Posts Tagged ‘skidaway’

Skidaway professor featured in Atlanta newspaper story

August 13, 2015

Skidaway Institute professor Clark Alexander figured prominently in an in-depth story on sea level rise in last Sunday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution. Nice piece.


Nice article on black gill research

October 24, 2014

We had a nice article on the front page of the Savannah Morning News this week. The article dealt with our recent black gill research cruise.

Fresh fish and dirty laundry

November 19, 2013

Skidawawy Institute Clifton Buck continues is account of his lengthy cruise across the South Pacific from Ecuador to Tahiti.

Ahoy There!

Current Position: S 15.75’ W 105.08’

It’s another Sunday at sea and we are transiting between Stations 15 and 16. Many in the science party use these 10-12 hour lulls in the action to catch up on sleep, update data logs, or continue their daily slog through the seemingly endless volume of samples. But for me, Sunday is laundry day (not all that different from at home in Savannah). Our ship has a laundry room, though no laundry service, and each compartment of cabins is assigned a particular day of the week for tending to dirty linens. The laundry is located deep within the bowels of the ship along with the food stores. Land lubbers may go queasy at the thought of folding their skivvies beneath the waterline but I find the sound of the waves breaking against the hull to be soothing to hear while I search for that missing sock.

Earlier today, we were treated to a lunch of freshly caught Mahi.

Ship’s oiler Orlando cleaning our catch.

Ship’s oiler Orlando cleaning our catch.

   Our usual operations do not allow for fishing but there are times the ship steams slowly enough to allow for trolling. Several members of the crew are avid anglers and are quick to deploy hand lines from the stern. It is a great treat for us when a fish is landed and one can imagine the joy preindustrial mariners must have felt at the prospect of fresh fish.

The internet has been filled with erroneous reports concerning the ongoing leak of radionuclides from the earthquake damaged Fukushima power plant. These reports suggest that contaminated waters and debris are spreading across the Pacific Ocean posing a threat to human health in the Americas. We are all exposed to naturally occurring radiation throughout our daily lives and seawater is chock full of naturally occurring radionuclides. While the area immediately surrounding the plant is grossly contaminated and radionuclides continue to seep from the site, there is no risk to us or anyone in North or South America. The radionuclides released in Japan are quickly diluted in the Pacific Ocean and are constantly disappearing due to radioactive decay. The Fukushima disaster has caused in an increase in radioactivity of about 25% above this natural background level in the near shore (~40km). At 600km from shore, the increase is only 2% above natural levels. In fact, there are several scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) on board who were on the scene in Japan shortly after the earthquake struck. The risk of radiation exposure at their study site, just a few miles from the plant, was so low that no personal protective equipment was required whatsoever. Please visit WHOI’s Café Thorium website  for more information. So you can dig in to all of the sustainably caught seafood you like without fear of glowing in the dark!

Exit Challenge: Try to identify the seabirds in these photos. Post your answers in the comments.

Can you identify this seabird?

Can you identify this seabird?

What kind of bird am I?

What kind of bird am I?

More cruisin’ across the South Pacific

November 11, 2013

Skidaway Institute scientist Clifton Buck is on a lengthy research cruise in the South Pacific and is blogging about his experience.

Ahoy There!

Current Position: S 12 0.1067’ W 93 27.6890’

We are now a quarter of the way through our trip and the sun has finally begun to shine. The first two weeks were rather gloomy and downright chilly. While we are in the tropics, and you might expect hot and humid temperatures, the temperature near the South American coast is moderated by the cold water being brought to the surface by the upwelling action I described in a previous post. This is the same process that brings cold water to the California coast. Our cruise track has now brought us to the transition zone between the cold, coastal waters and the warmer waters of the subtropical gyre. Sea surface temperatures will now rise from about 17oC to a bath-like 28oC.gt13-cruisetrack 11082013

Days at sea are busy! With 32 scientists on board there is always someone working somewhere, 24 hours a day. And with an operating cost of $30,000 per day there can be no idle time for the ship. When we arrive on station work must begin whether it is 3:00AM or 3:00PM. That goes for Saturdays and Sundays as well; there are no weekends at sea. Some groups are fortunate to have enough personnel on board that they are able to split their work into 12 hour watches. However, most groups require everyone to be involved when conducting operations. And some groups are only one person, like me, and must be available at all times. This can lead to some very long days and nights.

