Posts Tagged ‘science research’

Fall black gill cruise rolls out new research

November 10, 2016

The University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography entered the fourth year of its black gill research program with a daylong cruise on board the Research Vessel Savannah and the introduction of a new smartphone app that will allow shrimpers to help scientists collect data on the problem.

Led by UGA scientists Marc Frischer, Richard Lee, Kyle Johnsen and Jeb Byers, the black gill study is being conducted in partnership with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and is funded by Georgia Sea Grant.

Black gill is a condition Georgia shrimpers first noticed in the mid-1990s. Many shrimpers have blamed black gill for poor shrimp harvests in recent years, but until Frischer began his study, almost nothing was known about the condition. Now the researchers know black gill is caused by a parasite—a single-cell animal called a ciliate—although the exact type of ciliate is still a mystery.

The October cruise had three goals. The first was simply to collect data and live shrimp for additional experiments.

 

“We were able to collect enough live shrimp in good shape to set up our next experiment,” Frischer said. “We are planning on running another direct mortality study to investigate the relationship between temperature and black gill mortality. This time, instead of comparing ambient temperature to cooler temperatures as we did last spring and summer, we will investigate the effects of warming.”

Researchers Marc Frischer (UGA Skidaway Institute), Brian Fluech and Lisa Gentit (both UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant) examine shrimp for signs of black gill.

Researchers Marc Frischer (UGA Skidaway Institute), Brian Fluech and Lisa Gentit (both UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant) examine shrimp for signs of black gill.

If his hypothesis is correct, Frischer believes researchers would expect that raising fall water temperatures to warmer summer levels in a laboratory setting will induce black gill associated mortality in the shrimp caught in the fall.

Those studies will be compared to those that are being conducted in South Carolina in a slightly different manner. Frischer expects the results should be similar.

“However, as it goes with research, we are expecting surprises,” Frischer continued. “We also collected a good set of samples that will contribute to our understanding of the distribution and impact of black gill.”

A second goal was to introduce and begin field testing a new smartphone application developed by Johnsen. The app is intended to be a tool that will allow shrimp boat captains and recreational shrimpers to assist the researchers by filling some of the holes in the data by documenting the extent of black gill throughout the shrimp season. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducts surveys of the shrimp population up and down the coast throughout the year. However, those surveys do not provide the researchers with the rich data set they need to really get an accurate assessment of the black gill problem.

A sample screen shot of the black gill smartphone application.

A sample screen shot of the black gill smartphone application.

“Instead of having just one boat surveying the prevalence of black gill, imagine if we had a dozen, or 50 or a hundred boats all working with us,” Frischer said. “That’s the idea behind this app.”

The fishermen will use the app to document their trawls and report their data to a central database. Using GPS and the camera on their smartphone, they will record the location and images of the shrimp catch, allowing the researchers to see what the shrimpers see. If repeated by many shrimpers throughout the shrimping season, the information would give scientists a much more detailed picture of the prevalence and distribution of black gill.

“The app is complete and available on the app store, but we are still in the testing stages,” Johnsen said. “We want to make sure that it will be robust and as easy to use on a ship as possible before widely deploying it.”

Recruiting, training and coordinating the shrimpers will be the responsibility of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“I think it should be entirely possible to at least have a small group of captains comfortable and ready to start using it when the 2017 season begins,” Frischer said.

Johnsen is excited about the app for what it can provide to the shrimping and research community, but also the implications it has for using apps to involve communities in general.

“There is still work to be done to improve the usability of these systems,” he said. “But I’m confident that we are going to see an increasing number of these ‘citizen science’ applications going forward.”

The final aim of the cruise was to bring together diverse stakeholders, including fishery managers, shrimpers and scientists, to spend the day together and share ideas.

“This was a good venue for promoting cross-talk among the stakeholder groups,” Frischer said. “I had many good conversations and appreciated the opportunity to provide a few more research updates.”

Georgia DNR's Pat Geer sorts through the marine life caught in a trawl net.

Georgia DNR’s Pat Geer sorts through the marine life caught in a trawl net.

Frischer says he thinks the communication and cooperation among the various stakeholder groups has improved dramatically since the beginning of the study. He recalled that when the study began in 2013, tensions were high. Shrimpers were angry and demanded that something be done to address the problem of black gill. Meanwhile, fishery managers were unclear if black gill was even causing a problem and frustrated that no one could provide them any reliable scientific advice. The research community had not been engaged and given the resources to pursue valid investigations.

