Posts Tagged ‘marine debris’

Three Skidaway scientists approved for Georgia Sea Grant funding

November 13, 2015

Three of our scientists have received funding approval for their research from Georgia Sea Grant. Here is the release from UGA.

Georgia Sea Grant awards over $800,000 in funding toward coastal research
November 12, 2015

Writer: Lee Redding
Contact: Mark Risse

Athens, Ga. – The Georgia Sea Grant College Program at the University of Georgia is funding research projects that address critical environmental and economic challenges in coastal Georgia.

The diverse projects include investigations into plastic contamination in coastal waterways, a parasitic threat affecting Georgia shrimp and the economic feasibility of raising homes to reduce the impact of flooding.

The seven new awards, totaling $815,736, mark a 15 percent increase in Georgia Sea Grant’s research investments in natural and social sciences. In order to address the wide range of topics identified as priorities by coastal stakeholders, the program has dedicated a greater proportion of its overall budget toward research for this funding cycle. Funding for Georgia Sea Grant research comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Sea Grant College Program.

“I am pleased to see the quality and breadth of our research portfolio that spans a spectrum of disciplines, from the fundamental understanding of coastal processes to the economic analysis of retrofitting homes in coastal Georgia,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension/Georgia Sea Grant, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “Enabling university-based research to develop solutions for the unmet needs of Georgia’s coast, and linking that research to economic development, is a major focus of the Georgia Sea Grant College Program.”

One such project, led by Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Marc Frischer, is a continuing investigation into black gill, a condition threatening Georgia’s top fishery-shrimping. Georgia Sea Grant will also be funding a proposal by Warren Kriesel, an associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, to analyze the viability of elevating houses, an approach more homeowners and local governments are considering in order to combat flooding. Given recent flooding from Hurricane Joaquin and the supermoon lunar tidal event, the research aims to give property owners strategies for protecting their homes and businesses from incurring flood damage, while bearing in mind the economic constraints that many homeowners face.

The seven projects are part of Georgia Sea Grant’s Request for Proposals process, which occurs every two years to address research priorities identified by coastal stakeholders. The RFP is developed incorporating feedback from a coastal advisory board and then distributed statewide to institutions of higher education. The research projects that are selected for funding undergo a competitive merit review process: They are initially evaluated by a Georgia stakeholder review panel and are then ranked by an external technical science review committee to determine their scientific rigor, technical soundness and relevance to Georgia Sea Grant’s research priorities, which address current problems on the coast.

For FY2016-2018, the awards will begin on Feb. 1, 2016, and will terminate on Jan. 31, 2018. Selected research projects and the lead investigators are:

• Oyster and Salt Marsh Edge Interactions: Informing Living Shoreline and Oyster Restoration Design, James Byers, Odum School of Ecology, UGA.
• Black Gill in Georgia Shrimp: Causes and Consequences, Marc Frischer, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, UGA.
• Assessing Prevalence and Composition of Ingested Plastic Contaminants by Georgia’s Estuarine Organisms, Jay Brandes, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, UGA.
• A Novel Hybrid Approach for Mapping Belowground Productivity and Carbon Sequestration Potential within Georgia Salt Marshes, Deepak Mishra, department of geography, UGA.
• Investigation of the Shallow Hydrogeologic System on St. Catherine’s Island to Define Salt Water Intrusion Pathways and the Potential for Shallow-Deep Aquifer Communication, Robert Vance, department of geology, Georgia Southern University.
• Promoting Flood Hazard Resilience: The Economics of Elevation Retrofitting of Homes, Warren Kriesel, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UGA.
• A Geospatial Assessment of Nearshore Sand Resources and Sediment Transport Pathways for Georgia Coastal Resiliency and Recovery, Clark Alexander, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, UGA.

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program
The Georgia Sea Grant College Program is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the state of Georgia and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Georgia. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Georgia Sea Grant, along with its partner, the University of Georgia Marine Extension, are units of the Office of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia. The programs’ mission is to improve public resource policy, encourage far-sighted economic and fisheries decisions, anticipate vulnerabilities to change and educate citizens to be wise stewards of the coastal environment. For more information, visit http://georgiaseagrant.uga.edu.