With that said, a typical day starts at 7:00AM. Breakfast is served each day from 7:15 to 8:00. The cook staff, of which there are three, does an excellent job of providing a variety of foods at each meal and breakfast is no exception. Today there were huevos rancheros, blueberry pancakes, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, and pineapple coffeecake. And there are always self-service items like dry cereal, yogurt, and toast available. Most importantly, there are two coffee pots that must be full. On a ship, you live by the edict “You kill the Joe, you fill the Joe!”

Lunch and dinner are at 11:30 and 17:00. Both of these meals feature a salad bar which might be the best indicator for the length of time the ship has been at sea; let’s call it the vegetable index factor (VIF). At the start of the trip we are blessed with fresh veggies including green, leafy lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, spinach, mushrooms, and all the other produce you can imagine. As time goes by these items slowly disappear to be replaced by more hardy varieties. There are no markets in the middle of the Pacific and no resupply stops for us! In the last week we have seen the lettuce turn to Romaine, the spinach and avocados vanish, and the tomatoes change from plump cherries to larger (and less tasty) slicing types. Slowly but surely we will move from fresh fruits and vegetables to all canned and preserved. Yesterday we had the first appearance of the very sad canned mushroom. I’m not sure as to what the intended use of canned mushrooms could possibly be but they are without question a poor salad topping. Eventually we will be left with cabbage and all canned vegetables but that is in the future and like with any sad, inevitable reality I prefer not to dwell on it. In any case, both lunch and dinner are finished with dessert. Whether ice cream, cake, cookies, or pie there are always treats to challenge the waistline.

 We are now coming up on our eleventh station and will occupy this point for the next three days. We won’t have Internet because our antenna will not be able to “see” the satellite that keeps us connected to the outside world. It can be refreshing to go unplugged from all the noise on the web but I know that it does not just disappear. My Inbox will be flooded when we reconnect on Wednesday.

Thanks for reading!

Blogging on a Pacific Ocean cruise

October 29, 2013

Skidaway Institute scientist Clifton Buck has just begun a 57-day research cruise that will take him from Ecuador to Tahiti. He will be updating this blog with accounts of his trip.

Ahoy There!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am will be spending the next two months aboard the University of Washington’s scientific Research Vessel Thomas Thompson  My shipmates and I are travelling from Ecuador to Tahiti as part of an international effort called GEOTRACES to better characterize the sources, sinks, and biogeochemical cycles of trace elements and isotopes (TEIs) in the oceans of the world. Trace elements are present in seawater at concentrations that are often far less than a part per billion but often play important roles in the ocean as nutrients, contaminants, and process tracers. The research implications will help us understand areas of study including climate change, the carbon cycle, ocean ecosystems, and environmental contamination. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our route will take us through three distinct regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean, each with their own distinct chemical characteristics. We begin the highly productive waters off the coast of Peru. This region is known as one of the finest fisheries in the world due ocean currents that bring nutrient rich waters to the surface by a process called upwelling. These nutrients support a great deal of biological production in depths that light can reach otherwise known as the photic zone. However, when the microscopic plants and animals living in the photic zone die they sink towards the bottom. As they sink, their organic matter is remineralized by respiration which uses the dissolved oxygen in the surrounding waters. The result is an area within the interior of the ocean that is very low in oxygen called the oxygen minimum zone or OMZ. Similar areas can be found off the coasts of Oregon and Louisiana in the United States. The low oxygen concentrations not only impact the plants and animals in the area but also affect the cycling of the trace elements as well.

Next we will study the hydrothermal zone at the East Pacific Rise. The rise is an area of active volcanism on the sea floor and is a source for both particulate and dissolved metals to the interior of the ocean. At a hydrothermal zone, water within the ocean bottom can come into contact with magma and become incredibly hot. In addition to heat, the magma releases trace elements into the water. This super-heated water is then released through fissures in the crust creating features like “black smokers” which creates a plume of seawater enriched in TEIs. The magnitude of these sources is poorly understood and it is hoped that work on this project will help provide insights into their importance. We also hope to characterize the processes responsible for supply and removal of TEIs with the plume.

Finally, we will traverse the northern edge of the central South Pacific gyre. A central gyre is a system of currents which flow in a circular pattern over thousands of miles. The gyre interior is one of the most nutrient poor (oligotrophic) regions in all of the world’s oceans. In fact, this area contains the bluest water in the world because there is so little living in it.

