathe.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources statistics indicate that at its peak in October 2013, 40 percent of the shrimp captured in its surveys had black gill. Shrimpers are blaming black gill for reduced catches last year and so far this season.

“That may turn out that is the case, or it may not,” said Frischer. “As of right now, we have no scientific evidence to support it. That would be a good question to address in an additional research project beyond this one.”

Frischer, Lee and their collaborators will try to determine how black gill is transmitted, and if it is infectious. They also want to determine the distribution of the condition and its causative agent, and also see if the parasite exists in other crustaceans, in sediments or in the water.

According to Frischer, the black gill ciliate may always be present in the shrimp and probably other places too. For most of the year, shrimp are able to handle it. “However, in the late summer the water warms and the oxygen level drops, the shrimp may become stressed,” he said. “This may stress the shrimp and allow the parasite to proliferate.”

The two-year project will be sponsored by a $140,000 grant from Georgia Sea Grant, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The funding is not yet official, but Skidaway Institute scientists began their work early because this is the time of year when black gill is prevalent. 

Anna Walker of Mercer University is working with the Skidaway Institute researchers to conduct pathological tissue studies.

Other collaborators on the project include UGA Marine Extension Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources – Coastal Resources Division, the Georgia Shrimp Association, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Southern Shrimp Alliance, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.

###

Tools:
Posted:
10/30/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The effort to make Skidaway Marine Science Day a ‘landfill-free’ event was largely successful, according to event organizers. Held on the campus of the University of Georgia (UGA) Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the annual open house attracted nearly 2,000 visitors on Saturday, Oct. 26, but generated only nine pounds of unrecyclable trash. The event organizers used recycling and composting bins to collect and recycle materials in an attempt to reduce the stream of trash ultimately headed to a landfill.

The event was sponsored by the UGA Skidaway Institute, the UGA Aquarium and UGA Shellfish Laboratory, which are both part of Marine Extension, a public service and outreach unit of UGA, and by Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and the Nature Conservancy.

When the event was over, 57 pounds of recyclable paper, mostly napkins and hot dog wrappers, and 35 pounds of cans and plastic were collected. The compost containers held 10 pounds of food waste. 

“One lesson we learned is that chip bags are not recyclable, and we collected one and a half pounds of them,” said  Amanda Wrona Meadows, a marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy and one of the event organizers. “That’s a 50-gallon trash bag of chip bags.”

The rest of the non-recyclable waste was composed of material such as duct tape, pipe cleaners, cigarette butts, garbage bags and diapers.

“About 92 percent of the waste generated at the event was kept out of the landfill,” said Meadows. “I think that is something we should all feel good about.”

Tools:
Posted:
10/29/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Clifton Buck has just begin a 57-day research cruise across the Pacific Ocean from Ecuador to Tahiti. Periodically, Buck will send back accounts of his trip. These will be posted on the Skidaway Institute Web log (http://oceanscience.wordpress.com/) and also the Skidaway Institute Facebook page.

Tools:
Posted:
10/21/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

SKIDAWAY MARINE SCIENCE DAY

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2013 11AM-3 PM

CONTINUOUS ACTIVITIES (11AM-3 PM)

Jay Wolf Nature Trail, Interpretive Cabin, Learning Gardens (Open at 10 a.m.)

University of Georgia Aquarium Open – Free Admission

Behind the Scenes peeks at the UGA Aquarium. Every 20 minutes (11am-3pm) – pick up your ticket in the aquarium lobby and meet at the back door of the aquarium at your specified time! (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. No strollers, please.)

Touch Tanks (Aquarium)

Touch Tanks (Aquarium Day Group Room)

Phytoplankton Lab Demo (Aquarium Plankton Lab)

Invertebrate Explorations: A Floating Dock Study (Aquarium Invertebrate Lab)

Crabbing on the Dock 12-3 p.m. (UGA Marine Extension Service Dock)

Environmental Group Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Introduction to the online Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal (Skidaway Institute quad)

Studying ocean currents with radar (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Tours of Research Vessel Savannah (Skidaway Institute Dock)

Plankton World (McGowan Library overhang)

Build a Plankton (Tent outside the McGowan Library)

Plankton Sink-Off (Tent outside the McGowan Library) A Sink-Off round every 20 minutes

Science Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad & R/V Savannah)

Microbe Hunt – Grab a swab and find the microbes in the world around you.  (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Gray’s Reef ROV Activity (Skidaway Institute Quad)

Oyster Reef Restoration Displays and Activities (Shellfish Lab Patio)

SCHEDULED EVENTS

11:15am -- Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

11:30am -- Reptile Show with John “Crawfish” Crawford, Marine Educator (Screened porch)

11:45am – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

12:15pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

12:30 PM – “Bridges and Bulls: A history of Skidaway Island” A talk and walking tour by Dr. Bill Savidge (McGowan Library)

12:45pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

1:15pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

1:30pm - Reptile Show with John “Crawfish” Crawford, Marine Educator (Screened porch)

1:45pm – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

Participating Environmental and Educational Groups

Georgia DNR-CRD

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

The Dolphin Project

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Tybee Marine Science Center

Skidaway Island State Park

Georgia DNR - Law Enforcement

Savannah State University Marine Sciences Department

Armstrong Atlantic State University Diamondback Terrepin Project

Youth for a Cleaner Environment

LTER Research Project

Friends of the Wildlife Refuge

CCA

Tools:
Posted:
10/15/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Recycling means less trash is sent to a landfill and that’s the idea behind designating Skidaway Marine Science Day 2013 as a “landfill free” event. Skidaway Marine Science Day is an annual open house planned for Saturday, Oct. 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the campus of the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography located at the north end of Skidaway Island. The event is jointly presented by the UGA Skidaway Institute, the UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium, the UGA MAREX Shellfish Laboratory, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and the Nature Conservancy.

Organizers will use recycling and composting bins to collect and recycle materials in an attempt to eliminate the stream of trash from the event ultimately headed to a landfill.

“The Skidaway campus understands it has a great responsibility to the environment,” said Amanda Wrona Meadows, a marine scientist with the Nature Conservancy and one of the event’s organizers. “While most people are pretty good about not littering, our goal is to have a great event like this and not worry about plastics accidentally getting into our rivers, streams and marshes and to not finish with truckloads of waste headed to a landfill.”

Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house with activities for everyone. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science. The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the research vessel Savannah and smaller research vessels, science displays and hands-on science activities.

The UGA Aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. In addition, the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, crabbing, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium.

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will have an opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary will show visitors how to operate a remotely-operated-vehicle in a swimming pool and pick up objects from the bottom. Gray’s Reef NMS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—a federal agency. Its participation will be dependent on the reopening of federal government offices.

Skidaway Institute professor Bill Savidge will reprise his very popular talk and tour on the history of Skidaway Island, tracing the Skidaway campus back to its years as a hunting preserve and cattle plantation.

Along with 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.

“To help ensure that Skidaway Marine Science Day will be a zero-landfill event, we ask visitors to bring their own water bottle and to use the recycling and composting bins that will be available on site,” said Meadows. “We will have water refill stations available.”

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

Tools:
Posted:
10/2/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

As the Gulf Coast continues to recover from the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists from the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography are continuing to look into the long-term effects of the spill on coastal marine life. A team led by Skidaway Institute professor Richard Lee recently completed preliminary work into the effect dispersed and emulsified oil has on blue crabs and shrimp. The project includes vital information from fishermen and crabbers in the Gulf.

Lee and his research associate, Karrie Bulski, are exposing blue crabs and grass shrimp to emulsified oil in sediment and then determining how this oil affects molting, or periodic shedding that allows shrimp and crabs to grow. To test this, emulsified oil is added onto sediment inside the tanks that house the crabs. The crabs are also fed squid that has been contaminated by the emulsified oil. Preliminary research results show egg and embryo production was reduced in female grass shrimp exposed to food and sediment infused with emulsified oil.

Working with Anna Walker, a pathologist at the Mercer University School of Medicine, they found that blue crabs exposed to emulsified oil showed changes in their blood cells, especially cells related to the immune system. Lee and his team speculate that the immune systems of those crabs may be compromised, making the crabs more susceptible to infection and disease. 

Researchers are also testing effects of oil treated with dispersants. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, millions of gallons of chemical dispersants were sprayed over the surface and subsurface of the Gulf. These chemicals disperse the oil into micro-droplets. In this project, dispersed oil droplets are added to petri dishes containing embryos of crabs and shrimp to test their effects on development.

Preliminary results show grass shrimp embryos exposed to suspensions of dispersed oil affected the hatching and molting of the shrimp embryos. Work on this project by Sook Chung at the University of Maryland indicates that molting hormones and molting regulating genes are affected in grass shrimp embryos exposed to dispersed oil.

Lee is working with scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi to provide the outreach portion of the project, which includes working with crabbers, fishermen and others in the Gulf ecosystem to understand the long-term effects of the spill and discover ways to manage them.

“In the outreach part of the project, scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi are going to some of the affected communities and recruiting people to participate in a series of one-day workshops,” said Lee. “At these workshops, scientists are explaining the effects of the oil on crabs and shrimp.”

So far, workshops have been held in Ocean Springs, Miss. and included charter boat captains, crab and shrimp fishermen, eco-tourism operators, and even teachers and artists from Biloxi, Miss. and Bayou La Batre, Ala.

“It was very interesting,” said Lee. “From the scientific and economic standpoints, there are many aspects as to how oil is affecting these communities.”

According to Lee, one issue facing the Gulf coast communities is rumors about seafood safety are often much worse than reality. In Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, where a lot of the oil came ashore, there is a perception that people should not eat the seafood there. But, there is very little evidence of any contamination in commercial shellfish.

Lee describes the people who attended the workshops as passionate, involved and worried about their communities. “They are worried that the oil will change things, but most agree that the ecology was not destroyed and it’s not the end of a way of living,” he said. “It’s my opinion that the Gulf will recover.”

Lee and his team plan to complete their project and publish their results early next year.  

The study is funded through a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The team includes Chung from the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the University of Maryland, Harriet Perry and Christopher Snyder from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, and Walker, at the Mercer University School of Medicine.

Tools:
Posted:
9/19/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

A paper published by University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Marc Frischer has been nominated for the James LaBounty Award as the best paper published during the past year in the scientific journal, Lake and Reservoir Management. Published by the North American Lake Management Society, the journal features peer-reviewed scientific papers targeting a largely technical audience of academics and lake managers.

The article, “Accuracy and reliability of Dreissena spp. larvae detection by cross-polarized light microscopy, imaging flow cytometry, and polymerase chain reaction assays” described an experiment to assess the reliability of three different methods for detecting zebra and quagga mussel larvae.

