Three Georgia artists will offer new perspectives on the value of the state’s coastal resources

Artists from Savannah and Atlanta will explore Georgia’s coastal culture and natural resources through art as part of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Artists, Writers and Scholars program, which launched in 2021.

The program supports projects designed to produce professional-quality art and literature that increases awareness of Georgia’s marine environments, improves understanding of Georgia’s coastal communities, and helps document history, culture, or heritage of Georgia’s coast.

“The Artist, Writers and Scholars program is inspiring new collaborations between marine researchers and the art community, and it’s allowing our organization to educate and inform audiences about the coast in exciting and creative ways,” says Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

This year’s projects will document coastal change through paintings, capture climate impacts at a microscopic level through layered imagery, and explore the use of ceramics in oyster restoration.

The 2022 grant recipients include:

J. Kip Bradley, who has 20 years of community-based arts experience working with Savannah’s underserved populations. For the past 10 years, Bradley has worked locally and internationally, organizing sketching and painting groups and teaching workshops that encourage people to explore a sense of presentness through painting and drawing. As part of his project, Bradley has selected six coastal locations that he will paint four times over the span of a year, capturing seasonal and artistic changes in the marsh. He will share the process of painting each site on his blog, documenting the history and ecology at each site as well as observations of the people utilizing these publicly accessible locations. The final writings and 24 paintings will be made into hand-bound artist books, and the final paintings will be shared at an exhibit at the Kalmanson Gallery at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro in September 2023.

Bradley paints a landscape en plein air on Skidaway Island.

“The [project] will support efforts to immerse myself knee-deep in a muddy adventure to further my awareness and effort to find unity in the patterns of nature and painting through repetitive investigation, in order to share a story of appreciation for life at the marshes edge,” Bradley said. 


Dana Montlack, who lives in Atlanta, has been interested in photography since the age of 15 when her grandfather taught her how to take and develop X-rays. Her work, which has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the globe, explores different topics through layered imagery of microorganisms, scientific data, charts or maps as a way of showcasing the natural world and the role humans play in it. She will work closely with Joel Kostka, professor and associate chair of research in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech, who studies microbial processes in the salt marsh, to visually explore the impacts of a changing climate on the Georgia coast.

Photographic work by Dana Montlack featuring a heron among the landscape of Sapelo Island.

She will photograph specimens and data collected at his research sites on the coast, while also incorporating maps and historical elements in her image layering process. The resulting photographs will be showcased at an exhibition in the summer of 2023.

“What I find exciting about collaboration across disciplines is the opportunity to learn about another’s perspective. I believe there is power in bringing two or more motivated individuals together from various fields. I hope my work can build a bridge to understanding, and, therefore, a willingness to make changes necessary for our environment to thrive,” Montlack said.


Savannah-based Casey Schachner is an assistant professor of Art in 3D Foundations at the Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at Georgia Southern University. She re-configures commodified objects of the tourism industry to create sculptures that exhibit the relationships that exist between materials and place. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, ranging from temporary site-specific installations to permanent public artworks. Schachner will be collaborating with students and faculty at Georgia Southern University to create art using the algal biomass that is produced from algal turf scrubbers. Algal turf scrubbers create algae mats that remove nutrients from the water and improve water quality. Schachner will use the algal biomass to create ceramic objects, including functional ware and sculptures as well as molds that will be used in oyster reef restoration. The pieces will be showcased in several artistic and educational venues to illustrate the value of Georgia’s coastal ecosystems and resources and engage the public on why these resources should be protected.

These bisque-fired test pieces using a clay/algae medium were made by Schachner’s student assistant, Nina Samuels.

“I believe it is critical as a visual artist exploring local environments to explore ways of visually communicating with the public about the places we inhabit. The ethical priorities of this project are to educate the public and provide them with tools to discuss, make plans, and take action for what the future holds in coastal communities,” Schachner said.

Three recent college graduates selected for Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship

Three college graduates will work with state, federal and non-governmental agencies over the next year as part of the Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship. The fellowship places early career professionals in host offices where they gain hands-on experience in resource management, outreach, planning and policy implementation.