My role on this project is to collect atmospheric samples. The atmosphere is an important source for trace elements to the surface ocean particularly in areas that are distant from the continental shelf and rivers. In future posts, I will describe the processes and equipment that we use to do this work. I will also try to give a sense of what life is like on a ship at sea for 57 days. Please check back often and leave questions for me in the comments section. I will do my best to answer them.

Thanks for reading!

Skidaway Institute scientists study long-term effects of Gulf oil spill

October 1, 2013

As the Gulf Coast continues to recover from the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists from the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography are continuing to look into the long-term effects of the spill on coastal marine life. A team led by Skidaway Institute professor Richard Lee recently completed preliminary work into the effect dispersed and emulsified oil has on blue crabs and shrimp. The project includes vital information from fishermen and crabbers in the Gulf.

Lee and his research associate, Karrie Bulski, are exposing blue crabs and grass shrimp to emulsified oil in sediment and then determining how this oil affects molting, or periodic shedding that allows shrimp and crabs to grow. To test this, emulsified oil is added onto sediment inside the tanks that house the crabs. The crabs are also fed squid that has been contaminated by the emulsified oil. Preliminary research results show egg and embryo production was reduced in female grass shrimp exposed to food and sediment infused with emulsified oil.

 Working with Anna Walker, a pathologist at the Mercer University School of Medicine, they found that blue crabs exposed to emulsified oil showed changes in their blood cells, especially cells related to the immune system. Lee and his team speculate that the immune systems of those crabs may be compromised, making the crabs more susceptible to infection and disease.

Researchers are also testing effects of oil treated with dispersants. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, millions of gallons of chemical dispersants were sprayed over the surface and subsurface of the Gulf. These chemicals disperse the oil into micro-droplets. In this project, dispersed oil droplets are added to petri dishes containing embryos of crabs and shrimp to test their effects on development.

Preliminary results show grass shrimp embryos exposed to suspensions of dispersed oil affected the hatching and molting of the shrimp embryos. Work on this project by Sook Chung at the University of Maryland indicates that molting hormones and molting regulating genes are affected in grass shrimp embryos exposed to dispersed oil.

Lee is working with scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi to provide the outreach portion of the project, which includes working with crabbers, fishermen and others in the Gulf ecosystem to understand the long-term effects of the spill and discover ways to manage them.

Richard Lee works with the tanks containing crabs and grass shrimp in his laboratory at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

Richard Lee works with the tanks containing crabs and grass shrimp in his laboratory at Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

“In the outreach part of the project, scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi are going to some of the affected communities and recruiting people to participate in a series of one-day workshops,” said Lee. “At these workshops, scientists are explaining the effects of the oil on crabs and shrimp.”

So far, workshops have been held in Ocean Springs, Miss. and included charter boat captains, crab and shrimp fishermen, eco-tourism operators, and even teachers and artists from Biloxi, Miss. and Bayou La Batre, Ala.

“It was very interesting,” said Lee. “From the scientific and economic standpoints, there are many aspects as to how oil is affecting these communities.”

According to Lee, one issue facing the Gulf coast communities is rumors about seafood safety are often much worse than reality. In Louisiana and parts of Mississippi, where a lot of the oil came ashore, there is a perception that people should not eat the seafood there. But, there is very little evidence of any contamination in commercial shellfish.

Lee describes the people who attended the workshops as passionate, involved and worried about their communities. “They are worried that the oil will change things, but most agree that the ecology was not destroyed and it’s not the end of a way of living,” he said. “It’s my opinion that the Gulf will recover.”

Lee and his team plan to complete their project and publish their results early next year.  

 The study is funded through a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The team includes Chung from the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the University of Maryland, Harriet Perry and Christopher Snyder from the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, and Walker, at the Mercer University School of Medicine.


Skidaway Institute professor nominated for award

September 19, 2013

Marc Frischer

Marc Frischer

A paper published by University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Marc Frischer has been nominated for the James LaBounty Award as the best paper published during the past year in the scientific journal, Lake and Reservoir Management. Published by the North American Lake Management Society, the journal features peer-reviewed scientific papers targeting a largely technical audience of academics and lake managers. 

 The article, “Accuracy and reliability of Dreissena spp. larvae detection by cross-polarized light microscopy, imaging flow cytometry, and polymerase chain reaction assays” described an experiment to assess the reliability of three different methods for detecting zebra and quagga mussel larvae.

