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Newest cohort of marine education fellows embark on year-long teaching journey

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has welcomed four recent college graduates to serve as the 2022-2023 marine education fellows based at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

As part of the fellowship, they will gain experience in environmental education, aquarium husbandry and coastal extension. They will also be able to participate in professional development opportunities and build a network of environmental educators, marine researchers and conservationists working in coastal Georgia.

Throughout the year, the fellows will teach field, lab and lecture classes that are offered to visiting school groups. They will also assist with animal husbandry at the UGA Aquarium and work closely with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s extension specialists to incorporate information about their projects into educational programming.

Meet the 2022-2023 fellows:

Photo of Vanessa Navarro, a young woman with dark brown hair wearing a blue t-shirt sitting in front of water and spartina grassVanessa Navarro is from Fort Worth, Texas. She completed her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where she studied environmental science with a concentration in environmental health and monitoring. Navarro has experience in research and environmental education, including leading public programs while working at Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve in Corpus Christi. She will spend her fellowship year providing educational programs to people of all ages. She is most looking forward to learning all about the Georgia coast through outdoor adventures while sharing her knowledge with others.

 

Photo of Camryn Arnstein, a young woman with blonde hair wearing a blue t-shirt sitting in front of water and spartina grassCamryn Arnstein is from Huntingtown, Maryland. She graduated with bachelor’s degrees in marine science and environmental studies from the University of South Carolina. Arnstein served as a NOAA Hollings intern conducting species monitoring at Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve in Huron, Ohio. She also worked as a camp instructor at UNC-Wilmington’s MarineQuest summer camps. Arnstein will be advancing her aquatic husbandry skills while working in the aquarium. She is hoping to gain new teaching experiences and connect with experts in the coastal ecology field.

 

Photo of Micayla Cochran, a young woman with reddish brown hair wearing a blue t-shirt sitting in front of water and spartina grassMicayla Cochran is from Atlanta, Georgia. She went to school at Vanderbilt University, double majoring in ecology, evolution, and organismal biology as well as Spanish. For the last two summers, Cochran has been a volunteer with the Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Program at Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida, where she helped monitor sea turtle nests. Cochran’s fellowship will focus primarily on teaching classes at the aquarium and providing outreach programs to local schools. She looks forward to improving her teaching skills and learning how to communicate with diverse audiences about science.

 

Photo of Annie Laura Sculz, a young woman with dark blonde hair wearing a blue t-shirt sitting in front of water and spartina grass

Annie Laura Schulz is from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has a bachelor’s degree in sustainability science from Furman University. Schulz worked at Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas studying sea turtles, mangroves, and sharks in field and lab settings. As a marine education fellow, she will conduct community outreach and work closely with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s extension specialists on different projects. Schulz is excited to learn about Georgia’s coast and marine life while being surrounded by others who are passionate about inspiring appreciation of the natural world through environmental education.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant welcomes new Marine Education Fellows

Four recent college graduates have been selected for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s year-long Marine Education Fellowship based at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

As part of the fellowship, they will gain experience in environmental education, aquarium husbandry and coastal extension. They will also be able to participate in professional development opportunities and build a network of environmental educators, marine researchers and conservationists working in coastal Georgia.

Throughout the year, the fellows will teach field, lab and lecture classes that are offered to visiting school groups. They will also assist with animal husbandry at the UGA Aquarium and work closely with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s extension specialists to incorporate information about their projects into educational programming.

The 2021-2022 fellows are:

Maura Glovins is from Corning, New York. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in marine science and a minor in education. While in college, Glovins served as the education outreach coordinator for the marine science club and worked as an educator for Harbison State Forest where she applied her teaching skills to a forestry setting. She is looking forward to finding her niche in marine education and turning it into a career.

 

 

Ashley Del Core is from Vacaville, California. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and received a bachelor’s degree in marine sciences. Del Core’s passion for marine science education and outreach developed through volunteering as an aquarium educator and aquarist, assisting with graduate student projects and serving as a teacher’s assistant for an ichthyology course. Del Core is excited to work with other passionate marine science professionals and introduce visitors to Georgia’s aquatic animals.

 

Chante Lively is from Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and minors in global engagement and Spanish. Prior to starting her fellowship, she worked as an environmental educator at the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance. She hopes to get back to her roots in marine science and use new tools and skills obtained through the fellowship to help determine her next career steps.