“This is the fourth year of offering this fellowship, and we are already seeing past fellows secure permanent positions with some of our partners,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “It’s great to see a growing network of young professionals who can offer a multidisciplinary approach to solving Georgia’s coastal issues.”

The 2022-2023 fellows will work with the following partners: Georgia Audubon, NOAA Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and Jekyll Island Authority.

Michael Brennan has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia Southern University. As a master’s student at Georgia Southern, he is studying how land management in the Ocala National Forest is impacting snakes, lizards and tortoises as well as the indirect impacts of land management on lizard endoparasites. Brennan’s fellowship with Jekyll Island Authority will involve tracking and monitoring eastern diamondback rattlesnake populations on the island. Brennan is excited to support Eastern diamondback rattlesnake conservation efforts while gaining new skills in education and outreach.

“I will gain valuable experience working with state agencies and collaborating with NGOs in the Southeast on snake conservation. This fellowship is a great opportunity to diversify my research experience and field technician skills,” Brennan said.

Lauren Bowman Clontz has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in conservation leadership from Colorado State University, which prepares leaders to address conservation issues at local, regional and national levels. As part of her fellowship with Georgia Audubon, she will help establish and grow programs along the coast that focus on bird collision reduction initiatives, native plants and community science projects. Clontz looks forward to advancing her knowledge in the conservation field in meaningful ways by structuring her career through an interdisciplinary lens.

“The fellowship stood out to me because I am inspired by the emphasis of a collaborative, multi-faceted approach to conservation. I am excited for the opportunity to work closely with conservation professionals and build my professional portfolio,” Clontz said.

Madison Monroe received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ecology from UGA. Her research focused on spatial and temporal patterns of microplastic concentrations from wastewater treatment plants. As part of her fellowship, she will be working with Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, assisting with ongoing monitoring and science projects at the reef, contributing to reporting efforts that inform the sanctuary’s management plan, and supporting education events at the organization’s new visitor center in downtown Savannah. Monroe looks forward to using this experience to help jump start her career in environmental conservation.

“This fellowship will help bolster my understanding of aquatic sciences as a multidisciplinary field; it will help me engage with coastal scientists to understand the diverse work going on at the coast,” Monroe said.


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.

Graduate students from Georgia selected as Knauss finalists

Graduate students from the University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University and Georgia Tech have been selected as finalists for the 2023 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. The fellowship, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program, provides graduate students the opportunity to spend a year in marine policy-related positions in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government in Washington D.C.

Knauss finalists are chosen through a competitive process that includes comprehensive review at both the state Sea Grant program and national levels. The three Georgia finalists will join 83 others selected from a competitive pool of nominees representing 29 of the 34 Sea Grant programs in the coastal and Great Lakes states and territories.

The finalists from Georgia are:

Jeffrey Beauvais

Jeffrey Beauvais, who is wrapping up a Ph.D. in integrative conservation and ecology at UGA. His research focuses on environmental justice issues around access to marshes for coastal residents. Beauvais hopes to work on programs that facilitate people’s ability to make a living from the coast and help their communities thrive. Beauvais holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia Tech. 




Alex Troutman

Alex Troutman, a master’s student in biology from Georgia Southern whose research focuses on the diet of the seaside sparrow, a bird that lives in the tidal salt marshes off the coast of Georgia. Troutman is a member of Black in Marine Science, a nonprofit that amplifies black marine scientists and encourages the pursuit of careers in marine science, and he is passionate about communicating science through social media. Troutman earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia Southern University.  



Madison Willert

Madison Willert, who graduated from Carleton College in 2014 with a degree in biology and a minor in French. She went on to intern at NOAA and work in marine science labs at both the University of Massachusetts Boston and the New England Aquarium before starting her Ph.D. in biology at Georgia Tech in 2016. Her research involves using stable isotopes to investigate how humans impact marine food webs through stressors like overfishing.  