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Editorial: Skidaway Institute a quiet resource

August 17, 2015

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

http://savannahnow.com/opinion/2015-08-16/editorial-skidaway-institute-quiet-resource

UGA study finds high marine debris, need for standardized reporting along Georgia coast

February 3, 2015

Skidaway Island, Ga. – University of Georgia researchers are hoping to find a consistent way to record the marine debris—particularly pieces of plastic—crowding Georgia’s beaches as part of an effort to find a solution for the growing problem.

Marine debris has been washing up on Georgia beaches and uninhabited islands for years. Combatting the issue starts with figuring out how big it is, and a new two-part study from the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Marine Extension published online in the Marine Pollution Bulletin finds that marine debris reporting can improve if it becomes standardized.

The problem right now is this: A volunteer group goes out and records the weight or volume of the marine debris collected. However, volunteers don’t often record the specific square feet measured or the contents of the debris. Due to a lack of report standardization, researchers often can’t compare the marine debris, especially plastic fragments, reported by different groups.

A sample of marine debris collected along the Georgia coast sits on a table at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

A sample of marine debris collected along the Georgia coast sits on a table at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

“We’ve seen plastic usage go up dramatically,” said study co-author Dodie Sanders, a marine educator and outreach coordinator for UGA Marine Extension, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach. “It’s an important 21st century global issue. We need to learn more to better understand the issues of marine debris.”

The study’s lead author Richard F. Lee, professor emeritus with the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, agrees.

“Plastic debris is created on land and then it goes into rivers, flows into the ocean and washes up on land,” he said. “We’ve found that plastic debris ends up not only on populated beaches, but on inaccessible islands as well. We’ve found plastic everywhere on the coast.”

The first part of the study gathered debris from 20 sites along Georgia’s coast, including Tybee, Cumberland and Ossabaw islands. The debris was reported from volunteer organizations like Clean Coast, which hold monthly beach and marsh cleanups in Georgia.

Participants in a July 2014 teacher's workshop focusing on marine debris sift through the sands of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

Participants in a July 2014 teacher’s workshop focusing on marine debris sift through the sands of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

“The volunteer groups reported the weight of the debris, though we didn’t know the exact amount of plastic,” Lee said. “Based off the volunteer information we received, we did a follow-up study to more precisely measure the marine debris in a fixed location and period of time.”

The total collected debris ranged from 180 to 1,000 kilograms. The levels of plastic debris differed at each site over the course of the study, though plastic was consistently among the mix. Found plastic included plastic bottles, wrappers, food utensils and fragments of fishing gear.

Sanders spearheaded the second part of the study, where she and students collected plastic debris from Skidaway and Wassaw islands over a period of two years.

“While Dr. Lee did data analysis, I did some of the field work,” Sanders said. “We picked the two islands in the second part of the study because they were accessible sites where Marine Extension often takes students for marine education.”

For the fieldwork, Sanders and students visited the islands each month. They took inventory of what kinds of plastics were on specific areas of the coast.

“On about a monthly basis, I would take students to learn about debris and tally all the items on the islands,” Sanders said. “We took areas of 200 meters by 40 meters and recorded the items found. We also used GPS units to mark what areas we had done.”

The students, many of them in middle and high school, came from all over Georgia to assist. As part of Marine Extension, Sanders regularly teaches visiting students about marine life. When students volunteered to clean up, she tried to emphasize the issues surrounding debris.

“The bulk of the plastic comes from land,” Sanders said. “When people think of marine debris, they think of the ocean. I try to emphasize watershed concepts—what happens upstream ultimately gets downstream.”

“It can take years for plastic to degrade,” Lee said, adding, “80 percent of the plastic found at Wassaw turned out to be fragments. The fragments then spread and can have a number of environmental effects.”

Sanders says that since plastic debris is everywhere on the coast, it has to be addressed and reported efficiently to reduce its effects.

“There are proactive and reactive approaches to the issues of marine debris, and both are important,” she said. “We’ve been reactive so far by picking up debris. The proactive approach is our role in educating the public and researching the negative impacts of marine debris.”