“In 2016, we still have black gill. The fishery is still in trouble, but it does feel like we are at least understanding a bit more about the issue,” Frischer said. “Most importantly, it is clear that all of us are now working together.

“My feeling is that the opportunity for us to spend a day like that together helps promote understanding, communication and trust among the shrimpers, managers and researchers.”

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Black gill TV story

June 14, 2016

We had a cruise yesterday that had two purposes — to collect data and samples for the black gill research project, and also to provide  a group of K-12 teachers an up-close-and-personal look at marine field research. We also had two TV reporters along. Here is the report from WTOC’s Marla Rooker.

http://www.wtoc.com/story/32211236/black-gill-continues-to-impact-georgia-shrimp

 

UGA Skidaway Institute team studies nutrient levels in Georgia’s coastal estuaries

June 6, 2016

How much of a nutrient load is too much for Georgia’s coastal rivers and estuaries? A research team from University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is helping Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division answer that question. Their primary focus is on the estuary at the mouth of the Ogeechee River, where the researchers are measuring nutrient concentrations and other water properties to determine how they change as they flow through the estuary.

The nutrients are chemicals like nitrates and phosphates typically introduced into the rivers by agricultural runoff, storm water or sewage effluents, and the natural decay of organic matter in the river. When present in high concentrations, the nutrients act as fertilizer, promoting excessive growth of marine plants, especially microscopic marine plants called phytoplankton.

Researcher Kate Doyle lowers a sensor package into the water to measure salinity, temperature and depth.

Researcher Kate Doyle lowers a sensor package into the water to measure salinity, temperature and depth.

Elsewhere on the East Coast, excessive nutrients in estuaries have been linked to toxic algal blooms that can cause fish kills or shellfish closures. Death and decay of algal blooms by bacteria can drive oxygen concentrations down to levels that are unhealthy for other marine life. These are not presently known to be significant problems in Georgia’s waters, but scientists and regulators do not know what the thresholds are for developing water quality problems.

“The Georgia EPD wants to know how much nitrogen is coming down the river and whether it has any consequences when it gets to the estuary,” said UGA Skidaway Institute scientist William Savidge. “It doesn’t really matter if you have high nutrient concentrations if it is not having a harmful effect.”

The EPD is interested in these issues because they are mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on nutrient levels for Georgia’s estuaries. Savidge describes the mandate as a difficult problem for several reasons.

“There is not any current and systematic information on nutrient conditions in most of the estuaries,” he said, “nor is there much information on the consequences of nutrient availability in the estuaries, and it’s those consequences that are the most important.”

They are currently mapping the biological and chemical properties of the Ogeechee River estuary each season to assess the nutrient changes throughout the year and to see what effects can be seen in the river and the estuary. Twice every quarter for the last year, the researchers have followed the incoming tide and sampled the river continuously as they moved upstream from the mouth of the estuary to fresh water. They used an onboard set of sensors to obtain continuous surface measurements of temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll (indicative of phytoplankton), turbidity and colored dissolved organic matter. In addition to the continuous surface measurements, the team stopped periodically and collected water samples from the bottom and throughout the water column. The product of each of these expeditions was a detailed map of conditions on the river, and when and where they are changing.

Researcher Lixin Zhu filters larger-volume surface water samples collected from the flow-through system to analyze for dissolved organic carbon.

Researcher Lixin Zhu filters larger-volume surface water samples collected from the flow-through system to analyze for dissolved organic carbon.

As they expected, Savidge and his team observed a wide range of conditions depending on the season. Nutrient inputs tend to be highest in the spring when agricultural fields are fertilized.

“Nutrient delivery is high in the spring, but we don’t have a high chlorophyll concentration in the Ogeechee River because, presumably, the nutrients are being washed off into the coastal ocean before any effect is noticed,” Savidge said

On the other hand, chlorophyll levels — which indicate phytoplankton population — are highest in the summer. Low summer river flow means water remains in the system longer. When combined with more sunlight and warmer temperatures, this slow flow this allows more time for the microscopic plants to grow.

In addition to sampling the Ogeechee River, the team is also conducting a smaller sampling project in the Altamaha River for comparison purposes.

Field work on the project will end in June, and Savidge expects to report the team’s findings to Georgia EPD by mid-summer.