This year’s class of 86 finalists comprises students and recent graduates from 62 distinct universities, including 16 finalists from nine minority-serving institutions. Since 1979, over 1,550 fellows have completed the one-year Knauss fellowship program, applying their experience to lasting careers in science, policy and public administration.

Read the full announcement in a press release from the National Sea Grant College Program. 

Student researchers will study issues facing Georgia’s coastal ecosystems

Five graduate students from the University of Georgia, Georgia Southern University and Georgia Tech have been selected to lead year-long coastal research projects as part of the Georgia Sea Grant Research Traineeship. This marks the fourth year of the traineeship, which has supported a total of 26 students from universities across Georgia since its launch in 2019.

“The research traineeship allows students to apply their knowledge and identify solutions to real world issues facing Georgia’s coastal communities,” says Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The experience of designing and executing their own project prepares them for future careers in a variety of disciplines.”

As part of the traineeship, students conduct independent research projects that address one of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s four focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, and environmental literacy and workforce development.

The students conduct these projects while being advised by university mentors. They also work with extension and education specialists at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to collaborate and share their research with coastal communities.


Chestina Craig

Chestina Craig is a master’s student in biology at Georgia Southern University where she’s studying stress levels in sharks that are captured or handled.

As part of her traineeship, she will study how capture and handling affects the physiological response and overall fitness of sharks local to Georgia. She will also be looking at the use of cost-effective research devices that can immediately measure blood stress levels in sharks when sampled in the field.

Results from her project aim to inform handling practices and increase the accessibility of this type of research using affordable sampling methods.

“I decided to apply to the Georgia Sea Grant Research Traineeship because it combines my love of research and community outreach into an incredibly rewarding fellowship. I knew that this program would give me opportunities to interact with stakeholders, conduct scientific outreach, and work with researchers that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to during the course of my master’s degree,” Craig said.


Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick is a Ph.D. candidate at UGA studying food science with a focus on food safety. This will be her second research traineeship and this year’s project will focus on identifying mitigation methods used in aquaculture and aquaponic facilities to control A. hydrophila, a bacterial pathogen that can cause disease in freshwater fish and humans.

Dorick completed a 2-year evaluation of a commercial aquaponics system and found A. hydrophila throughout the system. Now, she will study whether A. hydrophila identified in the system can form biofilm in aquaponic water and on common aquaponic material. She will identify targeted interventions to disrupt A. hydrophila colonization while preserving the nitrifying bacteria critical for nutrient cycling in these systems.

“The traineeship will contribute to my research goals by funding research to develop sustainable agriculture methods to produce fresh food sources for Georgia. By identifying mitigation methods to target A. hydrophila, it will encourage the safety of fish and produce generated by these farms,” Dorick said.


Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney, a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech, is studying oyster reef restoration using naturally strengthened oysters to prevent erosion on Georgia’s shorelines. 

Roney, who has been selected for the traineeship program for a second year, will conduct a study that builds on her previous project looking at how chemical cues from blue crabs can increase the shell strength of oysters. Results from her 2021 project show that strengthened oysters on restored reefs have a greater survival against predation than other juvenile oysters. For this year’s project, Roney will use strengthened oysters to restore reefs in high wave energy areas, like the Intercoastal Waterway and South Channel of the Savannah River. She selected these sites based on research by fellow 2021-2022 research trainee, Alexandra Muscalus, whose research shows that there is significant ship wake energy in these areas due to shipping traffic to and from the Savannah ports. 

Roney plans to enhance reefs in this area using strengthened oysters with the goal of preventing future coastal erosion while also restoring important services that oyster reefs provide to coastal ecosystems and communities. 

“Working with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in the past allowed me to form connections with industry professionals and learn new applications for my research topics, so I’m excited to continue our partnership this year. I hope that by implementing new scientific research to systems that majorly benefit our communities, such as oyster reefs, and making scientific information accessible to the public, we can improve the communication pathways between scientists and citizens,” Roney said. 


