Posts Tagged ‘marine extension’

Microplastics article in Savannah Morning News

February 20, 2017
Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Reporter Mary Landers wrote a very nice article about Dr. Jay Brandes’s research into microplastic and microfiber pollution on the Georgia coast.

http://savannahnow.com/news/2017-02-19/skidaway-researchers-track-plastic-fibers-coastal-food-chain

Scientists track microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast

January 31, 2017

In recent years, the public has become attuned to the problem of trash in the ocean, especially plastic, as images of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have spread through media and the Internet. Now, University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Jay Brandes is leading a team investigating another issue closer to home on the Georgia coast: microplastics.

Jay Brandes

Jay Brandes

These are tiny pieces of plastic—smaller than  five millimeters, or about a fifth of an inch—that have either been manufactured small or have broken down from larger pieces. They can be found in our beaches, water and in the digestive systems of aquatic wildlife.

“Five millimeters is still something you can see with the naked eye, but if you are out at the beach you aren’t going to pick up on it easily,” Brandes said. “So we say anything smaller than 5 millimeters is considered a microplastic.”

A few pieces of microplastic collected from the Georgia coast.

A few pieces of microplastic collected from the Georgia coast.

 

Funded by Georgia Sea Grant, Brandes and UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant educator Dodie Sanders are in the first year of a two-year study to ascertain the extent of microplastic pollution in Georga’s coastal waters.

“Right now we are just trying to get an idea if there is a problem, and if there is, how prevalent it is,” Brandes said.

Microplastics come from several sources. Beginning in 1972, cosmetics manufacturers started adding plastic microbeads to exfoliating body washes and facial scrubs, which often pass freely through water treatment plants. When scientists reported finding these microbeads in rivers, lakes and oceans, it prompted a worldwide discussion on the issue. In 2015, Congress enacted legislation requiring the cosmetics industry to remove microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics by July of this year.

The sun also contributes to the production of microplastics. Plastic exposed to sunlight eventually fades, becomes brittle and breaks down into smaller pieces.

“All of us have probably seen a Styrofoam cup break down and the little beads come out,” Brandes said.  “So there is the physical breakdown of the plastics into smaller and smaller pieces as they grind against each other and sand grains.”

To assess the extent of microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast, the research team makes use of the regular trawls conducted by UGA Marine Education and Aquarium staff. They collect the fish, shrimp, squid and other animals captured in the trawl and take them back to a laboratory where they will dissect them and analyze the contents of their gut.

Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

Students from Pierce County Middle School sort through the results of a trawl as part of an education program at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

“The first thing we have to do is to subject the gut contents to some extremely harsh chemicals to destroy the flesh and leave us mostly with the plastics,” Brandes said. “When dissecting even a small fish, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack if you don’t get rid of all the other stuff.”

What is left is examined under a microscope and the plastic pieces identified and counted. The researchers have already found some surprises. Everywhere they look, whether it is beach sand or the contents of a fish’s stomach, they are seeing microfibers, extremely fine synthetic fiber used to create textiles.

According to Brandes, microfibers are pervasive—so much so that when the researchers take samples to the laboratory they have to take special measures to prevent contamination of their samples from microfibers floating in the air. It is not clear, however, if the microfibers are causing any harm to the marine organisms that ingest them.

“We are not finding fish with their stomachs packed with microfibers,” Brandes said. “It’s hard to tell if they are causing any real problems.”

The project also has an educational component. Brandes has taught workshops in which he takes  groups of K-12 teachers to Tybee Island to collect sand and return it to the laboratory for microscopic analysis. He says the teachers are usually shocked with what they see.

“Hey, you thought that sand was clean, and from a tourist standpoint it is,” he said. “But there is still stuff in there and then you start talking about where it came from and what kinds of effects it may have.”

The project is expected to be completed and the results published by early 2018.

Skidaway Marine Science Day 2016 canceled

October 18, 2016

The University of Georgia’s Skidaway Marine Science Day, scheduled for Oct. 22, has been canceled.

The UGA Aquarium reopened over the weekend, however the Jay Wolf Nature Trail remains closed as crews continue to remove debris brought on by Hurricane Matthew.

Both Clark Alexander, interim director of UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, and Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, had hoped to reschedule the event, but no other date was available this fall.

“We are upset we are not able to offer this great event this year,” Alexander said. “However, we will be back bigger and stronger in 2017.”

Skidaway Marine Science Day has been an annual event on the Skidaway campus since 2001. The free, family-oriented program is presented jointly by the UGA Skidaway Institute, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

Black gill stakeholders meeting set for June 22

June 2, 2016

As the 2016 Georgia shrimping season gets underway, the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will host a meeting to present the latest research and other information on black gill in Georgia and South Carolina shrimp. The meeting will be held at the UGA Marine Extension Aquarium at the north end of Skidaway Island in Savannah, Ga. on Wednesday, June 22, from 1-4 p.m.

Shrimp with Black Gill.

Shrimp with Black Gill.

Black gill is a condition affecting the coastal shrimp population. It is caused by a microscopic parasite. Many shrimpers believe black gill may be largely responsible for reduced shrimp harvests in recent years. UGA Skidaway Institute scientist Marc Frischer is leading a research project, now in its third year, into the causes and effects of black gill on the Georgia and South Carolina shrimp population.

The purpose of the meeting is to provide stakeholders, such as shrimpers, fish house owners, wholesalers or anyone else interested in black gill, with an update on black gill research efforts.  Frischer and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources scientist Amy Fowler and will present their latest research findings. UGA Marine Extension and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources will also provide updates. The meeting will be open to the public.

The meeting is for information purposes only. No management decisions will be made.

For additional information, contact Bryan Fluech, UGA Marine Extension, at (912) 264-7269.

What: Black Gill Stakeholders Meeting

When: Wednesday, June 22, 1-4: p.m.

Where: UGA  Aquarium, 30 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, Ga., 31411

Directions: http://marex.uga.edu/visit_aquarium/

 

Skidaway microplastics study get’s front-page coverage

January 27, 2016
Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

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.

http://savannahnow.com/news/2016-01-26/skidaway-researchers-look-plastics-local-shrimp-fish

Jay Brandes interviewed on GPB

January 14, 2016

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.

http://www.gpb.org/news/2016/01/13/microbeads-banned-plastic-remains-threat-oceans

Black Gill cruise video on YouTube

December 14, 2015

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.

Shrimp with Black Gill.

Shrimp with Black Gill.

 

UGA researchers study microplastics on Georgia coast

December 3, 2015

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.

Samples of microplastic particles collected off the Georgia coast

Samples of microplastic particles collected off 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.

Teachers participating in a summer workshop sift through the sand of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

Teachers participating in a summer workshop sift through the sand of Tybee Island in search of microplastic particles.

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.

Skidaway Marine Science Day video on YouTube

December 1, 2015

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.

Skidaway Marine Science Day 2015

October 25, 2015

We had a great open house yesterday. Skidaway Marine Science Day. Lots of visitors. Great weather. Fantastic activities, exhibits, tours and talks. Lots of effort from all the folks at Skidaway Institute, the UGA Marine Extension, Gray’s Reef and our off-campus exhibitors.

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