“The Georgia EPD is going to have to balance the potential negative risks of nutrient loading versus the economic consequences of restricting nutrient additions,” Savidge said. “If, for example, most of the nutrient additions are agricultural, and that is creating problems downstream, the Georgia EPD may be forced by EPA to regulate nutrient additions, either by restricting how much fertilizer is placed on fields or mandating larger buffer zones around rivers and creeks.”

In addition to Savidge, the research team includes UGA Skidaway Institute scientists Jay Brandes and Aron Stubbins, research associate Kate Doyle and graduate student Lixin Zhu. UGA researchers Brock Woodson and Mandy Joye are also contributing.

Video — UGA Skidaway Institute scientists complete sea level study on Georgia coast

February 25, 2016

Sea level is projected to rise at least one meter by 2100. Where will that water go and how will it change the Georgia coastal ecosystem? University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Clark Alexander and Georgia Southern University researcher Christine Hladik are attempting to answer those questions.

https://youtu.be/vNFrxb4cytU

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.

Skidaway Institute scientist shares Gulf oil spill research grant

December 17, 2014

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography scientist Catherine Edwards is part of a research team that has received an $18.8 million grant to continue studies of natural oil seeps and track the impacts of the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

Known as ECOGIG-2 or “Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf,” the project is a collaborative, multi-institutional effort involving biological, chemical, geological and chemical oceanographers led by the University of Georgia’s Samantha Joye. The research team has worked in the Gulf since the weeks following the 2010 Macondo well blowout.

The three-year, $18.8 million ECOGIG-2 program was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GoMRI.

“Our goal is to better understand the processes that have affected the oil spill since 2010,” Edwards said. “How the droplets were dispersed? Where the oil went? How it was taken up by small microbes and also the effects on animals further up the food chain?”

Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards adjusts a glider’s buoyancy with graduate students Sungjin Cho and Dongsik Chan.

Skidaway Institute scientist Catherine Edwards adjusts a glider’s buoyancy with graduate students Sungjin Cho and Dongsik Chan.

Edwards’ role in the project is to use autonomous underwater vehicles, also called “gliders,” to collect data on conditions around the spill site. Equipped with sensors to measure characteristics such as depth, water temperature, salinity and density, the gliders can cruise the submarine environment for weeks at a time, collecting data and transmitting it back to a ship or a shore station.

“We want to understand the ocean currents—how they change over time and how they change in depth,” Edwards said. “Surface measurements give us a two-dimensional picture of the ocean. Glider data in the vertical provides more valuable information for more fully understanding ocean currents and how they arise.”

The gliders will operate both in conjunction with shipboard instruments and also independently. One advantage of using the gliders is they can operate during storms and rough weather, when it may not be possible to use ships. Edwards said shipboard work doesn’t always give a full picture of ocean dynamics simply by the fact that they can only go out when the weather is reasonably clear.

When working in conjunction with research ships, the gliders can provide additional observations, significantly improving the quality of the data set. The gliders also report dissolved oxygen concentrations and optical measurements of chlorophyll and organic matter, and may also be used as a test vehicle for new instruments in development.

Edwards will use “GENIoS,” a new software package, to help navigate the gliders. GENIoS uses high-resolution forecast models of wind and ocean currents, along with information from the glider itself, to calculate the optimal path for the gliders. This will improve the quality of the scientific data collected.

GENIoS is a collaboration among Edwards, Fumin Zhang from the Georgia Institute of Technology and their two Georgia Tech Ph.D. students, Dongsik Chang and Sungjin Cho. GENIos has been tested for more than 210 glider-days on the continental shelf off Georgia and South Carolina. This experiment will be its first test in the Gulf of Mexico.

Edwards also hopes to use this project to test the gliders as platforms for new, experimental sensors developed by other members of the ECOGIG-2 team.

Others involved in ECOGIG-2 include UGA marine sciences faculty Christof Meile, Renato Castelao and Catherine Edwards as well as Annalisa Bracco and Joe Montoya of Georgia Tech.

For additional information, contact Catherine Edwards at (912) 598-2471 or catherine.edwards@skio.uga.edu.

Skidaway scientist Dana Savidge promoted

July 28, 2010

Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Dana Savidge has been promoted to associate professor.