Conner Simon

Conner Simon is a master’s student at Georgia Southern University where he is studying microplastic contamination in marine and freshwater systems. 

As part of his traineeship project, Simon will examine the abundance of microplastic fibers along the Ogeechee River and use both laboratory and field experiments to investigate the effects of microplastic fiber contamination on zooplankton. Zooplankton are an important food source for larger organisms, like recreational fish and shellfish, in nearly all freshwater and marine habitats. Simon will determine whether the length of microplastic fibers influences how harmful they are to zooplankton, and which zooplankton species are present in the community.

Findings will provide insight into how sensitive these important marine organisms are to microplastic contaminants and can be used to inform water policies that limit microplastic pollution.

“Through this traineeship, I will improve my ability to design, conduct, analyze, and present research on microplastic pollution, which will help me produce important results for scientists and water quality experts. The combination of academic and outreach training will prepare me to translate the results of future research both to a broad audience and into actionable steps towards effective marine conservation and stewardship,” Simon said.


Alexandra Theisen

Alexandra Theisen, a master’s student at Georgia Southern University, is studying aquatic species and how they interact with their environment, specifically the two-toed Amphiuma, a large aquatic salamander found in Southeast U.S. wetlands. 

Theisen’s project will compare Amphiuma populations sampled in freshwater wetlands at Fort Stewart Army Base to those sampled in fresh and saline wetlands on Sapelo Island. By comparing the two populations, she will be able to examine how Amphiumas on Sapelo Island are adapting to more saline wetlands. 

Her research has implications for how species in freshwater habitats will respond to rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion. It will also inform planning, research and resource management needs at Fort Stewart Army Base and at Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve where her research sites are located. 

“My professional goal is to work at either a nonprofit organization or at a state level as a wetland ecologist. This traineeship will help me achieve this goal by enabling me to attend networking opportunities and provide the means to enhance my research project with the help of these partners. It also gives me the opportunity to share my research with the community as well as learn from other experts in the field,” Theisen said. 

Rain gardens created to mitigate flooding  

The highest property in the Urbana-Perry Park neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia, sits just 10 feet above sea level. Homeowners William and Bonnie Kitts have lived there for nine years.

“This is actually my wife’s father’s grandfather’s home that he grew up in,” William Kitts said. “Most of the neighbors grew up here and know each other.”

Over the years, residential, commercial and industrial development has replaced grass and other porous surfaces. Heavy rains, especially at high tide, flood the area because the stormwater runoff has nowhere to go.

“The residential community hasn’t changed a lot, but the land use around it has been altered over the years,” said Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist at the University of Georgia’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

To help communities like Urbana-Perry Park mitigate stormwater flooding impacts, the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant launched the Coastal Georgia Rain Garden program in 2019 with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The program is designed to improve stormwater management by teaming up with residents and small businesses in coastal communities to install rain gardens.

“Working with homeowners to adopt practices and invest in natural infrastructure projects on their properties offers an alternative to overhauling stormwater systems, which can be incredibly expensive,” Brown said.

Rain gardens are shallow, landscaped depressions that capture and filter stormwater and allow it to soak back into the ground. They are a cost-effective tool that can reduce flooding from runoff and treat pollutants before they enter waterways. They also conserve water and provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Brown worked with Keren Giovengo, who manages the EcoScapes sustainable land use program at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, to develop a rain garden guide that features information about rain garden design and selecting native plants for coastal environments.

Brown and Giovengo also piloted a program in Glynn County that allowed homeowners or businesses to apply for funding to help offset the cost of installing a rain garden. Six property owners in the Urbana-Perry Park neighborhood, including Kitts, applied for and received funding. Brown and Giovengo provided technical support to each homeowner, assisting with design, maintenance and planting.

Two women stand behind a plot of garden

EcoScapes Program Manager Keren Giovengo (left) talks with Urbana-Perry Park resident Semona Holmes about the rain garden she installed on her property.

Kitts worked with the city to get a permit so he could install his rain garden in a public right-of-way to capture runoff from the road and reduce the burden to mow that area.

