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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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

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Publications
Tait, Z. S., M. Thompson, and A. Stubbins. 2015. Chemical fouling reduction of a submersible steel spectrophotometer in estuarine environments using a sacrificial zinc anode. Journal of Environmental Quality (pagination pending), doi: 10.2134/jeq2014.11.0484
Gong, Y., R. He, G. G. Gawarkiewicz, and D. K. Savidge. 2015. Numerical investigation of coastal circulation dynamics near Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in January 2005. Ocean Dynamics 65(1): 1-15. doi: 10.1007/s10236-014-0778-6
Spencer, R. G. M., P. J. Mann, T. Dittmar, T. I. Eglinton, C. McIntyre, R. M. Holmes, N. Zimov, and A. Stubbins. 2015. Detecting the signature of permafrost thaw in Arctic rivers. Geophysical Research Letters (pagination pending), doi: 10.1002/2015GL063498
Bittar, T. B., A. A. H. Vieira, A. Stubbins, and K. Mopper. 2015. Competition between photochemical and biological degradation of dissolved organic matter from the cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa. Limnology & Oceanography (pagination pending), doi: 10.1002/lno.10090
Grand, M. M., C. I. Measures, M. Hatta, W. T. Hiscock, W. M. Landing, P. L. Morton, C. S. Buck, P. M. Barett, and J. A. Resing. 2015. Dissolved Fe and Al in the upper 1000m of the eastern Indian Ocean: A high-resolution transect along 95°E from the Antarctic margin to the Bay of Bengal. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 29 (pagination pending). doi:10.1002/2014GB004920
 
 
 
 
 
 
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