Posts Tagged ‘Savannah’

High school students spend a day on the water

December 12, 2011

A group of students from Johnson High School in Savannah spent last Friday on a mini-research cruise on board the Research Vessel Savannah. It was part of a joint project among the local school system, Savannah State University and Skidaway Institute.

A photographer from the local CBS affiliate, WTOC-TV, went along. Here is a video of the trip.


We had a great open house!

October 20, 2011

We had beautiful weather and a great turnout for our open house, Skidaway Marine Science Day, last Saturday. If you did not attend, here are some pictures to whet your appetite for next year.

Monday 2 May 2011 – Mystery Object

May 4, 2011

Today is another day of cleaning and packing. Before getting back to the packing job we decided to pack-up all our samples, get them into the dry liquid nitrogen shipper (See previous discussion in this blog.)  and attempt to send them home. If you recall we were concerned about this because the only shipper in Barrow, Northern Air Cargo, has temporarily lost their license to ship hazardous. Nothing about our samples is hazardous, but we were unable to procure official paperwork that documents this. Anyway, we thought it was best to ship as early as possible just in case we ran into a problem. Also, the earlier in the week that we ship the more likely it will be to have it arrive during the working week when there will still be someone at our home labs to receive them. So first thing this morning we packed up the samples and went to the NAC offices. They didn’t even blink an eye. So the samples we collected are now headed home to Savannah and we didn’t have to worry at all.

After our success at the NAC office we returned to continue packing. Our goal is to have everything organized and next to the packing crates where we will store them. Midway through the afternoon another group of scientists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who are investigating ice algae, arrived and began to set-up their labs for a month long visit. As is usual in scientific circles, it didn’t take long for us to find many common interests.

I was also very excited that, among their gear, they had brought some nice microscopes and agreed to let me use one to look at some water samples. Earlier in the week Lollie and Adriane, while filming with their underwater cameras, captured images of something that I couldn’t identify. They looked like they might be very large algal cells and one thought I had was that they might be ice algae beginning to bloom in the Arctic spring.

Mystery objects from under the ice. Frame capture from video shot by Lollie Garay.

I showed the video to the Juhl group, but they were a mystified as we were.  We came to the conclusion that perhaps they were developing eggs or larvae of something undergoing a mass spawning event. Unfortunately we don’t have a way of determining the size of objects in the images which might help us indentify them. Lollie is working on figuring this out though, so we should be able to determine size. Although the Juhl group had brought some nice microscopes,since we didn’t have fresh water samples our examination of water samples were also inconclusive.  If anyone out there recognizes these objects please let me know.

After this pleasant diversion it was back to packing.  Tomorrow all that is left is to clean-up the equipment and supplies that we are still using for Zac’s thesis experiments, finish our inventories, seal the boxes, and put them back into storage.

Speaking of Zac’s experiment, after packing and chatting with the Juhl group, it was time for us to take our last samples from those experiments. The incubations lasted for 6 days and we’re hoping that that will be enough time for us to see the effects of humic additions on bacterial activity, growth, and utilization of nitrogen and carbon. The samples are now all collected and Zac will be analyzing them over the next couple of months. We’re holding our breaths for the results.

Zac’s experiment. Bacteria inoculated filtered seawater with added humics (1), humics and organic nitrogen (3), glucose (5), and seawater only (7). Each bottle was duplicated, but only one is shown in this photo. Note that bottles containing humics are considerably darker than those not receiving humics. The bottles were incubated in the dark at just over freezing temperatures.

Finally, we are completely done with all our science activities and it was time for a celebratory dinner.  We invited the Juhl group to come with us to try out a relatively new Chinese restaurant in town; Sam and Lee’s.  It was fantastic, better than any Chinese restaurant in Savannah in my opinion.  I had a spicy duck dish that was both delicious and copious.  I took home a doggie bag for lunch for tomorrow.

Back to Barrow – January 22 & 23, 2011

January 24, 2011

Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer is back in Barrow, Alaska, along with grad student Zac Tait,  to conduct field work on his project into the effects of warming climate on the marine food web in the Arctic Ocean.

As he did with a prior trip last summer, Dr. Frischer will send updates on his “adventure.” To review his earlier trip, the first of his series of posts can be found here.

Hi all, we’re heading back to Alaska to complete another sampling expedition of the high Arctic.  If you recall, our last trip was during the summer time when temperatures were mostly above freezing and the ocean was liquid (if you missed our previous trip you can catch up from our previous blogs).  Things are a little different up there now.  Read on!

We began planning for this trip almost as soon as we got back from the last.  The minute details, especially getting necessary chemicals and other supplies in place require an amazing amount of organization.  But we mostly managed (thanks largely to Victoria Baylor’s hard work).  The goal is to never get ahead of your equipment and supplies.

