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.

Skidaway Institute joins international project to sample the world’s waters

June 26, 2014

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.

Kevin McKenzie and Tina Walters collect samples from the Skidaway Institute dock in the Skidaway River.

Kevin McKenzie and Tina Walters collect samples from the Skidaway Institute dock in the Skidaway River.

“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.

Skidaway Institute participates in worldwide ocean sampling day

June 11, 2014

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.

Skidaway Institute scientist presents marine debris program

May 5, 2014
Jay Brandes

Jay Brandes

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.

Marine debris clogs a Hawaiian beach.

Marine debris clogs a Hawaiian beach.

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

Senator brings Climate Road Trip to Coastal Georgia

April 24, 2014

Clark Alexander joined with a team from UGA to help educate Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse yesterday about coastal issues. Whitehouse visited Ft Pulaski here in Savannah and then traveled to the UGA Marine Institute on Sapelo Island as part of his Climate Road Trip through NC, SC, GA and FL. Whitehouse is immediately in front of the statue in the second row. Clark is second from the left in the blue shirt.

Senator Whitehouse on Sapelo Island with Clark Alexander and group from UGA.

Senator Whitehouse on Sapelo Island with Clark Alexander and group from UGA.

Scientists use underwater robots to excite students about science

March 3, 2014

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.

Catherine Edwards (center) demonstrates an AUV to Mary Sweeney-Reeves (left) and Mare Timmons.

Catherine Edwards (center) demonstrates an AUV to Mary Sweeney-Reeves (left) and Mare Timmons.

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.

 

New R/V Savannah video

February 11, 2014

We just completed a new video on our Research Vessel Savannah. It is posted on YouTube.

Interesting time-lapse video of salt marsh

January 10, 2014

We have a sampling station set up in Groves Creek on the east side of Skidaway Island as part of a salt marsh study. One added element is a time lapse camera. This short video is pretty cool. Enjoy.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 46 other followers