“My neighbors who walked by over the last few months and saw the holes in the yard, are now walking by complimenting the beauty of it,” Kitts said. “I’ve got two or three more neighbors interested in installing a rain garden on their properties.”

“If I can encourage not only my neighbors but the city as well to install more rain gardens in our right of way spaces, it could be beneficial to the stormwater system, the city’s budget, and it’ll make the entire city look great.”

Rain gardens installed through the pilot program ranged in size from 25 square feet to several thousand square feet. They treat runoff from over 7,600 square feet of impervious surfaces and filter over 203,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually.

“This program was meant to help provide and reinforce knowledge, as well as create an opportunity for people and communities to take action,” Brown said. “I really had no idea how empowered communities would be with technical and financial incentives. It has been thrilling to see these residents come together and support one another.”

A man holds a potted plant next to sorted greenery

Homeowner William Kitts picks up native plants that will be installed in his rain garden.

Urbana-Perry Park residents have watched their gardens fill during recent summer rain events. The captured rainwater is cleaned as it slowly seeps into the ground, improving the water quality in Brunswick’s surrounding waterways while mitigating floods in the neighborhood.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant hopes to find additional funding to sustain the stipend program and ensure that it remains equitable and accessible to the communities that need it most.


Writer: Emily Kenworthyekenworthy@uga.edu
Contact: Jessica Brownjtrbrown@uga.edu

If students can’t get to the coast, UGA brings the coast to them

For more than 50 years, educators at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island have hosted pre-K-12 grade students for hands-on programs about the coastal environment.

This year, those educators are taking the show on the road.

With support from Bass Pro Shop, Georgia Power and Friends of the UGA Aquarium, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant staff and volunteers are taking programs into every Savannah-Chatham County school.

“Classroom outreach brings exciting marine science experiences to students and teachers who don’t have the resources or time in their teaching schedules to visit the aquarium in person,” said Anne Lindsay, associate director of education at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We don’t want communities whose schools have limited resources to miss out on important learning opportunities.”

The education team began planning off-site outreach during the pandemic, when the aquarium was closed.

“Marine Debris, the Coast, and Me” introduces sixth and seventh graders to the topic of plastic debris and its impacts on the ocean and coastal zone. Students rotate between different stations, learning about the types of debris, including microplastics, that can impact plankton or dolphins through entanglement or ingestion. As a way of getting students involved outside of the classroom, educators share information about how to reduce marine debris by participating in community cleanups and avoiding single use plastics.

“CrabEcology” uses live animals and small group activities to teach third graders about the physical and behavioral characteristics of different crab species and where they can be found. The program covers topics such as coastal habitats, sand and mud studies, animal adaptations and Georgia’s blue crab fishery.

The goal of both is to engage students in learning experiences that connect them to the outside world. Since February, the marine education staff has presented the programs to more than 1,000 students in 12 different public schools.

Volunteer Michael Siegel educating students using an interactive touch tank.

Angela Willis, who teaches the STEM Lab for grades K-5 at Heard Elementary School in Savannah, signed her third graders up for the CrabEcology outreach program to expose them to outdoor activities that get them excited about the world around them.

“If we can stimulate children in a way that they’re using their sight, sound, sense of touch…it really engages them and anchors whatever topics you’re trying to teach,” said Willis. “Anything that’s hands-on is absolutely fantastic. When they saw there was a touch tank, just about all of them wanted to touch the crabs.”

In addition to the aquarium education staff, the outreach is being presented by four Marine Education Fellows who are spending a year at the UGA Aquarium gaining experience in environmental education. Diane Klement, who has a degree in ecology from UGA, helped deliver both outreach programs and created some of the teaching materials for the marine debris program.

“Over time, I gained more confidence with teaching and adapting a program to unique schools and classrooms,” Klement said. “Moving forward, I am excited to apply the outreach program development and teaching skills to my future career.” She will return to UGA this fall to pursue a master’s degree in wildlife science from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Marine Education Fellow Diane Klement educating students at Heard Elementary School.

