An early morning TV story at UGA Skidaway Institute

September 22, 2015

WSAV TV and reporter Martin Staunton aired a story t his morning on Dr. Clark Alexander’s study on sea level rise on the Georgia coast.

Mark your calendar for Skidaway Marine Science Day

September 18, 2015


UGA Skidaway Institute scientist stands atop the globe

September 14, 2015

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

UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Chris Marsay at the North Pole, with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the background.

UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Chris Marsay at the North Pole, with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the background.

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.

Chris Marsay collects samples at the North Pole.

Chris Marsay collects samples at the North Pole.

“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.”

Shrimp and black gill in Hakai Magazine

September 4, 2015

There is an interesting story in Hakai Magazine on Georgia shrimpers that includes Skidaway Institute’s work on black gill.

Hakai Magazine

Skidaway-Sapelo summer course featured in Georgia Magazine

September 3, 2015

The UGA  joint summer research methods course, taught partially at UGA Skidaway Institute, was the featured cover story in the latest issue of Georgia Magazine. The four-week course was split between the UGA Marine Institute on Sapelo Island and Skidaway Institute. Click on the cover to read this very nice article.


Elizabeth Harvey joins Skidaway Institute faculty

September 3, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABiological 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.

Skidaway researchers “caricaturized”

September 2, 2015

A couple of our researchers, Mike Robinson and LeeAnn DeLeo, made a caricature appearance in an editorial cartoon in the Savannah Morning News this week. Thanks, cartoonist Mark Streeter!Streeter Cartoon

Skidaway Marine Science Day to feature Georgia’s first oyster hatchery

September 1, 2015

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.

Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are popular with visitors to Skidaway Marine Science Day.

Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are popular with visitors to Skidaway Marine Science Day.

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.

Touch tanks allow visitors to get up close and personal with sea creatures.

Touch tanks allow visitors to get up close and personal with sea creatures.

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

Scientists work to predict 22nd century look of the Georgia coast

August 27, 2015

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.

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.”

Researcher Mike Robinson adjusts the salinity monitoring equipment while LeAnn DeLeo drives the boat.

Researcher Mike Robinson adjusts the salinity monitoring equipment while LeAnn DeLeo drives the boat.

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.

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

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

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.”

Editorial: Skidaway Institute a quiet resource

August 17, 2015

The Savannah Morning News published a very nice editorial about UGA Skidaway Institute today.


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