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


UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

  • Supported by a mixture of funding from the state and federal government, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s budget is slightly over four million dollars.
  • The State of Georgia provides funding for Marine Extension and maintains facilities in Brunswick, Savannah and Athens.
  • Georgia Sea Grant receives approximately $1.3 million from NOAA.  Approximately 40% of these funds support research projects at institutions around the state.
  • Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant generates roughly $112 million in economic impact on the state economy annually.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant provides research, education, training and science-based outreach to assist Georgia in solving problems and realizing opportunities for its coastal and marine environments. By advancing research, education and training, and outreach, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant promotes the economic, cultural and environmental health of Georgia’s coast and prepares citizens to become good stewards of coastal ecosystems and watershed resources.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is a unit of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, supporting Georgia’s short- and long-term prosperity.

UGA Marine Extension serves a diverse coastal constituency and educates citizens about Georgia’s marine resources and the importance of being good environmental stewards. It provides assistance to marine industries by finding ways to increase their efficiency and effectiveness and encourages the development of new, environmentally sustainable industries.

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program is part of a national network of 34 Sea Grant programs located in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, Lake Champlain, and Guam. These programs serve as a core of a dynamic university-based network of over 300 institutions involving more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students and outreach experts.

The network engages with academia and a wide variety of partners to address issues related to the coasts, oceans and marine resources. Sea Grant is a program of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the U.S.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Mission:

To support research, education and training, and outreach activities that promote the environmental and economic health in coastal Georgia by helping improve public resource policy, encouraging far-sighted economic and fisheries decisions, anticipating vulnerabilities to change and preparing citizens to be wise stewards of the coastal environment.

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

Georgia’s coastal zone is rapidly growing in population, development and industry. Between 2000 and 2030, state projections anticipate a coastal population rise of 50 percent. The coastal zone is the second fastest growing region in Georgia, just behind metropolitan Atlanta.

However, even with this potential growth, most of the state’s population lives far removed from coastal issues. UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant works to engage and inform the entire state’s citizenry through efforts to:

  • Support sustainable economic and population growth on the coast
  • Provide tools to guide wise and efficient use of coastal resources
  • Build a strong partnership between metro Atlanta and Georgia’s coast
  • Bolster a robust state seafood industry
  • Assist developers in adopting sustainable building practices

As inland and coastal communities compete for natural resources and upland growth threatens the health of coastal marshes and estuaries, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant supports a balanced approach toward land use, economic development and ecosystem health.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Core Values 

  • Promote scientific excellence and knowledge-sharing: Recognizing the impacts of our programs can only be achieved through the foundation of scientific research and full utilization of research results by the communities that we serve. Service to our stakeholders is at the heart our mission.
  • Be objective and transparent: We uphold the principles of objectivity and transparency by maintaining the highest quality and integrity of our research, providing impartial and timely service through education and outreach.
  • Embrace and drive change: To anticipate future challenges and seize opportunities, we strive to be nimble, relevant, and engaged in a world of constant change.
  • Build new and strengthen existing partnerships: We address challenges and seize opportunities by forming effective and strong partnerships with diverse stakeholders. We build and expand our partnerships to engage stakeholders on local, regional, and national scales.
  • Champion diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI): We strive to achieve our mission by engaging individuals from a broad diversity of backgrounds, who bring a range of perspectives, values, and tools to bear on Georgia’s major environmental and socio-economic problems.

History of UGA Marine Extension

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.

History of Georgia Sea Grant

In 1971, under the leadership of Edward Chin, UGA received its “Coherent Area Program” status to conduct Sea Grant activities in the area of salt marsh ecology. Following the development of marine advisory service and non-traditional educational programs by Marine Extension, UGA earned the title of “Sea Grant Institution” in 1974. 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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