With our gear shipped off, the day for our departure finally arrived.  This time Zachary Tait and myself are making the trip.  Zac is a graduate student from Savannah State University who has been making this project the focus of his MS thesis research.  Unfortunately, both Zac and myself are still getting over bad colds so we didn’t feel quite 100%, but we persevered.

Zac (left) and Marc at the Savannah airport

Leaving Savannah in the early morning we flew first to Atlanta (as usual), on to Minneapolis, and then to Anchorage.  We arrived in Anchorage at 6:00 pm local time (10:00 pm Savannah time) for a total of 14 hours of travel.  Weary, we checked into our hotel in Anchorage and headed out for a quick bite to eat at a nearby local restaurant; “Gwennie’s”.

Marc in front of Gwennie's

It was surprisingly good.  Both of us ordered the chicken fried steak and a locally brewed beer which Zac felt obligated to share with the restaurant’s mascot Brown Bear.

Zac and the bear

After a satisfying dinner, neither of us had a hard time sleeping and we got as much of it as we could before having to wake at 3:30 am to catch our next flight.  Leaving Anchorage we flew first to Fairbanks, on to Prudhoe Bay, and finally into Barrow.

In Barrow we were immediately shocked by the weather, stepping off the plane it was -42°F with a windchill of -67°F.  Even the natives think this is cold.

Once we collected our bags (everything made it) we hopped in the truck and headed to the Northern Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) campus.  Since our last trip our logistical support team switched to a different group. Many of the people and procedures are the same, but there are several new faces (to us) and some of the facilities are different.  We’re optimistic that this will work out well (So far it has.).  Once we had a briefing and were introduced to the new folks, we quickly got to work rounding up all our gear and setting up.

We made a lot of progress but we didn’t get it finished.  For one, the temperature controlled environmental chamber that we will work in to filter all the water we collect wasn’t ready for us.  Apparently it had been used since our last visit to process whale meat.  We didn’t actually look at it, but we were told that they had to remove the floor (too much blood soaked into it), grind the scum off the walls, and finally sterilize the whole room with bleach.  Glad I didn’t have to do that job!  Hopefully, the room will still be suitable for our use and it will be available tomorrow.

But back to the day.  Today, it turns out, was the first sunrise in Barrow since November.

Barrow sunrise January 23

The sun rose at 12:38 local time and set at 2:46pm.  But it wasn’t at all dark for much of the surrounding hours because of the twilight time.  I was surprised at how bright the extended twilight period was.  Today twilight extended from 10:27 am to 4:54 pm.  This actually gives us quite a lot of light to work in.  But today was the first time the sun rose above the horizon.  Cool huh?  I had thought the locals would have celebrated at bit, but apparently not.  I asked Tony Kaleak, a native about it and he told me, sometimes, if they notice, they look at the sun for a moment and say “Right On”.  Anyway, we thought it was pretty spectacular.

By 5 pm we were pretty beat and decided to call it a day,  spending the rest of the evening discussing details with the logistics staff and picking up a new member of our team, Lollie Garay from the airport.  Lollie is a science teacher being sponsored by the Polar Trek program to accompany us and develop collaborative relationships with local educators.  Its pretty exciting stuff.  Lollie is also going to blog about her experience and as soon as I get her blog address I’ll pass it on.

But now its time for me to get a little shut eye.  Tomorrow will be another busy day preparing.


Skidaway Marine Science Day a success!

October 18, 2010

We had a beautiful day last Saturday as more than 1,900 visitors converged on our campus for our annual open house,  Skidaway Marine Science Day.

The event featured activities geared for all ages from young children to adults. These included programs, tours, displays and hands-on activities, primarily related to marine science.

Skidaway Marine Science Day was presented Skidaway Institute and our campus partners, including the University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Education Center and Aquarium, the UGA Shellfish Research Laboratory, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and WSVH Georgia Public Radio.

The Skidaway Institute offered a variety of activities for adults and children, including tours of the Research Vessel Savannah;

R/V Savannah

Visitors in the R/V Savannah's "dry lab."

A crowd on "the bridge."

science displays and talks on current research programs; and hands-on science activities.

Charles Roberston explains a CTD array.

Jay Brandes explains some of the science behind the Gulf oil spill.

The UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium was be open with no admission fee. In addition, the aquarium education staff offered visitors a full afternoon of activities including science talks, a reptile show, boat tours, touch tanks, and behind-the-scene tours of the aquarium.

The aquarium touch tanks are always popular.

The UGA Shellfish Laboratory provided visitors with displays and information on marine life on the Georgia Coast.

Bagging oyster shells for a good cause can actually be fun.

Children were given the opportunity to help protect the marine environment by bagging oyster shells used for oyster reef restoration projects.

Driving ROVs in the pool.