 

 

Diane Klement is from Augusta, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in ecology and a minor in studio art. Klement has worked as an elementary and nature kindergarten substitute teacher, helping students discover the wonder and joy that comes from learning about the natural world. She is looking forward to learning strategies to teach more effectively about coastal ecology and to help others better appreciate Georgia’s coastal ecosystems.

Neptune the sea turtle educates thousands before returning to her natural habitat

It took three years for Neptune to reach the ocean from her nest, but her goodbye was short and sweet.

Transported by boat to Wassaw Island, the loggerhead sea turtle was carried to the beach by her caretakers from UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. She crawled a short distance to the water before disappearing into the surf.

“You’ve watched them grow from where they fit in the palm of your hand … to where you can barely carry them out of the aquarium,” said Lisa Kovalanchik, a curator at the UGA Aquarium on Skidaway Island, who helped with Neptune’s release.

Neptune hatched on Ossabaw Island in August 2018. She was discovered as a straggler in the nest by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR), which coordinates sea turtle monitoring on all of Georgia’s barrier islands.

The UGA Aquarium is permitted by GA DNR to house up to two sea turtles at a time. For two-three years, the stragglers live at the aquarium, growing stronger and bigger, learning to forage for food by hunting and eating the blue crabs and mussels the aquarium staff put in their tanks.

UGA Marine Extension employees Devon Dumont and Lisa Kovalanchik pose with Neptune before she is released

Lisa Kovalanchik (left) and Devin Dumont (right) pose with Neptune before her release.

During Neptune’s time at the aquarium, she was featured in on-site and virtual programming that focused on animal enrichment and the impacts of marine debris on wildlife. She also helped advance research on sea turtles by serving as the subject of a project by scientists at Georgia Southern University that focused on identifying ways to improve environmental enrichment methods for loggerheads in captivity.

“Each experience with a loggerhead is unique,” said Devin Dumont, also a curator at the UGA Aquarium, part of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “They all have their own backstory or behavioral characteristics that we get to share with visitors, which creates a connection, and, hopefully, makes people more likely to care about these animals and do their part to help protect them.”

Usually, you can’t tell the gender of a hatchling.

“We knew Neptune was a female based on temperature gauges placed in the nest as part of research conducted by DNR,” Dumont said. The temperature of sea turtle eggs during incubation determines whether they are male or female. Higher temperatures result in females while cooler temperatures result in males.

“We also know that Neptune’s mother has nested before on Ossabaw Island and Blackbeard Island thanks to DNA samples taken by DNR,” said Dumont, who has worked at the UGA Aquarium for 13 years. During that time, he’s cared for and released six loggerhead turtles who have served as ambassador education animals, reaching thousands of people during their time at the facility.

On the day of Neptune’s release, Joe Pfaller, research director for the Caretta Research Project, attached number coded tags and a passive integrated transmitter to the turtle.
“By giving Neptune individualized tags we will be able to identify her if she is encountered later in life, maybe even at a nesting beach,” Pfaller said. “Because we know when and where the tags were applied, if she is ever seen again, we will know the number of years she has survived and what areas she has occupied.”

Dumont and Kovalanchik carry Neptune to the beach on Wassaw Island.

All sea turtle tag deployments are catalogued in a central database managed by the University of Florida, Pfaller said. All tags also have an address on the back, which means that if Neptune is seen again there will be a coordinated effort to inform groups like the Caretta Research Project of her sighting, helping researchers and resource managers learn about and better protect the species.

While they will miss Neptune, the aquarium staff already have the next straggler to be placed on display once it’s large enough.

Scuttle, a one-year-old straggler hatchling from Jekyll Island, is poised to be the next loggerhead ambassador, continuing the cycle of inspiring visitors to practice responsible stewardship of Georgia’s coastal resources.

 

 

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348, ext. 107
Contact: Devin Dumont, dumont@uga.edu, 912-598-2337 or Lisa Kovalanchik, lisao@uga.edu, 912-598-2356

After 50 years of on-site experiential education programs, the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium goes virtual

On the deck of the Sea Dawg, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s 43-foot research vessel, Marine Educator Dodie Sanders sets up her computer, webcam and teaching props, which include live fish, corals and a stingray.