Dr. Dana Savidge

A physical oceanographer, Savidge joined Skidaway Institute in 2003 as an assistant professor. Savidge studies Gulf Stream variability and ocean circulation, with projects on the continental shelves of Cape Hatteras, Georgia, and Antarctica. One key component of Savidge’s research is a shore-based radar system that measures surface ocean currents as far as 125 miles off the Georgia coast.

Savidge earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Hanover College (Indiana) and her master’s degree in geophysics from Georgia Tech. Her doctorate in marine sciences is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Skidaway Institute expands coastal radar system

February 19, 2010

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is expanding its coastal radar system with the addition of a new send-receive station on Jekyll Island. The radar system, called WERA, is used to study surface ocean currents on Georgia’s continental shelf and out as far as the Gulf Stream.

Research coordinator Trent Moore works on a radar antenna in the dunes on Jekyll Island.

The Jekyll Island unit is the third station in the system. Two original stations were installed on Pritchard Island, S.C. and on a coastal island south of Savannah. The three systems work together to create a detailed map of surface ocean currents across an area stretching more than 125 miles off shore from South Carolina to North Florida. The map consists of hundreds of data points on the ocean surface which are updated twice an hour. The map shows the speed and direction of the surface current at each of those points.

The equipment was purchased with a grant from the Georgia Research Alliance, combined with funding allocated by South East Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing System.

“Measurement of surface currents and waves has a broad range of economic, societal, research and educational applications,” said Skidaway Institute professor Dana Savidge.

Those include search and rescue operations; tracking and predicting the trajectories of oil spills and pollutants; maritime operations; commercial and recreational fishing and boating; ecosystem assessment; and improving our understanding of the response of the coastal ocean circulation to major winter storms or hurricanes.

Aside from the practical applications, Savidge says the primary purpose of the system is to improve researchers’ understanding of what is happening on Georgia’s continental shelf.

“The ocean continues to be very poorly observed,” she said. “For example, we do not know how material from the land crosses the shelf. It may be organic. It may be manmade. It may be pollutants. Where does it go and how does it get there? These measurements will help us find out.”

The new site will significantly increase Savidge’s ability to study eddies that develop at the juncture of the shelf edge and the Gulf Stream. These eddies may affect the supply of nutrients available to marine life in that area of the ocean.

The radar data can been seen as a map, with the color, length and direction of the arrows showing the velocity of the surface currents. The orange and yellow arrows on the bottom right indicate the Gulf Stream.

There are presently approximately 100 similar radars operating throughout United States. The installation on Jekyll Island will greatly increase coverage to include the entire Georgia shelf and northern Florida. It will add critical overlapping redundancy with existing installations, providing essential two-installation operation during periods when one installation of the three may go down due to lightening strikes, power outages or other problems.

The new radar system is located at the Villas by the Sea condominiums on the north end of Jekyll Island.

“We can’t say enough about how great the folks at Villas by the Sea have been to work with us on this and allow us to install our antennas there,” said Savidge.

Savidge also praised research coordinator Trent Moore who she said, “has shouldered a very long term commitment and wrestled this thing through multiple stages, none of which are shy of endless details and physical efforts.” Skidaway staffers Jay Fripp and Harry Carter also contributed to the project.

Data from the radar system can be seen at the Skidaway Institute Web site.

Raising docks to new heights

February 1, 2010

Our campus “mock docks” grew a little taller today.

The purpose behind this project is to measure the effects different dock designs have on the underlying salt marsh. Earlier research indicated that the shadow cast by docks have a negative effect on the plant growth in the marsh surface in the dock’s “footprint.” Recently, dock designers have developed new designs and materials to help alleviate this problem. The questions are – do they work and how well?

As a part of this project, a Skidaway Institute team headed by professor Clark Alexander built a four  “mock docks” on our campus.

Three of the mock docks

One is constructed with traditional material and in a traditional design. The remaining three are of different design and materials. The docks are equipped with light meters to measure the light difference between the top of the dock and the footprint below. Over the past year or so, they have been adjusted to various orientations to capture the sun and shadow at different points of the compass and throughout the year. The next step is to obtain data for docks at varying heights.

Harry raises the platform with the fork lift as Lee Ann watches.

This afternoon research assistant Lee Ann DeLeo and fork-lift driver Harry Carter raised the existing dock models roughly two feet.

Lee Ann removes an old, shorter leg.

They lifted the deck structure off their bottom legs and replaced the legs with slightly longer ones.

Lee Ann checks the fit as the platform structure is lowered onto the new leg.