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Overview

For over 50 years, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has served the state.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant provides integrated research, education and extension programs that foster the responsible use of Georgia’s coastal resources by individuals, decision-makers and management agencies.

Our program is managed through a federal-state partnership between the University of Georgia (UGA) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program, a national network of 34 Sea Grant programs located in coastal and Great Lakes states and territories.

Mission and Focus Areas

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s mission is to improve the environmental, social and economic health of the Georgia coast through research, education and extension.

Every four years, our program develops a long-range strategic plan that describes our goals and priorities for the coming years. To create this plan, we utilize an inclusive, multi-step process that incorporates fresh input from a diverse constituency.

Read Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s 2024-2027 Strategic Plan here.

The strategic plan outlines goals, strategies, outcomes and corresponding performance measures organized under the program’s four focus areas:

  1. Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development
  2. Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
  3. Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture
  4. Resilient Communities and Economies

Why is UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant vital for Georgia’s coast?

Georgia’s dynamic coastal environment and its communities are changing rapidly. Population increase, shifting demographics, coastal development, loss of working waterfronts, aging infrastructure, pollution, habitat loss, species migration, and sea level rise are just a handful of pressing issues that are currently impacting the health of the Georgia coast.

These issues demand careful consideration and informed decision-making, and, because many of these issues extend beyond state lines, they also demand working across geographic boundaries to establish regional and national partnerships that address issues on a broader scale. Our immediate and long-term challenge is to balance economic vitality, ecological integrity and social responsibility.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s applied research capabilities, local knowledge, and on-the-ground workforce allows us to rapidly identify issues, capitalize on opportunities, and generate practical solutions to real problems. This is achieved through a place-based, transdisciplinary approach that combines research, education, extension, law and policy, and communications efforts to understand risks and uncertainties and provide solutions.

Core Values 

  • Collaboration: Seek partnerships that leverage our strengths, inviting and integrating diverse expertise and perspectives to reach shared goals. Establish a culture of respect and open communication with our partners, stakeholders and staff.
  • Innovation: Support and encourage creative solutions to emerging challenges and adapt to changing needs.
  • Diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and accessibility: Pursue and engage new, diverse perspectives to enhance understanding of coastal challenges and communities. Be responsive and accessible to all stakeholders.
  • Sustainability: Balance the social, economic and environmental resilience of coastal communities by communicating best practices that preserve the health of our natural resources so people can continue benefitting from the services they provide.
  • Accountability: Operate with integrity and transparency while maintaining scientific accuracy, quality and relevance in all program areas, including program management and administration.

History of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

In 1970, the University of Georgia initiated a marine extension service program with startup funds provided through the efforts of J.W. Fanning, then Vice President for Services. The program was established to provide the seafood industry with the type of assistance that the Cooperative Extension Service provided to agriculture. Edward Chin, who also had responsibility for coordinating the university’s marine programs on Sapelo Island and Skidaway Island, led the program.

UGA Marine Extension was formally established as a line item in the State of Georgia’s B-budget under the University in 1971. From its modest startup funds of a mere $20,000, the program has grown exponentially.
The first Marine Extension fisheries specialist, David Harrington, was hired in 1970 and stationed in Brunswick, a center of the seafood industry. From temporary quarters at Brunswick Junior College, Harrington established an unprecedented working relationship between the commercial fishing sector and UGA that continues to this day. Additional staff were hired in Brunswick and Atlanta to address the problems of the seafood packing, processing and marketing industries.

On Skidaway Island, near Savannah, UGA Marine Extension initiated a marine environmental education program that would become nationally known. The organization constructed a marine resources center on Skidaway Island with a supporting dormitory and dining facility after a historic groundbreaking ceremony by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970.
In the early 1980s, a program was initiated to introduce molluscan aquaculture to the state. The Shellfish Research Laboratory on Skidaway Island is the center for these operations with field research carried on along the entire coast of Georgia.

Due to demonstrated excellence in research, education and extension services, the Department of Commerce, under section 207 of the National Sea Grant Program Act, designated UGA as the nation’s 15th “Sea Grant College Program” in 1980.

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