Native to the lakes of southern Russia, zebra and quagga mussels have become a troublesome invasive species in North America. They disrupt ecosystems, and damage harbors and waterways, ships and boats, and water treatment and power plants. The goal of the study was to provide quantitative data useful for managers struggling to contain the current spread of these species in the western U.S.

The manuscript was co-authored by Kevin Kelly from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Environmental Applications and Research Group, and Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer from the Darrin Fresh Water Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The study was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

An abstract of the article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07438141.2012.731027.

According to the journal editor, Ken Wagner, the nomination means the editorial board felt that the paper was one of the more important contributions to Lake and Reservoir Management this past year.

The final award will be presented at the annual symposium of the North American Lake Management Society in San Diego in October.

For more information on the ongoing invasion and management efforts, see www.musselmonitoring.com.

.

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Tools:
Posted:
9/18/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

More than a dozen underwater robotic vehicles called “gliders” will be launched simultaneously this month in a massive, cooperative project involving 10 east coast research institutions, including the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Dubbed Gliderpalooza 2013, the fleet of gliders will cruise the waters of the east coast for several weeks, collecting data that could help improve future hurricane forecasts. 

The gliders are torpedo-shaped vehicles, equipped with sensors and recorders to collect observations under all conditions. These autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs, move through the water by adjusting their buoyancy and pitch. Because they are highly energy efficient, gliders can remain on a mission for weeks at a time. Every 4 to 6 hours over their mission, they surface, report their data by satellite phone and receive instructions as needed.

According to Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards, one goal of Gliderpalooza 2013 is to test the feasibility of using a fleet of gliders to work together and to integrate their data—collected in the same time period, but over a wide geographical range.

“Gliders are powerful tools for oceanographers,” Edwards said. “We believe there is great potential to expand the value of them by working together on the deployments and integrating the data each collects.”

Another reason for promoting the use of gliders is their relatively inexpensive cost of operation. Gliders can operate for weeks at a time and in all kinds of weather conditions for a small fraction of the daily coast of an ocean-going research vessel.

“Gliders will never replace ships in oceanography—ship surveys are often the best way to collect data,” Edwards said. “But AUVs require far fewer resources and personnel than shipboard work, and can operate in conditions that would be impossible for traditional ship surveys. For lengthy data-collection missions, a glider can operate for pennies on the dollar by comparison.”

Scientists at Rutgers University are coordinating the project. Computers there will gather the data from the various glider groups, and make it available through a data assembly center for access to and visualization of the data in real time. Glider groups participating in Gliderpalooza will contribute pictures, updates and other notes of interest to scientists and the general public on a blog available at http://maracoos.org/blogs/main/

September was chosen as the month for deployment because many important fish species migrate in that month, and a coordinated experiment can provide a more complete picture of oceanographic conditions and fish populations. September is the most active month for hurricanes, and there is interest in the use of gliders to better understand the effects of major storms on the mixing and transport of heat, nutrients and material.

The Skidaway Institute glider, nicknamed “Modena,” and several others will also be equipped with a special instrument to monitor fish migration. In order to track fish migration, some fisheries biologists tag fish with an acoustic transmitter. The tag-transmitter sends out a sound signal identifying the fish. Typically, receivers on buoys and other stationary platforms monitor these signals. This will be the first time a fleet of moving gliders will be used to monitor fish migration.

Gliderpalooza will also serve as a field test of a new glider navigation system developed by Georgia Tech graduate students, Dongsik Chang, Klimka Szwaykowska and Sungjin Cho, who are supervised by Edwards and Georgia Tech collaborator Fumin Zhang. Gliders can only receive GPS information at the surface. They navigate underwater by dead reckoning, using information on ocean currents from the last leg of their mission. However, the strong tidal currents on the Georgia shelf, combined with the fast-moving Gulf Stream at the shelf edge often exceed a glider’s forward speed. This creates the opportunity for significant navigational errors.

The Glider Environmental Network Information System (GENIoS) is an automated system that optimizes glider navigation based on real time data from ocean models, high frequency radar and measurements from the glider itself. By integrating these data with ocean models, GENIoS provides a more accurate prediction of the currents the glider will navigate through, and chooses the most efficient target waypoints for the glider to aim for as those currents change in space and time.   

During Gliderpalooza, the Skidaway Institute glider will conduct a triangle-shaped mission that includes one leg along the edge of the continental shelf, which also corresponds roughly to the western edge of the Gulf Stream.

“The combination of strong tidal currents and the influence of the Gulf Stream will serve as a strong test of the system,” Edwards said.

The collected glider data will go through NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center to the National Weather Service, the U.S. Navy and other data users for modeling. Data from the glider missions will also be public and available on the Integrated Ocean Observing System Glider Asset Map and at www.ndbc.noaa.gov/gliders.pahp.

Funding for Modena’s mission is provided by the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association.

More information and an ongoing update on the progress of the project are available on the Gliderpalooza 2013 blog at http://maracoos.org/blogs/main/?p=448.


Tools:
Posted:
9/6/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

An afternoon of marine science programs, displays, tours and activities—Skidaway Marine Science Day 2013—will be held on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the campus of the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography located at the north end of Skidaway Island.

Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house with activities for everyone. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the Research Vessel Savannah and smaller research vessels, science displays and hands-on science activities.

The UGA Aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. In addition, the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, crabbing, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium.

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will have an opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will show visitors how to operate a remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV) in a swimming pool and pick up objects from the bottom.

Skidaway Institute professor Bill Savidge will reprise his very popular talk and tour on the history of Skidaway Island, tracing the Skidaway campus back to its years as a hunting preserve and a cattle plantation.

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.

All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day will be free. For additional information, call 912-598-2325, or visit www.skio.uga.edu

Tools:
Posted:
8/15/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Threats to the Georgia coast, ranging from hurricanes to sea level rise, will be the topic of a Ships of the Sea Museum “Coastal Connections” lecture program on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the museum’s North Garden. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Clark Alexander will present the lecture.

Alexander offers an informative and visual program on the hazards facing Georgia’s coastal regions. Drawing on two decades of work in the area, he will discuss coastal hazards relevant to Georgia, such as tropical storms, sea level rise and more. He will also introduce the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal, a Web-based tool that anyone can use to assess specific exposure to coastal hazards, and present up-to-the-minute results of ongoing research to better quantify coastal Georgia’s hazard vulnerability.

The talk is free and open to the public.

For additional information, contact Michael Sullivan at Skidaway Institute at 912-598-2325 or Brittany Tufts at the Ships of the Sea Museum at 912-232-1511.

Tools:
Posted:
7/3/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is now a part of the University of Georgia (UGA.)

The merger of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography with the University of Georgia, effective July 1, was initiated by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia as part of Chancellor Hank Huckaby's efforts to streamline operations and was approved by the board in January. It is expected the new alignment between the institute and the university will enhance the research efforts of both the Skidaway Institute and UGA’s marine and coastal programs.

“This historic merger creates new opportunities in research, instruction and outreach while facilitating collaboration among University System of Georgia institutions,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I appreciate the vision and leadership of Chancellor Huckaby and the board of regents as well as the dedication of Dr. Libby Morris, Dr. Jim Sanders and the many other university officials who have worked to bring these institutions together.”

A land-grant and sea-grant university with statewide commitments and responsibilities, the University of Georgia, is the state's oldest, most comprehensive and most diversified institution of higher education. With its main campus in Athens, UGA enrolls a student body of nearly 35,000 students in a wide range of academic disciplines.

The Skidaway Institute is an internationally recognized research institution located on a 700-acre campus on Skidaway Island, 16 miles southeast of Savannah. It was created in 1967 by the Georgia General Assembly and operated as a stand-alone institution for four years before coming under the responsibility of the university system. With the merger, the institute's executive director, Jim Sanders, now reports to the UGA’s Office of the Provost.

“Combining the intellectual and physical resources of the Skidaway Institute with those of the University of Georgia will strengthen an area of research whose impact extends far beyond the coast,” said Libby Morris, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Our students and the state we serve will undoubtedly benefit from the synergies that this merger has created.”

According to Skidaway Institute executive director Jim Sanders, in addition to strengthening pre-existing collaborations with UGA researchers, the merger creates new opportunities for cross-disciplinary research with faculty in units such as the College of Engineering. 

“Also, we expect Skidaway Institute to continue to maintain the historically strong relationships with other university system institutions, such as Georgia Tech and Savannah State,” Sanders said.

UGA already has a strong presence on the Skidaway Institute campus. The UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium provides educational programs for approximately 18,000 students annually. The Marine Extension Service Shellfish Laboratory is also located on the Skidaway campus.

Tools:
Posted:
4/29/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Clark Alexander will present an informative and visual program on threats to the Georgia Coast in an “Evening @ Skidaway” reception and lecture on Tuesday, May 21, on the campus of Skidaway Institute.

The program will begin at 6:15 p.m. with a reception at the University of Georgia MAREX Aquarium to be followed by the science talk at 7:15 p.m. in the McGowan Library Auditorium.

The program is open to the public and admission is free.

Alexander’s talk is titled, “Coastal Crystal Ball: A Look at the Future of Georgia’s Changing Coastline.” Drawing on two decades of work in the area, Alexander will discuss coastal hazards relevant to Georgia, such as storms, beach erosion and sea level rise. He will introduce the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal, a web-based tool that anyone can use to assess their specific exposure to coastal hazards, and present up-to-the-minute results of ongoing research to better quantify coastal Georgia’s hazard vulnerability.

The reception will include a demonstration of the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal display located at the Aquarium.

Seating is limited. Please reserve seats by calling (912) 598-2325 or email to mike.sullivan@skio.usg.edu.

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Skidaway Marine Science Foundation.

Tools:
Posted:
4/18/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Aron Stubbins is a co-author of a research paper published in a major scientific journal. The article, “Global Charcoal Mobilization from Soils via Dissolution and Riverine Transport to the Oceans,” will appear in the April 19, 2013 issue of the journal Science, published by the AAAS, the science society, the world's largest general scientific organization. See http://www.sciencemag.org, and also http://www.aaas.org.

Stubbins and his colleagues concluded black carbon, formed from the burning of biomass and fossil fuels, may account for as much as ten percent of the carbon transported by rivers into the ocean. It also plays a significant role in controlling the balance of the three major carbon pools on earth – the soil, the ocean and the atmosphere. That balance controls the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn influences local and global climate.

The entire article can be viewed online at: www.sciencemag.org

Stubbins has a website detailing this and other work on black carbon at: http://www.skio.usg.edu/?p=research/chem/biogeochem/blkcarbon

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Tools:
Posted:
4/18/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Black carbon, formed from the burning of biomass and fossil fuels, may account for as much as ten percent of the carbon transported by rivers into the ocean and play a significant role in controlling the balance of two of the most important carbon pools on earth – the soil and the ocean.