She introduces herself through her webcam and asks her first question, “What do we call water that’s in between fresh and salty?”

“Brackish!” responds a chorus of students from the speakers of her computer.

A few hundred miles away in Rome, Georgia, 25 fifth graders at the Darlington School are watching Sanders’ program on their iPads. Typically, this conversation would happen aboard the Sea Dawg while trawling for live specimens in Wassaw Sound. For the next two days, educators at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium are bringing the on-site, outdoor experiences to the classroom for the first time by way of virtual school trips.

Sanders describes the importance of Georgia’s brackish water estuaries where so many different species, like red drum, shrimp and blue crabs spend all or part of their lives. She talks about the different animals in her touch tank, explaining the physical and biological characteristics that are unique to each animal.

Sanders uses a computer and webcam to virtually teach students.

The educational trawl is just one of 16 different virtual classes now available to K-12 classrooms across the state. Available classes include marine debris, squid dissection, maritime forest hikes and more.

“Shifting from on-site to virtual programs has made us approach everything we do from a very different perspective with the goal of creating meaningful and impactful education programs,” says Sanders, who, along with her marine educator colleagues, spent several months modifying on-site programs for a virtual setting.

“How do you virtually capture searching for invertebrates living on the underside of a floating dock, the smell of salt marsh mud, hiking across an undeveloped barrier island, or touching cool organisms collected in a trawl net?” Sanders asks. “We’re incorporating the same teaching methods, the same tricks of the trade but perhaps on a more complicated and elevated level.”

The education team developed program templates, wrote teaching outlines, created new pre- and post-activities and tested new audio-visual equipment to prepare for the virtual school programs.

They keep the students engaged by showing pre-recorded videos of local environments and up-close live shots of animals that are native to the coast.

They also frequently pause instruction for question and answer sessions and encourage opportunities for students to share their own stories.

“Do you ever not want to go trawling and just sit on the boat instead?” asks one student during the virtual trawl.

“What happens if you catch a shark?” asks another.

Julie Fine, a fifth-grade teacher at Darlington School, says students at Darlington have been visiting the education facility on Skidaway Island for 10 years.

“We were really concerned that our kids would be missing out on a lot of the things that make fifth grade special. So much has already changed in their world,” says Fine. “When we reached out to see what you guys might be able to offer, we were really excited to hear about the virtual experience.”

Fine and fellow fifth grade teacher Bebe Cline chose the classes they would normally have done on-site, like the squid dissection and dolphin excursion, but they also picked new classes, like the trawling trip and coastal reptiles, which ended up being big hits with their students.

Through virtual programming, students can experience live animals such as this alligator held by Marine Educator Katie Higgins.

“At one point, one of the fish jumped out of the little tray and they loved that. They loved seeing them up close,” Fine says.

Their goal was to make the two days as full and as exciting as possible, without actually being at the coast, Fine says. They also chose topics that aligned with their studies of classification and coastal Georgia as part of the fifth-grade curriculum.

“Our students were definitely focused and learning and really getting the material, much the same that they do while they are actually there,” Fine says.

This positive feedback from Darlington is encouraging for educators at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium, who plan to further enhance virtual school programming and reach more students in the coming year.

In the past, transportation, funding and logistics have often made field trips a challenge for schools who want to come to the Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

With the virtual programs up-and-running, teachers can bring the coast to their students with the click of a mouse and at a fraction of the cost.

“Our new world of teaching virtually affords the opportunity to reach and serve more diverse communities, especially those who may not be able to take part in our on-site programs,” says Sanders. “Virtual programs make us more accessible.”

Teachers can learn about and register for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s virtual school programs at https://gacoast.uga.edu/virtual-school-programs/

UGA naturalist retires but legacy will continue on through endowed fellowship

For 30 years, John “Crawfish” Crawford has regaled campers and school children on field trips to the UGA Aquarium, guiding them on nature walks through the salt marsh and introducing them to the many creatures that call coastal Georgia home.

His tenure officially ended Dec. 1, when Crawford retired from the University of Georgia. But his legacy will continue through an endowed educator position at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, funded by a generous estate gift made by longtime supporters.

