Posts Tagged ‘ossabaw island’

UGA Skidaway Institute professor appointed to Ossabaw Island Foundation Board of Trustees

January 19, 2017

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography Interim Executive Director Clark Alexander has been appointed to the board of trustees of the Ossabaw Island Foundation.

Clark Alexander

Clark Alexander

The Ossabaw Island Foundation is a nonprofit organization responsible for educational, scientific and cultural initiatives on Ossabaw Island, a 26,000-acre barrier island on the Georgia coast.

Alexander is a marine geologist who joined UGA Skidaway Institute as a postdoctoral scientist in 1989 and rose to the rank of full professor in 2003. He was appointed interim executive director in 2016. Alexander earned bachelor’s degrees in oceanography and geology from Humboldt State University in California. He went on to earn his master’s and doctoral degrees in marine geology from North Carolina State University.

As a researcher, Alexander has participated in 63 field programs from New Zealand to Siberia and has been the chief scientist on 29 oceanographic cruises with a total of more than two years at sea.  He has published 86 papers in scientific journals, and, in the past decade, has received more than $5 million in direct research funding. In addition, he is the director of the Georgia Southern University Applied Coastal Research Laboratory on Skidaway Island.

Alexander has been very active on state and regional advisory boards and works closely with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to identify and address pressing coastal management needs. He served on the Georgia Coastal Marshlands Protection Committee and the Georgia Shore Protection Committee from 1998 to 2006. A few of the committees he currently serves on include the Grays Reef National Marine Sanctuary Science Advisory Group, the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve Advisory Committee and the Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel to the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.

 

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.

A great day-trip to Ossawbaw Island

March 4, 2011

A team of Skidaway Institute scientists visited Ossawbaw Island this week.

The beach

One of the main reasons for the trip was to perform some maintenance on the Barrier Island Network.

Skidaway Institute is one of a group of organizations developing a network of cameras and sensors that will turn the island into a remote laboratory for researchers and students. Right now the network consists of a weather station, a water monitoring sensor at the main dock, two more in wells in the interior of the island and a camera at the dock. You can access the pictures and data here.

(l-r) Herb Windom, Bob Antonelli, Charles Robertson, Sam Cook and Debbie Wells examine a a sensor that spent a little too much time in salt water.

The technical crew needed to change out the sensor at the dock and install a sensor in one of the wells. Long-term exposure to salt water is very rough on scientific equipment.

We got around mostly in pick-up trucks.

Also, the geology team of Clark Alexander and Mike Robinson tramped through the woods to find a good site to obtain core samples.

Clark Alexander and Mike Robinson emptying a core.

That is part of a project to date the origin of the island.

Kathryn Sutton at the beach with her air sampling gear.

Georgia Southern grad student Kathryn Sutton also went along to obtain air samples from the beach and to collect Spanish moss for her research project looking at the possibility of using Spanish moss as a bio-indicator of atmospheric mercury from coal-fired power plants.

The team also placed a new sensor in one of the two research wells on the island.

Sam Cook (Siemitsu Computers) and Bob Antonelli hook up the well sensor while Charles Robertson looks on.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife this time around. The fresh water ponds are low, which probably keeps the alligators away from the various causeways. Herb Windom and Paul Pressly (Ossabaw Foundation) did meet one of the island’s pet pigs, “Paul Mitchell.”

Heb Windom and Paul Pressly meet "Paul Mitchell."

It was a beautiful day and the island scenes were, as always, a treat.

A dead tree on the Ossabaw beach

Dead palm trees

An Ossabaw Island saltmarsh