This is the finding of a group of scientists, including Aron Stubbins of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. This research will appear in the April 19, 2013 issue of the journal Science, published by the AAAS, the science society, the world's largest general scientific organization. See http://www.sciencemag.org, and also http://www.aaas.org.

Black carbon is organic material that has been altered by heat or combustion, such as the remnants of forest fires or burning fossil fuels. The burning of biomass generates between 40 million and 250 million tons of black carbon every year. Part of that is preserved for thousands of years in soils and sediments where it makes up approximately ten percent of the total carbon there.

Another portion is picked up by drainage and carried by rivers to the ocean. According to Stubbins and his colleagues, as much as ten percent of the carbon dumped by rivers into the ocean may be this black carbon.

This movement of black carbon involves two of the Earth’s three main stores of reactive carbon -- in the soil and in the dissolved phase in the ocean. Both are approximately the same size as the third store – the carbon in the atmosphere, in the form of carbon dioxide.

“The balance between those three carbon pools is very important,” said Stubbins. “It controls the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn influences local and global climate.” 

Black carbon is fairly stable in the marine environment, especially in the deep ocean. However, near the surface black carbon is very photo-sensitive. So when it is exposed to sunlight, it will degrade rapidly.

“In the deep ocean, the degradation is so slow that it would take up to 40 thousand years for the black carbon to be removed,” said Stubbins, “However, stick it in sunlight and 95 percent will disappear in two weeks.”

When exposed to sunlight, the relatively complex black carbon molecules break down into smaller molecules, including carbon dioxide. The CO2 is dissolved in the ocean water where it can be utilized in photosynthesis by microscopic plants called phytoplankton. It can also be released into the atmosphere as part of the constant exchange of gasses between the atmosphere and the water at the ocean surface.

This degradation of black carbon in the surface ocean is apparently happening at a fairly rapid rate. The data in this project suggests that the Earth’s rivers are dumping much more black carbon into the ocean than can be found there.

“So where is it going?” asked Stubbins. “The rivers are dumping ten to 100 times more carbon into the ocean than we are finding there. That means we are losing ten to 99 percent of it.”

Stubbins continued, if that black carbon had remained in the soil, it would have remained stable for thousands of years.

“If you are losing it in the oceans, it is likely being converted into carbon dioxide. This freeing of black carbon from the soils, followed by its conversion to CO2 is analogous to the production of CO2 that occurs when we dig up and burn fossil fuels.”

The Science article is titled “Global Charcoal Mobilization from Soils via Dissolution and Riverine Transport to the Oceans.” The lead author is Rudolf Jaffé from Florida International University. In addition to Stubbins, the co-authors include Yan Ding, also from Florida International University; Jutta Niggemann and Thorsten Dittmar from the Max Planck Research Group for Marine Geochemistry; Anssi V. Vähätalo from the University of Helsinki; Robert G.M. Spencer from the Woods Hole Research Center; and John Campbell from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Northern Research Station. 

The entire article can be viewed online at: www.sciencemag.org

Stubbins has a website detailing this and other work on black carbon at: http://www.skio.usg.edu/?p=research/chem/biogeochem/blkcarbon

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Tools:
Posted:
3/25/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will present the award-winning documentary, “Chasing Ice,” as the feature film at the 11th Annual Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival on Saturday, September 14, at 8 p.m. at the Lucas Theater for the Arts in downtown Savannah.

“Chasing Ice” is the story of James Balog, a photographer who directed The Extreme Ice Survey, an ambitious project to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog deployed revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to produce a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

Balog and his team battled untested technology in subzero conditions to capture images that compress years into seconds and depict ancient mountains of ice as they disappear at a breathtaking rate.

"Chasing Ice" has won 23 awards at film festivals around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival Award for Excellence in Cinematography and the Environmental Media Association’s 22nd Annual Best Documentary Award.

The screening will be followed by a short panel discussion on climate change including several Skidaway Institute scientists and other environmental experts.

The screening will be sponsored in part by the Skidaway Marine Science Foundation.

More information on “Chasing Ice” can be found at http://www.chasingice.com/.

The 11th Annual Gray’s Reef Ocean Film Festival will be presented Thursday, September 12 through Saturday, September 14, at the Jepson Center and the Lucas Theater for the Arts. An encore presentation of selected festival films will be screened at the Jewish Education Alliance on Sunday, September 15. Admission to all films will be free. 

More information on the film festival is available at www.graysreef.noaa.gov.

Tools:
Posted:
3/20/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

A world threatened by extreme weather, invasive species, emerging disease and increasing uncertainty needs the scientific capacity to face those challenges. Natural laboratories around the country, which have been placing researchers on the front lines of understanding and managing environmental change for a century, form the building blocks of that capacity. The Organization of Biological Field Stations and The National Association of Marine Laboratories has released a report showing how scientists in communities across the continent respond to emerging questions in flexible and nimble ways, and are poised to work together to contribute to global solutions.

The report was supervised by a steering committee of seven scientists, including Skidaway Institute of Oceanography director James Sanders. Also, Skidaway Institute scientist Jens Nejstgaard participated in the workshop that contributed to the report. 


Field stations and marine labs (FSMLs) are the primary places scientists go to study environmental processes in their natural context, and as such they harbor the knowledge of the past that we need to predict the future. They host thousands of individual researchers at hundreds of locations, and are the birthplace of many of the innovations and discoveries that drive environmental science today. Recent large-scale initiatives, such as the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), as well as the longer-running Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network, depend on existing FSML infrastructure. The novel insights these new observatories generate will stimulate complementary research at many more field stations and marine labs. 



However, only a small fraction of FSMLs participates in these broader-scale scientific initiatives. NEON and LTER represent ten per cent of the available long-term, place-based, multiple-investigator environmental research sites. The report, “Field Stations and Marine Laboratories of the Future: A Strategic Vision,” is based on a national workshop and survey and on input from the broader scientific community. The report recommends creating a Network Center to catalyze broader-scale science and to facilitate participation in coordinated environmental efforts. For example, a stronger network of FSMLs could contribute to evolving national and international programs such as the sustained National Climate Assessment or the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network. 



Field stations and marine labs have the flexibility and the logistical and intellectual capacity to support novel experimental approaches across tremendous ecological diversity. Collectively, they represent billions of dollars of investment in research infrastructure, including and tools, and they have trained generations of environmental scientists.

This report is a first step in making sure the nation's investment in field stations and marine labs continues to meet the dynamic and changing needs of scientists, students and the public they serve. 


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The National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML), organized in the late 1980's, is a nonprofit organization of over 120 members employing more than 10,000 scientists, engineers, and professionals and representing marine and Great Lakes laboratories stretching from Guam to Bermuda and Alaska to Puerto Rico. The member institutions of the National Association of Marine Labs work together to improve the quality and effectiveness of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research, education and outreach. Through these unique national and regional networks, NAML encourages ecosystem-based management, wise local land management and the understanding and protection of natural resources.

The Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that represents field stations throughout the world. The mission of OBFS is to help member stations increase their effectiveness in supporting critical research, education, and outreach programs. OBFS pursues this goal in a manner that maximizes diversity, inclusiveness, sustainability, and transparency.

Tools:
Posted:
1/9/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Atlanta — January 8, 2013

The Board of Regents approved today aligning the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography (SkIO) with the University of Georgia (UGA).

“The new alignment between the institute and the university will streamline operations and enhance the research efforts of both SkIO and UGA’s excellent marine and coastal programs,” said Houston Davis, the University System’s chief academic officer and executive vice chancellor.

Davis said that the change is part of Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s efforts to streamline the University System of Georgia’s operations. He said that the change will become effective July 1, 2013.

The Institute has 65 employees who conduct cutting-edge oceanographic research on both a regional and global scale. The Institute also provides research-based educational opportunities to students from other University System institutions and from around the world.

The University of Georgia has a staff of about 20 who provide classes for as many as 18,000 students from elementary to high school each year at Skidaway. The university also has a site on Sapelo Island for site-based research and instruction of undergraduate and graduate college students in its marine program.

“In addition to enhancing research conducted by UGA, this change provides a synergistic environment that is sure to benefit both Georgia Tech and Savannah State University who also conduct important coastal research at Skidaway,” added Davis.

The Georgia General Assembly chartered Skidaway in 1967 after philanthropist Robert Roebling donated the land to the state. The Institute operated as a stand-alone institution for four years before coming under the responsibility of the University System

Tools:
Posted:
1/2/2013
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Salt marshes are a vital part of the coastal ecosystem. They provide a nursery for many kinds of marine animal life. Sitting in the transition zone between the ocean and the land, salt marshes serve as a physical buffer against severe weather. They act as a chemical buffer by capturing, holding and releasing nutrients that are brought in on each tide. As a result, the marshes have a great influence on the type and amount of nutrients that enter the sounds and the ocean. That buffering capacity varies on tidal, daily and seasonal time scales, but how it functions is poorly documented.

A team of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists have begun a project to get a clearer picture of how salt marshes function and interact with their surrounding environment.  

The composition of the science team reflects the interdisciplinary nature of the project. Principal investigator Jay Brandes, Aron Stubbins and Bill Savidge are chemical oceanographers, and Catherine Edwards is a physical oceanographer. Geologist Clark Alexander and physical oceanographers Jack Blanton and Dana Savidge are also contributing to the effort. The three-year project is funded by a $699, 971 grant from the National Science Foundation.

“Scientists have looked at salt marshes in the past and have gotten some good data,” Brandes said. “However, this will be the first detailed look at the combined functions of one of these marsh systems.”

The project will focus on Groves Creek, a portion of coastal salt marsh along the Wilmington River, adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus. Groves Creek has been the site of other research projects.  Over the past three years, Blanton, Alexander, Dana Savidge and others have studied the topography and water-flow in the marsh as part of a Department of Energy-funded project.  Because of this, the physical layout of the marsh has been documented to a fine detail. 

“We already know a lot about this area, especially how the water moves in and out of the marsh on the tides,” said Brandes. “We have a very good understanding of the topography of the top of the marsh and its tidal creeks, both above and below the surface.” 

The scientists also believe the Groves Creek area is fairly representative of salt marshes along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.

From a chemical standpoint, the research will focus on way the salt marsh uses carbon: is it a consumer or producer of carbon-based organic material and nutrients?

“Marshes take material in from the river on every high tide, and they deliver material back to the river on the falling tide -- but it isn’t the same stuff,” Savidge said. “The marsh changes the river chemistry on every tidal cycle.”

There isn’t much consensus on what controls that exchange between river and marsh. “That is one of the big questions,” said Brandes, “Trying to understand whether the marsh is a producer or consumer, and how that changes over time, the seasons, the tides and so on.”