The John “Crawfish” Crawford Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellowship will generate incentive for a leading naturalist to fill a faculty educator role at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium and provide the resources to support traditional naturalist practices that maintain an emphasis on exploration, curiosity, field interpretation and personal connection to the world.

A new film by Motion House Media tells the story of Crawford’s impact through interviews with individuals who have been inspired by the larger than life conservationist over the years. Watch it here. 

The endowed funds will also enhance the faculty fellow’s ability to make a difference in the lives of students and help fulfill the university’s public service and outreach mission—as Crawford has.

“Someone who gets the endowed fellowship will need to know who John is, what he cared about, and what he’s like,” says Ruth McMullin, who, with her husband Tom, made the gift. “We want to make sure the way (John) teaches, his enthusiasm, and his methodology remain when he’s no longer here.”

McMullin, who lives on Skidaway Island, has been volunteering at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium for 23 years. She is inspired by Crawford’s curiosity, enthusiasm and ability to mold minds and develop stewards of Georgia’s coastal environments.

“He’s just so special,” McMullin said. “I was really happy to volunteer because I knew I would get to spend more time learning from him.”

“I have learned an awful lot from watching how he interacts with children and adults and how he shares his excitement with other people. You can’t be somebody you admire, but you can copy them.”

Crawford grew up in Savannah, where he explored the coast’s mud flats and maritime forests, discovering corn snakes, fiddler crabs and other animals that often found their way into his house. At age 15, he had dozens of pet snakes, all of which he kept in his room.

He cultivated his knowledge of coastal resources at Armstrong State College and Florida Keys Community College in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After his time in Florida, he made his way back to the Georgia coast where he continued to make his mark on the conservation and environmental education community.

He joined UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in 1990, where as a marine educator he has spent 30 years sharing his knowledge with K-12 students, teachers, education fellows, coastal residents and conservation professionals.

“He has taught hundreds of professional educators, tens of thousands of students, and changed the landscape of environmental and marine education along the coast,” says Anne Lindsay, associate director of marine education at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “He knows boats, plants, animals and people and a little about every other natural science or coastal topic you can think of.”

Lindsay, who was mentored by Crawford when she was hired at what was then the UGA Marine Extension Service in the 1990s, explains how he laid the foundation for the education programs that are still offered at the facility today.

“He has helped us expand our reach, establish new collaborations and partnerships, nurture long standing relationships with educators, scientists and citizens,” Lindsay said. “He has cemented the reputation of the Marine Education Center and Aquarium as an institution with a standard of educational quality that we aspire to uphold.”

Learn more about Crawford and the importance of this endowed position in a short film by Motion House Media, a video production company based in Athens, Georgia. The film tells the story of Crawford’s impact through interviews with individuals who have been inspired by the larger than life conservationist over the years.

You can watch the film here:

Gifts in honor of Crawfish can be made at http://gacoast.uga.edu/crawfish

Contact: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348, ext. 107

UGA Aquarium reopens for visits by appointment and launches new virtual events

The UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Aquarium on Skidaway Island is offering pre-scheduled small group visits, so participants can observe and learn about Georgia’s diverse marine life.

Each aquarium appointment lasts one hour and includes a brief touch tank animal introduction and time to explore the aquarium alongside a marine educator who is available to answer questions. Visitors are required to follow appropriate safety guidelines including wearing face masks in the facility, washing hands upon entry and staying socially distanced.

Appointments are available Tuesday through Friday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. On Saturday,  sessions are available at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. The fee is $25 for a group of up to five visitors and $50 for a group of six to 10 visitors. Additional information and registration is available at https://gacoast.uga.edu/visit-us/

In addition to the aquarium by appointment, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant educators are creating a variety of virtual programs for different audiences. These programs cover an array of topics from wild Georgia shrimp, ocean pollution, turtle art and more.

“The current pandemic has impacted how we teach but not the commitment with which we teach,” says Anne Lindsay, associate director of marine education. “We are excited to offer these innovative and responsive virtual programs that focus on marine science and stewardship.”

