Archive for October, 2009

Students grow bacteria gardens

October 26, 2009

Often students grow vegetable gardens for a science project, but some local students took on an entirely different task. They grew bacteria cultures. It was one of several educational activities at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s annual open house — Skidaway Marine Science Day — on Saturday, October 10.

The bacteria project was the brainchild of Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer and student assistant LaGina Frazier.

Marc Frischer (right) and LaGina Frazier at their Skidaway Marine Science Day exhibit

Marc Frischer (right) and LaGina Frazier at their Skidaway Marine Science Day exhibit

“Microbes get a bad rap,” said Frazier, who is also a biology student at Savannah State University. “We wanted to show the students that bacteria are all around them, and most bacteria are beneficial.”

Visitors to the Frischer lab exhibit at Skidaway Marine Science Day were given a cotton swab and told to wipe it anything they wanted to collect some bacteria. A total of 98 students participated. They roamed the campus, swabbing plants, trees, buildings and each other.

After a quick demonstration, Frazier and the Frischer lab volunteers let the students “streak” (spread) their sample onto a culture dish. Each dish had an ID number which was given to the student. Following the collection, Frazier grew the bacteria cultures in Skidaway Institute’s microbiology lab. After a week, the cultures were photographed and posted on Skidaway Institute’s Web site. The participants used their ID number to view their dish and compare their results with the other participants.

One student's fast-growing bacteria culture

One student's fast-growing bacteria culture

“The great thing about using our Web site is the students don’t have to come back out here to see the results of their exercise,” said Frazier. “They can see the results of their microbe collection by visiting our Web site.”

Frazier said she could tell the students obtained a wide variety of different microbes just from a visual inspection. There are no plans to test the cultures any further and specifically indentify each one.

“We hope this exercise taught the students a little about a part of their world they can’t usually see with the naked eye,” said Frazier. “Maybe some of them may be inspired to study science seriously as they advance in school.”

The results of the project can be seen here.

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Skidaway campus open house a success!

October 13, 2009

We had a great open house on Saturday. Close to 2,000 braved the 88 degree heat and threatening rain to visit the campus  for Skidaway Marine Science Day.

The event featured exhibits, programs and activities sponsored by the campus partners, including the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, the University of Georgia (UGA)Marine Extension Service Aquarium, the UGA Marine Extension Service Shellfish Laboratory, the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and WSVH Georgia Public Radio.

This year, a number of outside environmental organizations also participated.

Below is a sample of some of our photos. Look here to see the entire collection.

Visitors build their model plankto for the Plankton Sink Off Race

Visitors build their model plankto for the Plankton Sink Off Race

Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are always popular.

Tours of the Research Vessel Savannah are always popular.

Young visitors get up close and personal with marine life at the Aquarium touch tanks.

Young visitors get up close and personal with marine life at the Aquarium touch tanks.

The horseshoe crabs attracted interest.

The horseshoe crabs attracted interest.

Skidaway Institute scientists, like Clark Alexander shown here, explained their research to visitors.

Skidaway Institute scientists, like Clark Alexander shown here, explained their research to visitors.

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"Put 'em to work!" Young visitors bag oyster shells for future use restoring an oyster reef.

"Put 'em to work!" Young visitors bag oyster shells for future use restoring an oyster reef.

Plankton World was busy all afternoon.

Plankton World was busy all afternoon.

Skidaway Institute receives research grant to study ocean currents

October 6, 2009

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Dana Savidge has been awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation for $207,450 to study ocean currents called Langmuir Supercells.

Dana Savidge WebLangmuir circulation cells occur during strong winds and waves, and appear as long lines of bubbles or floating material aligned with the wind on the ocean surface.

“These lines are the surface expression of currents beneath the surface,” said Savidge. “The Langmuir cells are like huge counter-rotating jelly-rolls, aligned longways with the wind, with currents spiraling from the ocean surface into the deep and back up, while also moving downwind.”

Savidge has been observing Langmuir circulation on the Georgia shelf using a custom built acoustic Doppler profiler, which uses sound waves to monitor the movement of the ocean water. When Langmuir cells reach the sea floor, the so-called ‘supercells’ can pick up sediment and organic material, transport it high up into the water and carry it long distances horizontally. While Langmuir currents have been studied for years, they have only recently been observed reaching the sea floor.

“Our measurements suggest this process may affect sediments all across Georgia’s shelf, from the shallow near-shore environments out to the shelf edge in 50 meters of water,” Savidge said.

Savidge will use the new grant to define how these cells interact with strong tides and surface heating in Georgia’s ocean waters. She will be working closely with scientists and computer modelers from Old Dominion University (Virginia) and the University of South Florida to develop ways of including these turbulent processes in models used to predict ocean circulation and horizontal transport of the material it contains.

Skidaway Institute’s Alexander selected for prestigous leadership institute

October 2, 2009

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Clark Alexander has been selected as a scholar to participate in the 2009-10 University System of Georgia Executive Leadership Institute.Clark Alexander Web

The Executive Leadership Institute is the flagship System-wide leadership development program. The development program will be conducted by leading experts in leadership. Scholars will enhance their leadership skills to prepare for potential high-level advancement within the University System. The institute will address the need for succession planning by identifying and developing high potential employees to equip them to become the next generation of exemplary leaders.

Alexander will join 70 other faculty and staff members from other University System institutions in the seven-month training program.

“Dr. Alexander has nearly 20 years experience in the University System, and also serves as the director of Georgia Southern University’s Applied Coastal Research Laboratory, located on the Skidaway campus,” said Skidaway Institute Director James Sanders. “In this role, he serves as a facilitator for coastal research and education experiences for Georgia Southern.  I believe that he is an excellent candidate for the Leadership Institute.”