To get a detailed history of marsh-river exchange, the scientists will place sensors in the marsh that will measure various conditions every 15 minutes. Remote sensors cannot measure everything, so the research team will also be collecting samples on a daily basis and returning them to their labs for analysis.  Understanding the big picture will come from adding up all the little incremental changes over time and relating them to the actions of sun, tide and weather on the marsh surface.

Stubbins will focus his efforts on the role of dissolved organic carbon in the marsh. Savidge will work look at how the salt marsh uses dissolved oxygen. Edwards will be modeling how water flows in and out of the system and how that movement interacts with the chemical and biological activity.

When the project is complete in three years, the Skidaway scientists expect to have a much more extensive picture of the role salt marshes play in the larger coastal ecosystem.

Tools:
Posted:
12/11/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the impetus behind a research project at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography to study the effects of spilled oil on blue crabs and grass shrimp. 

The project is looking at two forms of oil. The first, emulsified oil, is an oil-water mixture produced by wave turbulence.  The oil doesn’t change chemically, but the emulsification produces a thicker, more viscous mixture.

“Because the emulsified oil is so much thicker, it becomes a much more difficult clean-up issue, especially if it is washed ashore,” said Skidaway Institute professor Richard Lee, the chief scientist on the project.

Lee and his team are exposing blue crabs and grass shrimp to emulsified oil in sediment and then watching to see how this affects their molting, which is the way the shrimp and crabs grow. 

The second focus is on oil that has been treated with dispersants. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon spill, millions of gallons of chemical dispersants were sprayed over the surface of the Gulf to disperse the oil slick. These break the oil down into micro-droplets. Dispersed oil forms a underwater plume that can extend for many miles.

In the laboratory, the researchers are adding emulsified oil into the tanks containing the crabs and also feeding the crabs squid that has been contaminated by the emulsified oil. Dispersed oil droplets are added to tanks containing embryos of crabs and shrimp.

“What we are trying to determine here is just how the exposure to dispersed or emulsified oil affects the growth and molting crabs and shrimp,” said Lee.

The scientists selected grass shrimp and blue crabs for the study because of the important places they occupy in the marine food web. Although grass shrimp are not typically harvested as a commercial product, they are abundant in salt marshes and estuaries, and are an important food source for many fish. Blue crabs are also a food source for many fish in addition to having value as a commercial catch.

The study is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lee is working with research associate Karrie Bulski at Skidaway Institute. The team also includes Sook Chung from the institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the University of Maryland, and Harriet Perry and Christopher Snyder from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Sook is looking at the crab and shrimp at a molecular level. “We believe that the genes that regulate molding will be affected, and the crab and shrimp will not molt properly,” said Lee. “Hormone regulation and its relationship to contaminant exposure is something we need to learn more about, and Dr. Sook carries out that kind of research.”

The researchers will also send tissue samples, primarily from the shrimp and crab’s endocrine organs, to another researcher, Anna Walker, at Mercer University School of Medicine to look for physiological or pathological changes.

Another major part of the project will be to explain the results of the study to the public, especially the fishermen whose livelihood depends on a healthy marine ecosystem.  A significant part of the grant, $80,000, is designated for the establishment and implementation of a Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation teams in four communities along the north central Gulf of Mexico coast.

“This is primary role for the team from the University of Southern Mississippi,” said Lee. “They will develop public presentations on the project and the results to educate them on what this all means to them.”

The project will run through 2013.

Tools:
Posted:
10/12/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The crew of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s Research Vessel Savannah has been honored with the Gold Award in the Chancellor’s Customer Service Recognition Awards. The crew won the award in the team category in a competition among all 36 institutions in the University System of Georgia for year ending June 30, 2012.

The 92-foot, ocean-going R/V Savannah is used by scientists from Skidaway Institute as well as other institutions for oceanographic research in waters ranging from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Mexico.

The award was based on a survey of scientist-customers in which R/V Savannah crew received outstanding reviews. In the two key categories that dealt directly with the crew and their interaction with the science parties, the scientists rated the crew with an average of 4.97 on a scale of one to five.

The crew received the award in a ceremony at Clayton State University on October 4th. The team is led by Captain Raymond Sweatte, and includes First Mate Peter Casserleigh, Engineer Richard Huguley, Second Mate Chris Keene and Marine Technician John Bitchy. They are supported by Marine Superintendent Michael Richter. 

Tools:
Posted:
10/11/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is currently seeking applications for two faculty positions.

Trace Element Geochemist – This is a faculty position at the Assistant Professor level in trace element geochemistry. Applications from more senior candidates will also be considered. The successful candidate must have a Ph.D. and is expected to develop an active, extramurally funded research program. We are particularly interested in a collaborative colleague who can demonstrate experience in conducting field-based, interdisciplinary research in estuarine, coastal and/or marine environments.

For additional details, see the full job description and application guidelines at: http://www.skio.usg.edu/aboutus/jobs/1348248214.pdf

Marine Environmental Chemist – This is a faculty position at the Assistant Professor level in environmental chemistry, with interest in organic contaminant chemistry in the marine environment. Applications from more senior candidates will also be considered. The successful candidate must have a Ph.D. and is expected to develop an active, extramurally funded research program. We are particularly interested in a collaborative colleague who can demonstrate experience in conducting field-based, interdisciplinary research in estuarine, coastal and/or marine environments.

For additional details, see the full job description and application guidelines at: http://www.skio.usg.edu/aboutus/jobs/1348248079.pdf

Tools:
Posted:
9/24/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Marine Science Day

Saturday, 20 October 2012     Noon until 4 PM


Continuous Activities

• Jay Wolfe Nature Trail, Interpretive Cabin, Interpretive Gardens. Open at 10 AM (UGA Marine Education Center & Aquarium - MECA)

• University of Georgia Aquarium Open – Free Admission

Ossabaw, loggerhead sea turtle

Ossabaw the Loggerhead Sea Turtle on display (Aquarium)

• Touch Tanks (Aquarium)

• Behind the Scenes peeks at the UGA Aquarium. Every 10 minutes. Maximum of 15 visitors at a time. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. (Line up at back aquarium door.)

• Environmental Group Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad)

• Tours of Research Vessel Savannah (Skidaway Institute Dock)

• Plankton World (Marine and Coastal Science Research and Instruction Center - MCSRIC)

• Build a Plankton (Tent outside MCSRIC)

• Science Exhibits (Skidaway Institute Quad & R/V Savannah)

• Microbe Hunt – Grab a swab and find the microbes in the world around you. (Skidaway Institute Quad)

• Gray’s Reef ROV Activity (Skidaway Institute Quad)

• Oyster Reef Restoration Displays and Activities (Shellfish Lab Patio)

UGA Shellfish Lab patio, oyster shell bagging

• Habitat Explorations: Oceans (Aquarium Day Group Room)

• Habitat Explorations: Plankton (Aquarium Plankton Lab)

• Habitat Explorations: Tidal Creeks (Aquarium Invertebrate Lab)

• “Marine Debris” (Aquarium Art Lab)

• Crabbing on the Dock 1-3 PM (UGA Marine Extension Service Dock)

• The Savannah Blood Alliance Blood Donation Drive (Aquarium Parking Lot)

• Door Contest: Visitors can enter their name in a drawing for a Free Season Family Pass to the Aquarium. (Sign up - front desk, Aquarium Lobby)

• Radio Broadcasting – Adventure Radio Group

 

Scheduled Events

 

12:15 PM – Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

Entrance to UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium

12:30 PM – “Bridges and Bulls: A history of Skidaway Island” A talk and walking tour by Dr. Bill Savidge (begins at the McGowan Library Auditorium)

1:00 Shark Dissection with Curator Devin Dumont (Aquarium Invertebrate Lab)

12:30 PM – Plankton Sink- Off Preliminary Round (Tent outside MCSRIC)

 

1:30 PM – “What are scientists talking about?” A series of short talks by Skidaway Institute faculty on current research and issues in marine science. (McGowan Library Auditorium)

1:30 PM – Plankton Sink Off Preliminary Round (Tent outside MCSRIC)

1:50PM Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

 

2:00PM Reptile Show with John “Crawfish” Crawford, Marine Educator. Gators, snakes, turtles, and lizards, OH MY! Develop a greater understanding of some of the most amazing vertebrates found along the Georgia coast. (MECA Screened porch)

2:30 PM Plankton Sink Off Preliminary Round (Tent outside MCSRIC)

Robert Roebling with bull, Blackcapmere

2:00 PM – Skidaway Island History Talk and Tour by Dr. Bill Savidge (begins at McGowan Library Auditorium)

2:30PM Behind the Scenes Tour (Aquarium)

2:30 PM – Plankton Sink Off Preliminary Round (Tent outside MCSRIC)

2:50 PM Fish Feeding (Aquarium)

3:00 PM – Georgia Sea Turtles with John “Crawfish” Crawford, Marine Educator. Join in this fun and exciting know all about sea turtles, especially the ones that use Georgia beaches as nesting sites. (MECA Screened porch)

3:30 PM – Plankton Sink-Off Final Round (Tent outside MCSRIC)

 

Participating Environmental and Educational Groups

Georgia DNR-CRD

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

The Dolphin Project

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Tybee Marine Science Center

Sierra Club

Skidaway Island State Park

Georgia DNR - Law Enforcement

Georgia DNR – Underwater Archaeology

Savannah State University Marine Sciences Department

Armstrong Atlantic State University Diamondback Terrapin Project

Youth for a Cleaner Environment

Tools:
Posted:
9/21/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Coastal residents are exposed to a number of unique hazards associated with living near the ocean. These hazards range from hurricane storm surge to rapid erosion.  They occur both from natural processes and human activities.

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Clark Alexander and Georgia Southern University professor Chester Jackson will present a program entitled “Living on the Edge - Coastal Hazards in Georgia” on Monday, October 22, at 7 p.m. in the Library Auditorium on the campus of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography at the north end of Skidaway Island.

The talk is open to the public and admission is free.

The program is sponsored by the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

If interested, please RSVP to (912) 598-2496.

Tools:
Posted:
9/19/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

In August of last year, a tiny loggerhead sea turtle was born on Ossabaw Island. Unlike his brothers and sisters, he wasn’t able make his way to the ocean. Fortunately for this one baby loggerhead, he was rescued by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Having determined the young turtle would not survive on his own, Mark Dodd of DNR contacted the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Extension Service Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

Since his arrival last year, the sea turtle, named “Ossabaw,” has thrived. (Actually, while he may be referred to as a “he,” his gender is not known.) Starting as a small hatchling that would easily fit in the palm of your hand, he has lived behind the scenes at the aquarium and has been cared for by the curator team of Devin Dumont and Karin Paquin.

“When he first arrived, he was so tiny,” said Paquin. “Now he is over three pounds and very active.”

