Evening @ Skidaway features underwater robots

November 10, 2014

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.

Catherine Edwards (center) demonstrates an underwater robot (AUV) to Mary Sweeney-Reeves (left) and Mare Timmons, both from the UGA Marine Extension Service.

Catherine Edwards (center) demonstrates an underwater robot (AUV) to Mary Sweeney-Reeves (left) and Mare Timmons, both from the UGA Marine Extension Service.

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, call (912) 598-2325.

26 Hours on the Marsh — November edition

November 6, 2014

Associate Professor Aron Stubbins led a 26 hour sampling program on the marsh. The team, including Thais Bittar, Robert Spencer, Zachary Tait, Megan Thompson, Alison Buchan, and Drew Steen, spent the day and night monitoring a day in the life of the microbes, gases and organic carbon molecules that form the biogeochemical milieu of the marsh. This work is part of two National Science Foundation projects involving professors and students from Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and Florida State University.

Cutting edge techniques are being employed to watch the marsh creek in real time over 18 months. The sampling event shown in the time lapse video is the fall rendition of four seasonal sampling events that are recording the daily life of the creek. Manual sampling is required so that we can collect live bacteria and gas (such as carbon dioxide) samples that need to be processed by hand, immediately upon collection. The bacteria collected are being genetically characterized, so we know who was in the creek at different times of day (DNA). Then we will also determine which genes were active (RNA). This tells us what the bacteria present in the marsh were doing throughout the day.

We also record the changes in dissolved organic carbon throughout the day. Dissolved organic carbon is a major part of the global carbon cycle and so understanding its cycling is important with respect to understanding how natural carbon cycling responds to and plays a role in climate change. For the microbes in the creek, the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is food. So by looking at which bacteria are there (DNA), what they are doing (RNA), and what types of food is present (DOC), we hope to gain a more complete understanding of the miniature world within every drop of creek water. The daily routines of these tiny bacteria and dissolved organic molecules shape the marsh ecosystem and play important roles in determining the current and future climate of our planet.

Nice article on black gill research

October 24, 2014

We had a nice article on the front page of the Savannah Morning News this week. The article dealt with our recent black gill research cruise.

Skidaway Island history examined in ‘Bridges and Bulls’ program

October 20, 2014

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.

Bill Savidge leads walking tour in 2012.

Bill Savidge leads walking tour in 2012.

“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 http://www.skio.uga.edu.

Skidaway Marine Science Day, October 25, features new sea turtle display

September 4, 2014

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.

Rider, the loggerhead sea turtle

Rider, the loggerhead sea turtle

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 http://www.skio.uga.edu.

UGA Skidaway Institute to study offshore sand resources to increase coastal resiliency

August 11, 2014

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.”

Beach communities like Tybee Island  can be affected by hurricanes and tropical storms.

Beach communities like Tybee Island can be affected by hurricanes and tropical storms.

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.

UGA Skidaway Institute researchers complete ‘26 Hours on the Marsh’

July 30, 2014

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.

The UGA Skidaway Institute team processes water samples at their outdoor laboratory. (l-r) Megan Thompson, John DeRosa (UGA Intern), Zachary Tait and Dylan Munn (UGA Intern.)

The UGA Skidaway Institute team processes water samples at their outdoor laboratory. (l-r) Megan Thompson, John DeRosa (UGA Intern), Zachary Tait and Dylan Munn (UGA Intern.)

“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.

Megan Thompson supervises Dan Barrett (l) and John DeRosa, both UGA interns, as they process samples in a UGA Skidaway Institute laboratory.

Megan Thompson supervises Dan Barrett (l) and John DeRosa, both UGA interns, as they process samples in a UGA Skidaway Institute laboratory.

“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.

Skidaway Institute intern wins research prize

July 16, 2014

Candy v wAn 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.

More on teachers’ workshop trip to Tybee

July 14, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a nice story in the Savannah Morning News on Saturday about the teachers’ workshop trip to Tybee Island last week. Here is the story.

Hunting microplastics on Tybee Island

July 10, 2014

UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s Jay Brandes joined a group of K-12 teachers on an excursion to find microplastics in the beach sand on Tybee Island. The teacher workshop was sponsored by the UGA Marine Extension Service and coordinated by Dodie Sanders.

The trip on July 8 generated coverage from two local TV stations (WTOC-TV and WSAV-TV) and the Savannah Morning News. As of this morning, the newspaper article has not yet been published.

Dodie Sanders (in the blue shirt) gives instructions to the teachers.

Dodie Sanders (in the blue shirt) gives instructions to the teachers.

Three teachers sift through the same looking for tiny particles of plastics.

Three teachers sift through the same looking for tiny particles of plastics.

Dr. Jay Brandes is interviewed by WTOC-TV reporter Elizabeth Rawlins and photographer Channing Meacham.

Dr. Jay Brandes is interviewed by WTOC-TV reporter Elizabeth Rawlins and photographer Channing Meacham.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 47 other followers