The study was supported by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Incentive Grant, NOAA Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

The full article on “The amount and accumulation rate of plastic debris on marshes and beaches on the Georgia coast” is available at www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X14008200#.

 

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.

Nice newspaper article!

July 25, 2012

Mary Landers from the Savannah Morning News wrote a nice article on our marine plastics project.It appeared on the front page of Sunday’s issue. Thanks, Mary!

The reporters who went to Wassaw Island last week. Mary is wearing the straw hat on the far right.

News media trip to Wassaw Island

July 20, 2012

We took several reporters to Wassaw Island this week for a story on marine plastic debris. We’ve seen two TV stories thus far and expect a story in the Savannah Morning News, probably over the weekend.

Alice Massimi from WSAV-TV (NBC) in Savannah interviews UGA Marine Extension Service educator Dodie Sanders on the beach at Wassaw Island.

 

Plastics pollution a widespread problem on the Georgia Coast

July 5, 2012

No part of the Georgia coast is protected from pollution by plastics and other marine debris. That is one finding of a study conducted by Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientists Jay Brandes and Dick Lee.

The scientists studied the collection totals from beach clean-up programs by environmental groups like Clean Coast and the Tybee Beautification Association and Rivers Alive. They found that while beach-sweep programs at populated spots like Tybee Island collect the most plastic, even sweeps in relatively remote locations like Cumberland and Ossabaw Islands collect a sizeable haul. A 2007 beach sweep on Tybee by the Tybee Beautification Association and Rivers Alive collected 5,400 pounds of plastic. In similar clean-ups by Clean Coast in 2009, volunteers collected 1,100 pounds on Cumberland Island and 750 pounds on Ossabaw Island.

The places with the largest amount of plastics accumulation were Tybee Island, Little Tybee Island, Turner’s Creek and Pigeon Island.

“It is interesting that some of the beaches receiving relatively low numbers of visitors, such as Blackbeard Island and Cumberland Island, still have relatively high amounts of plastic debris,” Brandes said. “This suggests that the source of plastics on remote beaches is the surrounding coastal waters that contain plastics from both inland and the coast.”

The Skidaway Institute researchers focused their attention on plastics for several reasons. Plastics tend to be very durable and persist in the environment for long periods of time.  Also, relatively small pieces of plastic can be a threat to marine animals. Fish sometime eat the plastics, which can block their digestive systems. Sometimes harmful contaminants tend to cling to plastic and can be ingested when the plastic is eaten.

“Plastics pollution has been getting a lot of attention recently, especially those large gyres, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Brandes. “But most of those plastics are coming from land and that means that most of the plastic in our environment is going to remain near the shore.”

For this study, the scientists were restricted to analyzing data provided by the various beach clean-up groups. The problem is these groups are, understandably, usually more concerned about cleaning up the beach than sorting types of debris they collect. Based on earlier studies of marine debris and limited sorting that has been done during some cleanups, the research team worked under the assumption that one half of the total material collected was comprised of plastics.

The plastics problem is not limited to coolers and plastic cups. According to Brandes, many of the larger plastic objects eventually become broken down into smaller pieces, as tiny as a grain of sand. They may remain suspended in the water column. Brandes has found these micro-plastic particles while collecting samples for other projects.

“Right now, very little is known about what kind of impact these micro-plastics might be having on fish or other parts of the marine ecosystem,” said Brandes.

Students in the Marine Debris program weight some of the material they have collected on the north beach of Wassaw Island.

To help with the problem of understanding what kinds of plastics foul our beaches and marshes, Skidaway Institute scientists are collecting additional data on marine plastics and other debris though a cooperative educational program, “Marine Debris,” with the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service.

“Marine Debris” is a hands-on, interactive program that incorporates the topic of marine debris with an emphasis on plastic debris along the coast of Georgia. Students and their teachers are conducting shoreline marine debris surveys on Wassaw Island to determine types of marine debris, weight of plastics collected and accumulation rates for the designated site. The students are compiling the data using the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Accumulation Survey protocol. The data is being submitted to the Southeast Marine Debris Initiative data base.