 Native to the lakes of southern Russia, zebra and quagga mussels have become a troublesome invasive species in North America. They disrupt ecosystems, and damage harbors and waterways, ships and boats, and water treatment and power plants. The goal of the study was to provide quantitative data useful for managers struggling to contain the current spread of these species in the western U.S.

 The manuscript was co-authored by Kevin Kelly from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Environmental Applications and Research Group, and Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer from the Darrin Fresh Water Institute and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The study was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servce.

An abstract of the article is available at

 According to the journal editor, Ken Wagner, the nomination means the editorial board felt that the paper was one of the more important contributions to Lake and Reservoir Management this past year.

 The final award will be presented at the annual symposium of the North American Lake Management Society in San Diego in October.

 For more information on the ongoing invasion and management efforts, see

Barents Sea Cruise 5-1-13

May 1, 2013

Skidaway Institute scientists Marc Frischer and Jens Nejstgaard are participating in a research cruise in the Barents Sea, north of Norway. This is an account of the experience from Marc.

First day of the cruise.  Everyone is excited and anxious.  We were all on board the ship by 9:00am and busy scurrying around making final preparations, securing instruments & lab gear and setting up the various work stations.  The crew was exceedingly helpful and efficient.

The Marine Tech was delayed in Oslo (coming by plane) so we couldn’t leave until he arrived.  He made it around noon and we were underway at about 12:45pm.  We headed north through the fjords.  The scenery was fantastic.  Calm water, snow and fog covered mountains, sun and clouds.  Not too much wildlife present, some seabirds.  The captain (Tom Ole) predicted that we’d see a lot of life near the ice edge, perhaps even whales.  Next week they have a whale observing cruise scheduled in the same area that we are heading to now.

Heading out to sea

Heading out to sea

After discussions with Aud Larsen and Jens Nejstgaaard we decided that due to our late departure we would head to immediately to the polar front and ice edge to take full advantage of the night to steam.  Of course night doesn’t really feel like night since it only gets dim for a few hours this far north this time of year, but for some reason we still get tired.  We also decided to stop a various points along our course to characterize the water and plankton communities.  We are occupying a standard transect used by IMR (Norwegian Institute of Marine Research) called Fugløya – Bjørnøya and are lucky that the previous week (25 – 29 April 2013) this line had been run giving us a pretty good idea of what we’ll find this week.  The data from the previous week indicated that water conditions are not unusual and that we could expect to reach the polar front approximately 225 NM north of our first sea station after leaving the fjords.

Our goal is to locate water masses containing the algae Phaeocystis pouchetti in various stages of its bloom cycle so that we can study how it is eaten (or not) by other organisms and thereby contributes to the food web.  It’s a very interesting and mysterious algae because of its importance as a major blooming algae in high latitude waters and because whether it is eaten seems to be highly variable.  We suspect that at times it is readily eaten and at others it is not and that this is mainly due to its ability to dramatically alter its size, chemically defend itself from predation and its resistance to ubiquitous viruses.  Despite the fact that this algae is slimy and smelly, all of us who study it love it because it’s so interesting.  We call the  project “Phaeo Enigma” because there is so much we don’t understand about this organism.

We stopped around 3:30 pm (13:30 GMT) in the fjord to take a quick sample.  The water column profile was classic textbook fjord with a chla maximum at about 23 meters.  The water contained big colonies of the algae we are studying (Phaeocystis pouchetti), but we are sticking with our plan to head north.

Continuing north we finally made it to our first sea station at 70 30 N 20 00 E.  Again, it was a quick stop to look at the water.  As we expected we found classic Norwegian Coastal Current water.  Phaeocystis was present here too, though at lower concentrations that we found in the fjords.  After a quick 30 min stop we were back on our way.

Since there wasn’t much to do most for the remainder of the evening, most of us thought it was prudent to turn in early for the evening.  Soon enough we will all be very busy!

Gator in the pool

August 1, 2012

Skidaway Institute had an unexpected visitor this morning.

This guy showed up in the old Roebling swimming pool. We’re not sure how he got there. He probably fell in while out looking for a midnight snack. The walls are around seven feet high, and there’s only a couple of inches of water in the bottom, so he is stuck. We are calling someone to “rescue” him. No one around here want’s to volunteer. Smart.

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.