The staff of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary set up their remotely-operated-vehicle (ROV) in a swimming pool and teach visitors how to “drive” it and pick up objects from the bottom.

WSVH Georgia Public Radio was open for visitors.

Skidaway Institute professor Bill Savidge presented a special program, “The Seven Deadly Sins of Science Fair Projects,” aimed at parents and students involved in science fair projects.

For the second year in a row, Skidaway Marine Science Day was also open to non-campus scientific and environmental groups.

Some children got "up close and personal" with wildlife.

Maybe a little too up-close.

Organizations such as the Georgia Department of  Natural Resources, The Dolphin Project and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center were on-hand to present, information, displays and activities.

The Diamond Terrapin Project brought some of their subjects, which were a big hit with the younger set.

Kids prepare their model plankton for the Plankton Sink-Off.

The Plankton Sink Off is a race to see who can get to the bottom of the tank last.

And what would a festival be without some face painting.

We have a much larger photo gallery on the Skidaway Institute Web site.

Skidaway Institute’s research center to receive LEED® Gold Certification plaque

October 11, 2010

When: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where: Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, Skidaway Island, Savannah, Ga.

Time: 6:00 p.m.

The Savannah Branch of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) will present a LEED® Gold Certification plaque to the Marine and Coastal Science Research and Instructional Center (MCSRIC) at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography on Tuesday, October 19, at 6 p.m.

Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies intended to improve performance in areas such as energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Completed in mid-2009, the MCSRIC research and laboratory building was designed from the outset to be environmentally friendly.

The building’s orientation minimizes its east-west exposure which reduces the heat it will absorb from the sun. This orientation is one reason the MCSRIC is 31 percent more energy efficient than a comparable building. Its courtyard, roof and sidewalks are organic or reflect the sun’s energy, further reducing the amount of heat the building will absorb.

The layout of the MCSRIC’s interior minimizes the building’s perimeter, reducing the energy and heat that can leak into or out of the building. The common work areas and the central hallway are open to the roof and have a row of upper windows running the length of the building. This allows natural night to flood the building on sunny days and saves on lighting energy.

Other “green” characteristics of the building include a solar hot water heating system, a 1,000 gallon cistern to capture rainwater for various uses, six-inch foam insulation and energy efficient windows.

The MCSRIC contains 11,000 square-feet of state-of-the-art research laboratories and offices, space for visiting scientists, and instructional space for marine science students from throughout the University System of Georgia. It was funded with a $5 million dollar appropriation approved by the Georgia General Assembly in 2006 and signed by Governor Sonny Perdue.

The architect for the MCSRIC was Lord, Aeck & Sargent, Inc.. The construction manager was Choate Construction. Engineering work was done by Hussey, Gay, Bell & DeYoung International Inc., and Nottingham, Brook & Pennington, Inc.

Immediately following Choate Construction Company will sponsor the inaugural event for the USGBC GA Savannah Branch Emerging Professionals Committee. Appetizers and beverages will be available. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Is the oil coming to Georgia? (Update 5-24)

May 21, 2010

Updated 2:25 pm EDT May 24

We have been getting questions over the past few days about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Is it going to make it into the Gulf Stream, and if so, will it end up affecting the Georgia coast?”

Here the current analysis from Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. Drs. Jay Brandes and Dana Savidge contributed their input to this briefing.

Much of the concern about the oil spill and the Georgia coast centers on the possibility of oil becoming entrained in the Loop Current. At present the position of the Loop Current is southward of the Deep Horizon well, so that most of the spilled oil has not been entrained into this strong current.

Graphic by Anna Boyette, Skidaway Inst.

However there are indications that some oil has begun traveling southwards on a section of the Loop current. Any oil that is entrained may eventually pass offshore of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The Loop Current is a continuous feature that exits the Gulf south of Florida and passes through the Florida Straits where it becomes known as the Florida Current (especially off Florida) or Gulf Stream. Along the east coast the flow strengthens somewhat from contributions from the Antilles Current and recirculations on the offshore side. All the named portions are known collectively as the Gulf Stream System.

The average velocity experienced by oil entrained in the edge of the Gulf Stream should be about 1 mph, or about a half a degree of latitude per day, so it would be 2-3 weeks from the earliest knows entrainment on May 17 before that first surface oil gets here.

Oil is degraded by sunlight and consumed by microorganisms. With the warm waters and intense sunshine of the Gulf of Mexico and the nearby Atlantic Ocean, those processes should be much more effective than they were during the Exxon Valdez spill. The oil will also be transformed by dilution and mixing with saltwater to become tar balls and denser oil-saltwater mixtures, which may not all be at the surface. Where and when that deeper part goes is harder to predict. Light and microbial degradation may not be as effective down deeper, and tar balls are more impervious to microbial degradation than surface oil slicks. Lifetime of the impervious tar balls in the ocean is estimated at about 1 year.