Loggerhead sea turtles are on the threatened species list at the state and federal level. They are the most common sea turtle species to nest regularly along the Georgia coast and barrier islands. Female loggerhead turtles crawl up on beaches between May and October to lay their eggs in nest chambers dug in the sand with their back flippers and then return to the sea.  The eggs incubate for approximately two months before the hatchlings emerge and head to the water where they can live as long as 70 years and grow to over 200 pounds.

“We hope that Ossabaw will grow strong, healthy and be ready for release in three to four years,” said Paquin. “If a turtle is deemed not releasable by a veterinarian, we work with larger aquariums to find a new home.”

Ossabaw’s predecessor at the aquarium, “Eddie,” was released into the wild last year. However, an earlier loggerhead, “Joey,” was transferred to the Georgia Aquarium when he grew too large for his home at the UGA Aquarium.

After living in a tank behind the scenes for his first year of life, Ossabaw will make his debut on public display in time for Skidaway Marine Science Day, which will be held on Saturday, October 20 from noon to 4 p.m.

Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science and the coastal environment. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

Along with the aquarium, the event will be presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the Research Vessel Savannah and smaller research vessels; science displays and talks on current research programs; and hands-on science activities.

The aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. In addition to “Ossabaw,” the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, boat tours, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium.

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will be given the opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will set up their remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV) in a swimming pool and teach visitors how to “drive” it and pick up objects from the bottom.

Skidaway Marine Science Day will also be open to non-campus scientific and environmental groups. Organizations such as The Dolphin Project and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will be on-hand to present, information, displays and activities.

School classes or other large groups wishing to attend Skidaway Marine Science Day can be accommodated only through advance arrangements. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325.

All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day will be free. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325, or visit www.skio.usg.edu.

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Tools:
Posted:
9/12/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Stella Berger is one of the co-authors of a paper published recently in the journal, Marine Biology. The project studied the effect climate change has on the timing and magnitude of spring plankton blooms in both fresh- and saltwater ecosystems.

The entire paper can be accessed at: http://www.skio.usg.edu/aboutus/people/nejstgaard/downloads/Winder-Berger.pdf

Tools:
Posted:
8/14/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

For years, “slash-and-burn” techniques were used to clear Brazil’s massive Atlantic Forest.  Although the large-scale burning was halted in 1973, the black carbon left behind from those forest fires is still draining into the area’s rivers and eventually into the ocean. For the first time, a team of scientists, including Aron Stubbins from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, has studied this carbon outflow and produced estimates of the amount of black carbon being introduced to the ocean. Their study has been published in the August issue of Nature Geoscience. Stubbins was one of seven co-authors of the paper. Thorsten Dittmar from the Max Planck Research Group for Marine Geochemistry in Oldenburg, Germany, and Eduardo de Rezende from the Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were the lead authors.

Humans have used fire extensively as a tool to shape the Earth’s vegetation. Brazil’s Atlantic Forest once covered 1.3 million square kilometers and was one of the largest tropical forest ecosystems on Earth. Because of the extensive burning for land-clearing, the forest has been reduced to less than ten percent of its original size.

The research team estimated that prior to 1973, the burning of the Atlantic Forest generated as much of 500 million tons of black carbon. The burned plant material initially sits on the ground or is absorbed into the soil, but eventually it is carried away by rainfall drainage into creeks, rivers, and, eventually, the ocean. 

One river in the area carries 2,700 tons of dissolved black carbon to the ocean annually.

“We scaled our findings up to cover the remainder of the watershed,” said Stubbins. We estimate the former-forest contributes 50,000-70,000 tons of dissolved black carbon to the marine environment.”

What is not known is the fate of the dissolved carbon once it reaches the ocean. Black carbon is thought to be very slow to decay in the oceans. So the black carbon entering the oceans maybe accumulating as a carbon store that locks carbon away from the atmosphere for hundreds if not thousands of years. Its influence on marine life is also unknown at present.

“What is certain is that slash-and-burn will continue to ravish forests creating more black carbon in the soils left behind,” said Stubbins. “This study shows that the effects of these fires extend on the carbon cycle extend through both time and space. Although the initial impact is immediate and local, the long lasting export of black carbon spreads the impact of these fires throughout the global ocean.”

The article can be viewed at: www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo1541.html.

Or at Stubbins Web site at: http://www.skio.usg.edu/?p=research/chem/biogeochem/blkcarbon

Tools:
Posted:
7/12/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

An afternoon of marine science programs, displays, tours and activities -- Skidaway Marine Science Day 2012 -- will be held on Saturday, October 20, from noon to 4 p.m. on the campus of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography at the north end of Skidaway Island.

The Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science. The University of Georgia Aquarium will be open free-of-charge with special displays and activities. Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s ocean-going research vessel, the R/V Savannah will also be open for tours.

The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The event will be presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. 

All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day will be free. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325, or visit www.skio.usg.edu.

Tools:
Posted:
7/5/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

No part of the Georgia coast is protected from pollution by plastics and other marine debris. That is one finding of a study conducted by Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists Jay Brandes and Dick Lee.

The scientists studied the collection totals from beach clean-up programs by environmental groups like Clean Coast and the Tybee Beautification Association and Rivers Alive. They found that while beach-sweep programs at populated spots like Tybee Island collect the most plastic, even sweeps in relatively remote locations like Cumberland and Ossabaw Islands collect a sizeable haul. A 2007 beach sweep on Tybee by the Tybee Beautification Association and Rivers Alive collected 5,400 pounds of plastic. In similar clean-ups by Clean Coast in 2009, volunteers collected 1,100 pounds on Cumberland Island and 750 pounds on Ossabaw Island.

The places with the largest amount of plastics accumulation were Tybee Island, Little Tybee Island, Turner’s Creek and Pigeon Island.

“It is interesting that some of the beaches receiving relatively low numbers of visitors, such as Blackbeard Island and Cumberland Island, still have relatively high amounts of plastic debris,” Brandes said. “This suggests that the source of plastics on remote beaches is the surrounding coastal waters that contain plastics from both inland and the coast.”

The Skidaway Institute researchers focused their attention on plastics for several reasons. Plastics tend to be very durable and persist in the environment for long periods of time.  Also, relatively small pieces of plastic can be a threat to marine animals. Fish sometime eat the plastics, which can block their digestive systems. Sometimes harmful contaminants tend to cling to plastic and can be ingested when the plastic is eaten.

“Plastics pollution has been getting a lot of attention recently, especially those large gyres, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Brandes. “But most of those plastics are coming from land and that means that most of the plastic in our environment is going to remain near the shore.”

For this study, the scientists were restricted to analyzing data provided by the various beach clean-up groups. The problem is these groups are, understandably, usually more concerned about cleaning up the beach than sorting types of debris they collect. Based on earlier studies of marine debris and limited sorting that has been done during some cleanups, the research team worked under the assumption that one half of the total material collected was comprised of plastics.

The plastics problem is not limited to coolers and plastic cups. According to Brandes, many of the larger plastic objects eventually become broken down into smaller pieces, as tiny as a grain of sand. They may remain suspended in the water column. Brandes has found these micro-plastic particles while collecting samples for other projects.

“Right now, very little is known about what kind of impact these micro-plastics might be having on fish or other parts of the marine ecosystem,” said Brandes.

To help with the problem of understanding what kinds of plastics foul our beaches and marshes, Skidaway Institute scientists are collecting additional data on marine plastics and other debris though a cooperative educational program, “Marine Debris,” with the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service.

“Marine Debris” is a hands-on, interactive program that incorporates the topic of marine debris with an emphasis on plastic debris along the coast of Georgia. Students and their teachers are conducting shoreline marine debris surveys on Wassaw Island to determine types of marine debris, weight of plastics collected and accumulation rates for the designated site. The students are compiling the data using the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Accumulation Survey protocol. The data is being submitted to the Southeast Marine Debris Initiative data base.

Tools:
Posted:
6/14/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists Jens Nejstgaard and Stella Berger are part of a 21-member, international team of researchers whose paper was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

The object of the research was to observe the effects of different light levels on the behavior of microscopic marine organisms. The team focused their efforts at a group of organisms called mixotrophs. Those are single-cell plankton that exhibit the characteristics of both animals (heterotrophs) and plants (autotrophs). They feed on other organisms, but they also can grow through photosynthesis, just like algae and other plants.

"Most higher organisms are either plants or animals, and we have therefore traditionally sorted most organisms in to these two groups, or fields of science: botany or zoology," said Nejstgaard. "However, as our understanding of the smallest sized life on earth, single celled organisms is rapidly growing it appears that a large part of the life on Earth may be mixotrophs. This opens new focus of seeing, and investigating our ecosystems."

Nejstgaard, Berger and their colleagues, collected natural water containing plankton and other organisms from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea near Crete and transported it to a into specially-designed tanks on land, called mesocosms, at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research.  In the 30-cubic-feet mesocosms they adjusted light levels to simulate differences in ocean depths down to approximately 150 feet.

The researchers found the mixotrophs do react to different levels of light. In general, the organisms tended towards plant behavior in brighter light and animal behavior at lower light levels. However, they also found that response is very complex, and the entire team of  scientists that worked on the mesocosms are presently analyzing a large amount of data to clarify many of the ecosystem interactions in this complex system.

Photo:

The international team with Stella Berger (back row, center, with sunglasses) and Jens Nejstgaard (far right).

.

Tools:
Posted:
4/25/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Clark Alexander (r) with research team member Mike Robinson.

Clark Alexander (r) with team member Mike Robinson examining the light meters beneath one of the mock docks.

New dock designs intended to reduce damage to salt marshes are not much better than traditional docks, according to a recently completed study by Clark Alexander of Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Alexander also concluded the compass orientation and height of a dock has more impact on the health of the salt marsh than the dock design or materials.

The problem is the shadow docks cast on the salt marsh vegetation beneath them. The marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora) does not flourish in reduced sunlight.  In recent years, alternative materials and designs have appeared on the dock-building market to try to mitigate this problem. Alexander tested three types of alternative material and designs – ThruFlow fiberglass-impregnated plastic grating; Gator Dock Fibergrate grating; and the DockRider Sundock, which uses a set of wooden rails and an electric trolley in place of traditional wood planking. 

“These all sounded good,” said Alexander. “But what we didn’t know was if they actually worked effectively.”

To answer that question, Alexander conducted a three-year, two-part research project funded by a $195,488 grant from the Georgia Coastal Zone Management Program.

The first part of the study was to conduct field-based “before-and-after” studies of salt marshes where some of the new designs were being built. Alexander’s team collected samples and recorded conditions in the marsh before the docks were built and continued to monitor the salt marshes after they were completed.

