A “just-starting” research project into the extent of microplastics pollution on the Georgia coast was featured on the front page of this morning’s Savannah Morning News. Hat’s off to Skidaway Institute’s Jay Brandes and UGA Marine Extension’s Dodie Sanders.
The Website Environmental Monitor published a good article on some of the work Skidaway Institute scientist Aron Stubbins has been conducting on carbon in black carbon in the Arctic.
Skidaway Institute professor Jay Brandes was interviewed on Georgia Public Broadcasting regarding the recent move to ban microbeads and his upcoming project on microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast.
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.
It’s been a month and a half since we completed the fall Black Gill research cruise, but we’re finally getting around to posting a video on the day. Click on the photo to view the video on YouTube.
There was a nice article on the front page of this morning’s, Savannah Morning News. It highlighted three UGA Skidaway Institute research project that have received funding approval from Georgia Sea Grant.
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.
Our annual campus-wide open house event, Skidaway Marine Science Day, was held on Saturday, October 24. Here is a a quick look at the fun and activities.
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:
UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography had an interesting beginning. In 1968, Robert and Dorothy Roebling donated their Modena Plantation on the north end of Skidaway Island to the state to be the site for an oceanographic institute. The Roebling family has a fascinating, going back to Robert’s great grandfather, John Augustus Roebling, who designed and began construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. When Robert and Dorothy first arrived at Skidaway Island in the mid-1930s, they arrived on their 150 foot sailing yacht, the Black Douglas. The exhibit focuses on the Roeblings and the Black Douglas.