An afterschool virtual program series, After School at the Aquarium, was created to inspire wonder and curiosity about the Georgia coast through various activities and animals. The activities are designed for children ages 6-12, but all ages are welcome. The program is offered every Thursday at 4 p.m. through November 19. Registration information and event descriptions can be found at gacoast.uga.edu/events

Support for UGA Aquarium includes funding for tools and volunteer labor

New bluebird boxes are on the horizon for the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, adding additional educational resources to help visitors learn more about the importance of native wildlife to coastal ecosystems.

New tools include clippers, hammers and rakes for outdoor projects.

New tools include clippers, hammers and rakes for outdoor projects.

Contributions from Friends of the UGA Aquarium, a nonprofit organization that supports UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, are being used to buy new rakes, clippers, hammers, gloves and other tools that volunteers can use to maintain the Jay Wolf Nature Trail and add educational attractions that will enhance the aquarium experience.

“This purchase affords our volunteers appropriate tools and storage of these tools to do regular trail surveys and maintenance, pruning, clearing of debris and other small but necessary maintenance at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium,” says Katie Higgins, educator and volunteer coordinator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. Prior to acquiring the tools, volunteers brought in their own equipment or worked with the personal tools of aquarium staff.

As the volunteer program continues to grow under Higgins’ leadership, so do volunteer opportunities at UGA’s coastal facilities on Skidaway Island. One of the most popular areas on the UGA Aquarium campus includes the bluff overlooking the Skidaway River and the Jay Wolf Nature Trail which runs through a maritime forest. The outdoor spaces inspire visitors to develop a stronger connection and appreciation for the outdoors.

Andy Van Epps, who has been volunteering with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant since 2018, was instrumental in putting together a list of appropriate tools needed to accomplish outdoor maintenance. He also helped assemble the new storage shed used to house the equipment.

“Having the tools provided by the aquarium allows volunteers like me to show up and to be ready to address the basic landscaping needs,” Van Epps says.

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912.598.2348
Contact: Katie Higgins, kt.higgins@uga.edu, 912-598-2387

A school field trip to the coast was cancelled. The students’ support was not

Each Spring, fifth grade students from St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Atlanta visit the Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

And each year, they bring a gift: Proceeds from an annual cookie sale they hold in advance of the trip.

The students’ trip was cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1,000 gift, however, made it as usual since the cookie fundraiser was completed before the school transitioned to online learning.

“The students did an incredible job and enclosed with this letter is the check that we are donating to help you continue to do the great work you do for the coast of Georgia,” wrote Mary E. McPherson, principal of the elementary school at St. Martin’s. “This is our way to continue to support you and to share our love with all of you who have been and continue to be an important part of our lives.”

Since 2011, students at the Atlanta school have donated nearly $10,000 to UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant for the Marine Education Center and Aquarium. Over the years, the money has been used to purchase a variety of items, including two life rafts, boat fenders, a hot water heater, a refrigerator, a ship’s horn, a spot light, and most recently, a hydrophone, which is an underwater listening device that can be used for dolphin observations, and estuarine and dock studies.

“St. Martin’s gift in support of learning science out on the water not only impacts their students but also the coastal experiences of many others,” said Anne Lindsay, associate director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We are inspired by the St. Martin’s students’ commitment to paying those opportunities forward. It is a real joy to teach such curious and engaged students each spring and we a grateful for their continued support.”

The students raise the money each year at a bake sale, part of St. Martin’s annual Cookie Company project, in which fifth-graders work in small teams to form cookie companies. They learn about advertising, website development, budgets, and they sharpen their math skills through calculating for large-batch baking. All of this takes place over 10 days, culminating with a school-wide bake sale.

“It lets our students see where their money is going,” McPherson said, “which is an important part of our service-learning development.”

In closing her 2020 letter, McPherson wrote: “You are special to us and even though this year’s fifth graders weren’t able to visit you, we understand the importance of what you do and want to continue the tradition of donating money to UGA Marine Extension.”

Contact: Anne Lindsay, lindsaya@uga.edu, 912-598-2355

Friends of the Aquarium help expand educational programming on the coast

It takes fourth grader Ariona Taylor a few minutes before she is ready to touch the horseshoe crab in the touch tank at the UGA Aquarium. With a few words of encouragement from Marine Education Fellow Rachel Wilson, Ariona takes a deep breath and places her hand on top of its carapace with a huge grin on her face.

Ariona, along with several of her classmates at Andrea B. Williams Elementary school, are visiting the UGA Aquarium for the first time through giving from Friends of the UGA Aquarium.