In the second part of the study, Alexander and his team constructed four dock models, “mock docks”, using alternative materials on high ground at the Skidaway campus. The docks were placed in a field with unobstructed sunlight and were fitted with light meters that measured the amount of sunlight being received above and below each dock. The researchers measured the shadow footprint of the various dock designs over the course of two years.

“Because orientation is an important parameter in light transmission through these materials, we made the mock docks mobile, so we could re-oriented them during the four seasons to see the effects of orientation and seasonal sun angle” said Alexander.

They also adjusted the dock heights to assess the impact of height on light penetration to the ground below. 

In the first part of the study, Alexander and his team examined three separate field sites – Turners Creek (ThruFlow decking), Shell Point Cove (Dockrider) and Betz Creek (traditional plank design) They measured the stem density of the marsh grass before the docks were constructed and then monitored it for two years after construction. Stem density in the dock shadow footprint decreased between 44 and 80 percent compared to nearby, non-dock sites.

The team also observed additional dock-related impacts. Some sections of salt marsh transitioned to denuded mudflats due to the marsh wrack that accumulated around the dock pilings.

The results of the field study were supported by the mock-dock project on the Skidaway campus. Seasonal measurements showed a significant reduction of the light needed to support the health of the marsh plants in the areas affected by the docks’ shadows.  At Skidaway Institute’s latitude, the elevation of the sun is high enough to allow sunlight to penetrate through the grated deck material only during the spring and summer, and even then, provides only about 10% more light than traditional plank decking.

The mock-dock project also documented two additional dock-shading impacts.  The compass orientation of a dock plays a significant role in the effect the dock has on the marsh. Docks that are oriented in a generally north-south direction have a much smaller shading impact than those oriented east-west. The height of the dock also has a significant effect. The duration of the shadow under the dock and the total light loss decreases as the height increases, up to 7 feet above the marsh surface, with smaller, less significant decreases above that height.

“The results of the two studies demonstrate that neither current alternative materials nor construction methods effectively negate the effects of dock shading in our region,” said Alexander. “However, the Dockrider system had one half to one third the shading impact of decked walkways in our study.”

“In addition to shading impacts, marsh wrack accumulation around dock and walkway pilings also negatively impacts the marsh and will be a problem with any piling-supported structure.”

The results of the study have been sent to the Department of Natural Resources, which will use these results to better manage the important coastal saltmarshes of Georgia.

Tools:
Posted:
3/5/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

A Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal Training Workshop will introduce a new Web-based tool to study threats to the Georgia coast. It will be held at the Sapelo Island Visitor Center in Meridian, Ga., on Friday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The workshop will focus on the Georgia Coastal Hazards Portal (GCHP) -- a Web-based interactive tool designed to provide a better understanding of coastal resources, coastal hazards and the effects of rapid population growth and development. It was created through a partnership between the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Savannah Area GIS program with funding provided by the Georgia Coastal Zone Management Program.

“This online tool can be utilized in many ways, such as, identifying vulnerability to coastal hazards and identifying connections between hazards and natural resources,” said Skidaway Institute’s Clark Alexander, the lead scientist on the GCHP project.

The workshop is targeted towards community planners, resource managers, research scientists, outreach specialists and elected officials. They will have the opportunity to discuss current coastal hazard research, network with others from the coastal hazards community and learn how to use the new interactive GCHP website as a resource and tool for communicating the facts and risks of coastal hazards.

The workshop is sponsored by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division. 

  Registration is available on-line at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CGHPRegistrationForm.

Workshop participants will receive lunch and a flash drive containing presentations and GCHP reference material.

The American Planning Association has approved the GCHP Training Workshop for six credits.

For additional information, contact Angela Bliss at abliss@uga.edu.

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Tools:
Posted:
2/20/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

New clues as to how the Earth’s remote ecosystems have been influenced by the industrial revolution are locked, frozen in the ice of glaciers. That is the finding of a group of scientists, including Aron Stubbins of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

The research is published in the March 2012 issue of Nature Geoscience.

The key to the process is carbon-containing dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the glacial ice. Glaciers provide a great deal of carbon to downstream ecosystems. Many scientists believe the source of this carbon is the ancient forests and peatlands overrun by the glaciers. However, Stubbins and his colleagues believe the carbon comes mainly from contemporary biomass and fossil fuel burning that gets deposited on the glacier surfaces. Once deposited on the glacier surface by snow and rain, the DOM moves with the glacier and is eventually delivered downstream where it provides food for microorganisms at the base of the marine food web.

“In vibrant ecosystems like in the temperate or tropical zones, once this atmospheric organic material makes landfall it is quickly consumed by the plants, animals and microbial populations,” said Stubbins. “However in frigid glacier environments, these carbon signals are preserved and standout.”

 “Remote regions are often perceived as being pristine and devoid of human influence”, Stubbins continued. “Glaciers show us that nowhere goes untouched by industry. Instead, burning fuels has an impact upon the natural functioning of ecosystems far removed from industrial activity.”

Glaciers and ice sheets together represent the second largest reservoir of water on earth, and glacier ecosystems cover ten percent of the Earth, yet the carbon dynamics underpinning those ecosystems remain poorly understood.

“Increased understanding of glacier biogeochemistry is a priority, as glacier environments are among the most sensitive to climate warming and the effects of industrial emissions” said Stubbins.

Globally, glacier ice loss is accelerating, driven in part by the deposition of carbon in the form of soot or “black carbon”, which darkens glacier surfaces and increases their absorption of light and heat. Biomass and fossil fuel burning by people around the globe are the major sources of that black carbon.

Stubbins and his fellow scientists have conducted much of their research at the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska. Mendenhall and other glaciers that end their journey in the Gulf of Alaska receive a high rate of precipitation. High levels of rain and snow acts to strip the atmosphere clean of organics, dumping it on the glacier. Consequently, these glaciers are among the most sensitive to global emissions of soot.

The researchers’ findings also reveal how the ocean may have changed over past centuries. The microbes that form the very bottom of the food web are particularly sensitive to changes in the quantity and quality of the carbon entering the marine system. Since the study found that the organic matter in glacier outflows stems largely from human activities, it means that the supply of glacier carbon to the coastal waters of the Gulf of Alaska is a modern, post-industrial phenomenon. “When we look at the marine food webs today, we may be seeing a picture that is significantly different from what existed before the late-18th century,” said Stubbins. “It is unknown how this manmade carbon has influenced the coastal food webs of Alaska and the fisheries they support.”

A warming climate will increase the outflow of the glaciers and the accompanying input of dissolved organic material into the coastal ocean. This will be most keenly felt in glacially dominated coastal regions, such as those off of the Gulf of Alaska, Greenland and Patagonia. These are the areas that are experiencing the highest levels of glacier ice loss.

“Although it is not known to what extent organic material deposition has changed and will continue to alter glacially-dominated coastal ecosystems or the open ocean, it is clear that glaciers will continue to provide a valuable and unique window into the role that the deposition of organic material plays in our changing environment,” Stubbins said.

Stubbins collaborators on the project included Eran Hood and Andrew Vermilyea from the University of Alaska Southeast; Peter Raymond and David Butman from Yale University; George Aiken, Robert Striegl and Paul Schuster from the U.S. Geological Survey; Patrick Hatcher, Rachel Sleighter  and Hussain Abdulla from Old Dominion University; Peter Hernes from the University of California-Davis; Durelle Scott from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Robert Spencer from Woods Hole Research Center.

The paper can be viewed on-line at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/NGEO1403

Further details are available at http://www.skio.usg.edu/?p=research/chem/biogeochem/glaciers. This work is being continued with support from the National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward.do?AwardNumber=1146161

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is an autonomous research unit of the University System of Georgia located on Skidaway Island in Savannah, Ga. The mission of the Institute is to provide the State of Georgia with a nationally and internationally recognized center of excellence in marine science through research and education.

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Tools:
Posted:
2/3/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Clark Alexander has begun a multi-investigator project to assess the vulnerability of the Southeast Atlantic coast to future threats ranging from sea-level rise to shoreline erosion.

The project is funded by a $377,000 grant from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. It is part of a larger, $1.06 million project awarded to the Governors’ South Atlantic Alliance (Alliance), to coordinate efforts in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina to develop a consistent method of assessing coastal threats in the four states.

“Our overall goal is to develop a process to evaluate our coast’s physical and economic vulnerability to hazards like sea level rise, flooding, storms, hurricanes and erosion, and do so in a uniform way throughout the region,” said Alexander.

A key component of the project is further development of a computer program called AMBUR. Originally created by Georgia Southern University’s Chester Jackson when he was a graduate student at Skidaway Institute, AMBUR is a powerful tool to evaluate erosion and accretion on a changing coastline. 

“Dr. Jackson will enhance AMBUR’s capabilities so that it can be used to evaluate additional coastal characteristics,” Alexander said. “We want to include additional factors such as habitat, elevation, population density, economic valuation and different shoreline types.”

While Jackson is working on AMBUR, Alexander and his team will be collecting data on coastal physical, biological, demographic and economic parameters, while also meeting with coastal managers from the four states comprising the Alliance to determine which parts of the Southeast coast are most critically in need of assessment. Once identified, these areas will become the first coastal regions targeted for analysis with the new AMBUR tools.  When completed, the scientists will be able to present coastal managers with information and maps describing coastal vulnerability for at least a portion of each state. Future funding will be sought to expand the analysis to the whole southeastern coastal region.

“By its very nature, this project will identify the most vulnerable areas along the coast and will provide an unbiased analysis of the incentives and disincentives for development in those areas,” said Alexander.  

The project is expected to run for 18 months.

Tools:
Posted:
1/25/2012
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researchers Aron Stubbins and Marc Frischer have been awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation for $224,037 to study the origins of organic carbon in glaciers. Stubbins and Frischer are part of an international team working on the two-year project.

Glaciers and ice sheets represent the second largest reservoir of water in the global hydrologic system. Although, the carbon contained in the glacial ice is a major contributor to the downstream ecosystems, the dynamics of glacial biogeochemistry are poorly understood. Much of the carbon has been thought to have come from ancient peat lands and forests overrun by the glaciers. However, recent research by Stubbins and his colleagues challenges that explanation. They hypothesize that the main source is atmospheric carbon from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. 

The proposed work will determine the extent to which fossil fuels contribute to the dissolved organic material (DOM) in the glaciers. They will verify the age and stability of the glacial DOM and quantify the extent to which it is being exported to downstream ecosystems.

Stubbins and Frischer will be working with other scientists, including Robert Spencer, Woods Hole Research Center; Eran Hood, University of Alaska Southeast; Peter A. Raymond, Yale University; Greg Kok, Droplet Measurement Technologies; and Thorsten Dittmar, Max Planck Group for Marine Geochemistry, Oldenburg, Germany.