When the oil does make it into the Gulf Stream, one factor that will help protect the Georgia coast is that the Gulf Stream runs roughly 75 miles off the coast. Since the Gulf Stream is a much deeper current (about ½ mile deep) than the shallow continental shelf (about a tenth as deep as the Gulf Stream) that fringes the coastline, it does not flow near shore, but tends to hug the edge of Georgia’s broad continental shelf. Florida and North Carolina are at higher risk because their shelves are much narrower so the Gulf Stream is closer to beaches, marshes, mangroves, and sounds.

Once off the Georgia coast in the Gulf Stream, surviving entrained oil, mixtures, and tarballs would have to get across our broad shelf somehow before it could affect the beaches and marshes. Unfortunately the processes that might do that are poorly quantified or understood, so it could happen. An extreme event, like a hurricane, could potentially push oil in the Gulf Stream onto the shelf perhaps even as far as the Georgia coast. Other avenues may exist that can potentially move oil onshore as well.

However there was a previous similar incident in 1979 when the IXTOC I oil spill occurred, pumping about 20,000 barrels of oil per day for 8 months from a well west of the Yucatan Peninsula. Some of that oil was also eventually entrained in the Loop Current. Skidaway researchers sampled 10 months after the blowout off Savannah, Ga. and New Smyrna Beach Fla., and found tar balls in the Gulf Stream and on outer shelf, but no evidence of tar balls within 40 miles of the coast. Ultimately about 200 miles of Texas coastline was significantly affected.

Skidaway Institute will be able to monitor the surface ocean currents on the Georgia shelf with our coastal radar system. This system measures surface currents out into the Gulf Stream and from the Georgia-Florida state line north into South Carolina. With it, we can better gauge the potential threat to the Georgia coast from any oil that manages to get onto our continental shelf.  Unfortunately, while the entire west coast and the northeast coast of the U.S are monitored by similar radars, coverage in the southeast and the Gulf is very sparse.  You can see our coverage in the southeast here:

and in the entire country here:

Skidaway Institute is part of a consortium of research institutions called SECOORA (Southeast Costal Ocean Observation Regional Association). Our fellow SECOORA partners are also monitoring the progress of any oil in the Loop Current and Gulf Stream.

One of our SECOORA partners, the University of South Florida, has an excellent video of the projections based on several models. You can see it here.

Notice that the models don’t all predict the same paths.  Modeling is difficult in areas of the ocean where there are few real world observations to improve the model’s performance with.  Forecasters look at several models, and use their experience and good sense to predict which is most correct under different circumstances.

Skidaway Institute spring lecture series to focus on man and the ocean

February 13, 2009

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will host a series of four science lecture programs this spring focusing on the 21st century ocean and man’s interaction with it. Under the umbrella title “Living with the Ocean” the four two-hour programs will be presented at the Coastal Georgia Center on Fahm Street in downtown Savannah and then repeated in the Skidaway Institute library auditorium. Each program will consist of two speakers from the Skidaway Institute faculty and run from 7-9 p.m. at both venues. Admission will be free.

“In the 21st century, it is vital that all of us become ‘ocean literate,’” said Jim Sanders, director of Skidaway Institute. “We expect this series of programs will be both interesting and informative to anyone who cares about the world around us.”

According to Sanders, many of the vital issues facing society involve the ocean. “The ocean is a major factor in global climate change, our food supply and coastal development, just to name a few,” he said.

Sanders will kick off the first program, “One Big Ocean,” on Tuesday, March 10, at the Coastal Georgia Center with a presentation titled “Oceanography 101: What every science literate person should know about our ocean planet.” Jay Brandes will provide the second half of the program with a talk on “The most amazing substance on Earth – water.” This program will be repeated on Thursday, March 12 at Skidaway Institute.

The second program “The Oceans Drive the Earth” will focus on the ocean’s role in global climate change and the origins of life in the ocean. Skidaway Institute professors Stuart Wakeham and Marc Frischer will be the featured speakers. It will be presented at the Coastal Georgia Center on Monday, March 30, and at Skidaway Institute on Thursday, April 2.

On Monday, April 20, scientists Clark Alexander and Bill Savidge will present a program on “Living Near the Ocean,” which will address the complex relationship between man and the environment in the coastal zone. The Skidaway Institute program will be held on Thursday, April 23.

The final program in the series will be held at the Coastal Georgia Center on Monday, May 11 and at Skidaway Institute on Thursday, May 14. Titled “Planet Earth in the 21st Century,” professors Peter Verity and Herb Windom will outline the ways mankind is changing the ocean, and how developing technologies are being used to monitor the ocean and the coastal environment.

For additional information, call Michael Sullivan at (912) 598-2325 or visit the Skidaway Institute Web site at