The charitable support provided scholarships for 100 underserved students in the Savannah-Chatham area to participate in a half day Estuary Exploration program led by marine educators and marine education fellows at the aquarium.

“This funding provides opportunities for students and teachers whose budgets do not allow for science-based field trips and experiential learning away from their school site,” says Anne Lindsay, associate director of marine education at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The program also adds to the learning done in the classroom and increases awareness of Georgia’s coastal environments.”

little kids in the marsh

Andrea B. Williams Elementary school students learn about salt marsh habitats and wildlife.

The Estuary Exploration program includes lab, field, and live animal experiences. During the program, students practice microscope and scientific observation skills while learning more about the natural world around them and their role in protecting coastal resources.

“You could see the ocean and all the animals,” says Ariona in explaining why exploring the salt marsh was her favorite part of the trip.

“Science is cool!” adds classmate Rawshawn Nix.

These hands-on educational experiences allow students to expand their knowledge of coastal habitats and become inspired to steward the resources of the natural environment in the Savannah area.

Alumni turn their appreciation for the coast into an opportunity for a student

You can see the salt marsh from nearly every room in Dorothea and Wink Smith’s Hilton Head home.

The activity varies with the tide. When the water is high, boats cruise through a channel that connects residents and businesses to the intercoastal waterway and the ocean. At low tide, you can walk out to the edge of the marsh where there might be wading birds, like herons, egrets and wood storks. Geckos perch on the wooden rail of the deck.

Their fascination with the marsh, its occupants and importance to the coastal ecosystem is what drew the Smiths from their home in Ohio to the South Carolina shore once they retired.

And it was that fascination that drew the Smiths to UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island, in neighboring Savannah.

“We live on the marsh, we walk on the beach,” Wink Smith says. “It fit right in.”

Since then, the Smiths committed money from the Patrick Family Foundation (Dorothea Smith’s family’s foundation) in Decatur, Georgia, to fund a summer internship at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on Skidaway Island for a UGA student interested in marine sciences. Their gift will endow one internship a year.

“We have an emphasis on education and community and being a part of anything that helps the environment,” Dorothea Smith says of the foundation.

UGA offers summer internships in public education programming, communications, phytoplankton monitoring, marine careers, aquarium science, facilities operations and shellfish research at the Skidaway Marine Education Center and Aquarium.

“We went over there and were very impressed,” Dorothea Smith says. “We are facing ecological changes, and they’re on top of it.”

“The connection between us living here on the marsh and seeing what they’re doing with education made this scholarship opportunity push all the buttons we were looking for.”

Students supported by the Patrick Family Foundation Fund for the Smith Family Marine Summer Internship will have an opportunity to engage in a broad range of activities at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant facilities on Skidaway Island.

They can help care for the animals on display at the UGA Aquarium, learning to use scientific instruments commonly used in marine science research. They will have the opportunity to research specific behavioral and physical characteristics of several marine species, as well as their habitats and diet. They can shadow marine science researchers in the field and lab, learn about shellfish research, including oyster production at the UGA Hatchery, and perhaps apply their knowledge of marine science concepts in the design and execution of a research project.

“Summer interns in this role will gain a deep understanding of Georgia’s coastal habitats and the functions of coastal ecosystems,” said Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The Smiths recognize that this experience is fundamental to a student interested in becoming a marine scientist or education.”

Dorothea Patrick Smith, from Decatur, Georgia, and Wink Smith, from East Liverpool, Ohio, met as students at UGA. They honeymooned on Hilton Head and made a home for their three girls in Ohio, where Wink Smith worked in the ceramics industry.

They bought their house in Hilton Head five years ago and spend 9-10 months of the year there. They plan to sell their Ohio home and relocate there permanently.

Between living on the marsh and the early morning walks on the beach, they have found ways to get involved in local conservation efforts. During a recent morning walk, Wink Smith found an unmarked turtle nest on the beach and contacted the person on Hilton Head responsible for tracking the turtles during nesting season.

“With education and communication we’re all becoming better stewards of the beach, the ocean and the marsh,” Dorothea Smith says.


Writer
: Kelly Simmons, simmonsk@uga.edu, 706-542-2512

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