Tools:
Posted:
11/17/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The banks of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AIWW), an artificial channel running through Georgia’s marshes behind the barrier islands, are steadily eroding, and there are several possible causes, including wakes from recreational boats. That is the conclusion of a year-long study by scientists at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

 “Our goal was to quantify the impact that waves are having on the Georgia segment of the AIWW,” said Skidaway Institute professor Clark Alexander. “We also wanted to see if the salt marshes that line much of the waterway were expanding or retreating.”

Georgia contains more than one third of the salt marsh on the eastern coast of the United States and more than 90 percent of its AIWW shoreline is salt marsh. These marshes are essential habitat for fish and crustaceans because they play an important role in the life cycle of most local commercial and recreational species. The AIWW was designed to support both recreational and commercial vessel traffic.

 “The major environmental impact of boats on the estuarine environment is the erosion of the channel margins from wakes,” said Alexander. “In Georgia, this diminishes the extent of the salt marsh habitat and causes the channels to widen – in some cases, at rates of up to half meter a year, which is pretty significant.”

Wakes undercut the marsh, causing to them to fail and collapse, particularly at low and mid-tides. Frequently, intertidal oyster bars are buried by eroded sediment, and oyster larvae are hindered from settling because shell material is not available upon which to settle.

Erosion is a natural process in salt marshes. However, in a natural setting, when one side of a tidal creek erodes, the other side usually accretes. Along the AIWW this was typically not the case. Alexander found extensive stretches where the shoreline was eroding on both sides of the channel.

Alexander and his team used historic and recent charts and aerial photography to track the erosion and accretion along the entire 91 mile length of the waterway between South Carolina to Florida. They also used a combination of high-definition video camera connected to a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to document both sides of the waterway along its length.

The research team examined shoreline change over two time periods, the first from 1933 to 1976 and the second from 1976 to 2004. The team limited their study to the eight relatively narrow main sections and six alternative sections of the waterway, avoiding the sounds where wind and storm waves might have a significant impact on shoreline change.

“Erosion has become increasingly significant and widespread in the 1976  -2002 time period,” Alexander said. “That isn’t to say that every section is eroding, but most of them are.”

Comparing the earlier time period to the later, the study found a strong trend towards more erosion in the more recent time period. Boat traffic and their wakes provide a mechanism for bank erosion.

“We don’t see commercial boating as being significant because the number of ships and tonnage in the AIWW has gone down by about 80 per cent in the past 18 years,” said Alexander. “But recreational boat registrations in coastal counties (currently about 29,000) have continued to increase.”

Alexander also has another explanation that cannot be ruled out with current information. Except for two short segments, the Corps of Engineers is no longer dredging the AIWW to maintain its target depth and sea level is rising at about 1 foot per century.  The channel could be widening because it is becoming shallower but must still transport and contain the same amount of water.  “Boating is most likely the immediate primary erosion force, but rearrangement of the channel cross section may contribute as well,” he said. “We just don’t know absolutely at this time.”

Tools:
Posted:
11/17/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The issue of rising sea level and its potential effects on Coastal Georgia will be the subject of the next “Evening @ Skidaway” program on Thursday, December 8. The program will be presented in the McGowan Library Auditorium at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and followed at 7:15 p.m. by the science-oriented lecture program.

Skidaway Institute professor Clark Alexander will present an interesting and visual program on rising sea level. At its current rate, the ocean is rising at the rate of approximately a foot per century. Alexander will put the issue into a historic perspective; describe the forces that influence this trend; and outline what this may mean to those of us living along the coast.

Seating is limited.  To assure a seat, RSVP by calling (912) 598-2325 or email to mike.sullivan@skio.usg.edu. Admission is free.

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Skidaway Marine Science Foundation.

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Tools:
Posted:
11/14/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researchers Aron Stubbins and Marc Frischer have been awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation for $224,037 to study the origins of organic carbon in glaciers. Stubbins and Frischer are part of an international team working on the two-year project.

Glaciers and ice sheets represent the second largest reservoir of water in the global hydrologic system. Although, the carbon contained in the glacial ice is a major contributor to the downstream ecosystems, the dynamics of glacial biogeochemistry are poorly understood. Much of the carbon has been thought to have come from ancient peat lands and forests overrun by the glaciers. However, recent research by Stubbins and his colleagues challenges that explanation. They hypothesize that the main source is atmospheric carbon from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. 

The proposed work will determine the extent to which fossil fuels contribute to the dissolved organic material (DOM) in the glaciers. They will verify the age and stability of the glacial DOM and quantify the extent to which it is being exported to downstream ecosystems.

Stubbins and Frischer will be working with other scientists, including Robert Spencer, Woods Hole Research Center; Eran Hood, University of Alaska Southeast; Peter A. Raymond, Yale University; Greg Kok, Droplet Measurement Technologies; and Thorsten Dittmar, Max Planck Group for Marine Geochemistry, Oldenburg, Germany.

Tools:
Posted:
10/11/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Some lucky visitor to Skidaway Marine Science Day will win a new Apple iPad tablet computer.  The iPad is the top prize in fundraiser for student intern scholarships at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. For each donation of $3, a donor will receive one chance to win the iPad.

The proceeds from the fundraiser will support the scholarship program sponsored by the Skidaway Marine Science Foundation. The Foundation awards scholarships to a number of undergraduate college students who spend the summer conducting research in the Institute’s laboratories.  

Donations will be accepted at the Skidaway Institute information booth. A drawing will be held later in the afternoon. Donors do not need to be present to win.

The drawing is one of the activities of the campus-wide open house on Saturday, October 15, from noon to 4 p.m. on the Skidaway Institute campus on the north end of Skidaway Island. 

Skidaway Marine Science Day is presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Activities geared for all ages will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science and the coastal environment. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

For additional information, call (912) 598-2325, or visit www.skio.usg.edu.

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Tools:
Posted:
10/6/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The Research Vessel Savannah carries scientists on research cruises from Cape Hatteras to islands off the coast of Venezuela. On Saturday, October 15, it will be at its home dock at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and open for tours from noon to 4 p.m. as part of Skidaway Marine Science Day.

The R/V Savannah is Skidaway Institute’s 92-foot, 300-ton ocean-going research vessel. It is used by Skidaway Institute scientists, as well as scientists from all over the world, to study the ocean. It was custom-built for Skidaway Institute and launched in 2001. Since then it has averaged between 150 and 180 sea-days per year, cruising to ocean-destinations ranging from the North Carolina coast, to the Gulf of Mexico, and to Curacao in the Caribbean Sea.

Visitors will be able to tour all parts of the boat, and see how the crew and scientists live and work on the open sea. Several Skidaway Institute scientists will have demonstrations of their experiments in the R/V Savannah’s laboratories.

The Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science and the coastal environment. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The event will be presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

In addition to the R/V Savannah, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including science displays, hands-on activities and talks on current research programs.

The UGA Aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. In addition, the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, boat tours, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium. 

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will be given the opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will set up their remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV) in a swimming pool, and teach visitors how to “drive” it and pick up objects from the bottom.

Skidaway Institute professor Bill Savidge will present a special program aimed at parents and students involved in science fair projects. The program, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Science Fairs,” will be presented twice, at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the McGowan Library Auditorium.

For the second year in a row, Skidaway Marine Science Day will also be open to non-campus scientific and environmental groups. Organizations such as Clean Coast and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will be on-hand to present, information, displays and activities.

School classes or other large groups wishing to attend Skidaway Marine Science Day can be accommodated only through advance arrangements. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325.

All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day will be free. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325, or visit www.skio.usg.edu.

Tools:
Posted:
9/27/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

There is help in sight for students and parents who are daunted by the prospect of an upcoming science fair project.

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a special program to offer science fair advice and guidance to students and parents. The program, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Science Fair,” will be presented on Saturday, October 15, at 12:30 p.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. in the McGowan Library Auditorium on the Skidaway campus. The program will be a part of Skidaway Marine Science Day – a campus-wide open house event with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science.

“Science fair projects can daunting for many students and their parents, especially those without a science background,” said Bill Savidge, a Skidaway Institute professor who is organizing the program. “We hope we can take some of the mystery out of the process and show the students and parents how to make the science fair a rewarding experience.”

The half-hour program will outline many of the common errors students make when planning and executing their projects, and how to avoid them. 

Skidaway Marine Science Day will run from noon to 4 p.m. Admission to all activities, including the science fair program, is free.

For additional information, visit the Skidaway Institute Web site at www.skio.usg.edu or call (912) 598-2325.

Tools:
Posted:
9/12/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

The natural environment of the Georgia coast will be the focus of Skidaway Marine Science Day 2011, to be held Saturday, October 15, from noon to 4 p.m. on the campus of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography at the north end of Skidaway Island.

The Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house with activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These will include programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science and the coastal environment. The event is open to the public and admission is free.

The event will be presented by the campus’s marine research and education organizations, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will offer a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the Research Vessel Savannah and smaller research vessels; science displays and talks on current research programs; and hands-on science activities. 

The UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium will be open to visitors with no admission fee. In addition, the aquarium education staff will offer visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, boat tours, touch tanks and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium.  

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast. Children will be given the opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary will set up their remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV) in a swimming pool, and teach visitors how to “drive” it and pick up objects from the bottom.

Skidaway Institute professor Bill Savidge will present a special program aimed at parents and students involved in science fair projects. The program, “How to prepare a successful science fair project,” will be presented twice, at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. in the McGowan Library Auditorium.

For the second year in a row, Skidaway Marine Science Day will also be open to non-campus scientific and environmental groups. Organizations such as Clean Coast and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will be on-hand to present, information, displays and activities.

School classes or other large groups wishing to attend Skidaway Marine Science Day can be accommodated only through advance arrangements. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325.

All activities at Skidaway Marine Science Day will be free. For additional information, call (912) 598-2325, or visit http://www.skio.usg.edu/page/events/scienceDay/index/p/.

Tools:
Posted:
8/22/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Aron Stubbins joined a research cruise this summer to study hydrothermal vents, but what his fellow scientists found was a recently erupted undersea volcano.

The Axial Seamount is an undersea volcano located about 250 miles off the Oregon coast and is one of the most active and intensely studied seamounts in the world. What makes the event so intriguing is that Bill Chadwick, an Oregon State University geologist, and Scott Nooner, of Columbia University, had forecast the eruption five years before it happened. Their forecast, published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, was based on a series of seafloor pressure measurements that indicated the volcano was inflating and is the first successful forecast of an undersea volcano.

The discovery of the new eruption came on July 28, when Chadwick, Nooner and their colleagues led an expedition to Axial aboard the R/V Atlantis, operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Using “Jason,” a remotely operated robotic vehicle (ROV), they discovered a new lava flow on the seafloor that was not present a year ago. The expedition was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The manipulator arm of the ROV Jason prepares to sample the new lava flow that erupted in April 2011 at Axial Seamount, located off the Oregon coast. (photo courtesy of Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University; copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
The manipulator arm of the ROV Jason prepares to sample the new lava flow that erupted in April 2011 at Axial Seamount, located off the Oregon coast. (photo courtesy of Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University; copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

“When eruptions like this occur, a huge amount of heat comes out of the seafloor, the chemistry of seafloor hot springs is changed, and pre-existing vent biological communities are destroyed and new ones form,” Chadwick said. “Some species are only found right after eruptions, so it is a unique opportunity to study them.”

Stubbins was on the cruise to study the dissolved organic matter being released from the hydrothermal vents in the ocean floor with Pamela Rossel from the Max Planck Institute Marine Geochemistry group in Oldenburg, Germany, and David Butterfield from the NOAA Vents program. Funding for Stubbins and Rossel was provided by the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (www.h-w-k.de) and Max Planck Institute, both in Germany.

“The material from the vents reaches over 300 degrees centigrade,” Stubbins said.

At that temperature, the heat modifies the dissolved organic matter, altering its chemistry and reactivity, and therefore, its fate in the water column. 

“These ecosystems are amazing,” Stubbins continued. “They include large worms, snails, fish and shrimp that live thousands of meters below the ocean. All this life is fueled, not by the sun, but by chemicals released from the vents”

Immediately after an eruption the whole system is in flux, continued Stubbins. Vents in the ocean floor called snow blower vents produce streams of white particles, creating a snow globe effect. These snow blowers are only short lived.

“Getting samples from these ephemeral systems provided us with a novel opportunity to gain new insight into these deep sea ecosystems” said Stubbins.

For Chadwick and Nooner the eruption was vindication for years of hard work. “The acid test in science – whether or not you understand a process in nature – is to try to predict what will happen based on your observations,” Chadwick said. “We have done this and it is extremely satisfying”

For Stubbins and Rossel, the journey of discovery is just beginning. “Nobody knows how much carbon is pumped into the ocean by these snow blowers or the other vents associated with the eruption” Stubbins said. The good fortune of sampling right after a major eruption has provided a unique opportunity to find out.

Tools:
Posted:
8/1/2011
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Along the Savannah River in Chatham County are the remains of a large, complex, former rice plantation. Archaeologists may be able to learn much about the life of Georgia’s early inhabitants by studying this site, but only if they hurry. Site 9CH685, as it is known, is threatened by shoreline and tidal creek erosion – the result of the nearby river moving closer to the site every day.

Site 9CH685 is just one of 42 archaeological sites on Georgia’s back barrier islands recently studied by a team from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Historic Preservation Division. The sites include a range of types, from Native American shell middens to colonial cemeteries and Civil War artillery batteries. The team spent two years studying the erosion and accretion patterns near each site to assist DNR in prioritizing the sites that require the most immediate attention. Funding for the project came from the Georgia Coastal Zone Management Program.

“The Georgia coast is constantly evolving,” said Clark Alexander, the Skidaway Institute scientist who directed the project. “During the past 150 years, the shoreline has moved more than a hundred meters along many parts of the Georgia coast.  The natural forces of wind and water have formed and changed the shape of our coastline over the centuries and continue to do so.” 

Typically it is not feasible to preserve sites against these forces, so it is critical to document the sites before they are lost if there is any hope to record the history contained within them. 

“Once an archaeological site has been eroded away, it cannot be replaced and the information it contained is lost forever, said Chris McCabe,  deputy state archaeologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “The loss of archaeological information to natural processes in our dynamic coastal setting is an ongoing issue for us.”

The team used a combination of current shoreline measurements near the known sites, combined with historical shoreline information from aerial photographs, charts and maps, some dating back to the mid-19th century. 

It was Skidaway Institute researcher Claudia Venherm’s job to survey the current shoreline. Using an extremely precise GPS receiver, she walked the shorelines measuring the exact location of the high water mark within a few inches. Later, she mapped the shoreline and compared it with the historic data for the same location to determine how fast the shoreline is changing.

“We can use Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to overlay the location of the current shoreline with the shorelines from older photos and maps and obtain a very good picture of what is happening to any piece of coast,” Venherm said. 

All the sites were examined to determine which were in the most danger of loss to erosion. The projected life of each site was calculated as the number of years until erosion would destroy the entire site.

Six sites had already been lost to erosion by the time the team visited the coordinates for these sites. Four more sites were still present, but are completely or almost completely submerged at all stages of the tide. The team determined 21 of the sites were eroding, and three of those have a projected life of less than 50 years.

“This study will be a big help to us,” said McCabe. “We can’t stop the erosion, but we can prioritize our work, and maximize the amount of cultural information we obtain before a site is lost.” 

That rice plantation site has already yielded clues about the early Georgia economy. The tidal creek threatening the main site has produced several surface artifacts from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A section of whiteware dinner plate etched with the name “Greenwood China Company”, which designed dinnerware specifically for use aboard coastal steamboats, was found in the creek bed.

“This artifact suggests that materials from maritime vessels had found their way to a group of individuals living at the plantation,” said McCabe. “In addition, an aqua colored bottle embossed with the name ‘Packard & James New York’ was found.”  

This merchant firm distributed spices and coffee at the end of the 19th century, and its discovery at a Savannah River site hints at important turn-of-the-century maritime sail and steam trading networks. 

These glimpses into the past are fleeting however, as time and tide erase these ephemeral fragments of history.  This study provides the data that the DNR needs to save as much of Georgia’s rich coastal history as possible.

Tools:
Posted:
7/20/2011
Author:
jcscar21
Description:

 

As the Earth’s climate continues to warm, what kind of effects will we see in the ocean and the world in general? Seeking the answer to that broad question is one of the reasons scientists from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography are working with an international team of scientists on an experiment in Bergen, Norway.
 
“There is really no doubt that our planet is changing,” said Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer. “Levels of carbon dioxide are increasing, and we are seeing changes in climate. There is very little controversy about that anymore.”
 
According to Frischer, scientists need to investigate what those changes will mean to life in the ocean -- from the tiniest bacteria up to fish and larger organisms.
 
“Those are the kinds of questions that are important to us humans, because we are dependent on the life in the oceans for our existence here on Earth,” added fellow Skidaway Institute scientist Jens Nejstgaard.
 
Frischer, Nejstgaard, Skidaway Institute research coordinator Stella Berger, and graduate student Zachary Tait are part of a team of 37 scientists who have come together from 13 countries to join their individual expertise in an effort to solve some of these very complicated questions.
 
“What’s happening with climate warming is not only are we increasing temperature, we are also increasing the carbon dioxide (CO2)which has the effect of acidifying the ocean – just like a can of cola,” said Frischer. “In this experiment we are studying not just temperature or acidity individually, but their combined synergistic effects”.
 
What makes it so complicated to study is that there are many different organisms interacting with each other, and at the same time reacting differently to the climate change.
 
“So instead of just picking out a few organisms to look at in the laboratory, we have to investigate large representative pieces of the ecosystems to tell what effect the climate changes will have on the environment,” said Nejstgaard.
 
The experiment was conducted at a mesocosm facility of the University of Bergen. There, the scientists could enclose two and a half cubic meters of natural seawater in each of 14 tanks, recreating an ecosystem with all the biological and chemical components that exist in the natural water column. They are called mesocosms because they represent intermediate systems that are bigger than a laboratory test tube but smaller than the ocean. The researchers changed the temperature and CO2concentrations in the mesocosms, and then observed how the various parts of the ecosystem reacted.
 
“Mesocosms provide the opportunity to conduct controlled experiments that are impossible to do either directly in the ocean or in the laboratory,” said Nejstgaard.
 
The team also added a third factor to the experiment. Gelatinous organisms are an important part of the oceanic ecosystem, but typically they are fragile and do not survive the process of pumping seawater into the mesocosm tanks. In order to more closely mimic the natural marine environment, the researchers added tiny gelatinous organisms called appendicularians as representative “jellyfish” to the tanks after they were filled. 
 
The Bergen mesocosm facility is the longest continuously operating mesocosm facility in the world. It has run for 33 years and Nejstgaard has led international experiments there for the two last decades.
 
Since 2009, Nejstgaard has directed the first European coordination of mesocosm facilities, MESOAQUA (http://mesoaqua.eu/), together with Berger as a scientific coordinator. Although Nejstgaard relinquished his position in Bergen in order to join the faculty of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in January 2011, Berger maintains a part time position in the MESOAQUA program. Frischer and other Skidaway Institute scientists have been collaborating with the Bergen facility for more than a decade. This was their fifth experiment there.  
 
The funding for this experiment was complicated. Both American and European scientists applied for research grants. The Europeans got their funding; the Americans did not. The funding came from the Norwegian Research Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers (NordForsk) and MESOAQUA. Luckily two of the three European grants provided some travel support for non-Europeans, making it possible for the Skidaway team to participate.
 
Although the team was international, the original design for the project came from a small group including Frischer, Nejstgaard and Norwegian colleagues. Their primary focus was on the effect ongoing changes would have on oceanic bacteria. Very preliminary results look good for bacteria, but not so much for the rest of the marine ecosystem.
 
“Our preliminary data suggests that rising acidity increases bacterial activity, which has some profound implications on how the ocean is going to change,” Frischer said. “If conditions favor the growth of more bacteria, they will benefit at the expense of other types of microscopic marine life, particularly marine algae like phytoplankton.”
 
Phytoplankton are a major part of the bottom of the food web. Their productivity has a direct effect on the food supply for microscopic animals (zooplankton) and all larger marine animals. On the other hand, energy that goes into the bacteria is believed to just cycle among very small organisms that are hard for the larger organisms to eat. If that is so, the global warming spell even more problems for the ocean’s already troubled fisheries.
 
 “When you start looking at how all the little pieces are connected, those insights we gain will help us understand how our planet will change and what that will mean,” Frischer concluded. “That is what we are trying to learn and it is important to every aspect of our society.” 
 
Since it is important to investigate the effect of environmental changes on different natural communities, the Skidaway Institute team hopes to be able to obtain funding to continue experiments in Bergen, and elsewhere, including in our own backyard.
 
“We hope to develop a world-class mesocosm research center at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography where we believe the potential exists for the Institute to become a leading facility for the region,” said Nejstgaard. “Such a center would contribute to future studies of the many environmental challenges that face our region.”
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Posted:
7/20/2011
Author:
jcscar21
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Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer and research tech Zac Tait are back in Barrow, Alaska for their research into the effects of climate change on the coastal ocean there.

Frischer will be blogging about their work at http://oceanscience.wordpress.com.

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