Aquarium educators and volunteers will continue offering the programs in classrooms throughout the 2022-23 school year, hoping to reach about 3,800 students in 46 different public schools.

It’s making a difference, Klement said.

“After the program, some of the students vowed to reduce their plastic consumption and were excited to get out and explore the salt marsh,” she said. “Some even said they wanted to be environmental educators.”

Contact Anne Moser, amoser@uga.edu, to make a gift to the UGA Foundation in support of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant education programs.


Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 336-466-1520

Contact: Anne Lindsay, lindsaya@uga.edu

UGA video series explores coastal resilience success stories in Georgia

Georgia’s low-lying coastal communities are on the front lines of sea level rise, storm surge and flooding.

A new video series developed by UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant shares how communities are responding to these challenges by identifying solutions that protect infrastructure and coastal habitats.

The six-part series, “Faces of Resiliency,” features interviews with coastal residents and researchers who share stories of adapting to coastal hazards through community engagement and collaboration with scientists, nonprofits and government agencies.

“The videos can serve as a roadmap for other communities facing similar issues,” said Anne Lindsay, associate director of education at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and lead on the project. “They show how resilience projects can be successful by involving communities in planning and implementing science-based solutions.”

Each video highlights a different example of how communities are increasing resilience, including preserving salt marsh habitat, implementing green infrastructure, restoring dunes, engaging in environmental justice and community planning, and improving science communication.

Descriptions for each video are provided below. Watch all of them at https://gacoast.uga.edu/faces/

Conserving Georgia’s Salt Marshes
Georgia’s extensive salt marshes protect the coast by reducing erosion, buffering wave energy and filtering runoff. Rising sea levels are causing marshes to migrate inland; however, development along estuarine shorelines can impede their natural migration. Living shorelines are a form of green infrastructure that use oysters and native plants to stabilize shorelines while providing space for marshes to migrate in the future.

Adapting with Green Infrastructure
Roads, buildings, or parking lots are a necessary part of communities but these impervious surfaces lead to stormwater runoff that carries pollutants to local waterways, impacting human and environmental health. Green infrastructure uses nature-based materials to treat and filter stormwater, like the large-scale bioretention project implemented at Howard Coffin Park in Brunswick that is improving water quality of the surrounding area.

Restoring Dunes to Protect Coastal Communities
Storm surge from hurricanes has significant impacts on coastal communities. Healthy dune systems act as a natural barrier to storm surge. Communities like the City of Tybee Island are conserving and restoring Georgia’s coastal dunes by raising their elevation, planting grasses and installing beach fences that help build and protect these habitats.

Enhancing Equity in Flood Resilience
Marginalized communities in coastal Georgia are at risk of flooding due to higher density housing, less green space and failing stormwater management systems. Residents in Savannah and Brunswick are getting involved in the decision-making process by working with municipalities to raise awareness of the need to adapt infrastructure in flooding hotspots and build resilience.

Planning for Future Flooding and Sea Level Rise
As sea levels rise and flooding becomes more frequent Georgia’s coastal municipalities and resource managers are proactively planning ahead by elevating homes and participating in federal programs that reward communities for implementing resilience measures.

Improving Flood Literacy in Coastal Georgia
Terms related to flood hazards are being used inconsistently among professionals that work in coastal management and emergency response. This can create confusion among residents who rely on experts for information during extreme weather events. The Georgia Flood Literacy Project is establishing consistent definitions and flood terminology to be used by professionals, improving communication and public safety.

The Faces of Resiliency project was funded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division. Learn more about the project at https://gacoast.uga.edu/faces/

Georgia Sea Grant awards funding for six coastal research projects

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program at the University of Georgia is investing $816,000 in six new research projects that address environmental and economic challenges and advance coastal science in Georgia.

Projects range from looking at the use of ropeless fishing gear to catch black sea bass, to assessing economic development opportunities within Gullah Geechee communities, to studying sweetgrass populations, an ecologically and culturally important plant in Georgia’s coastal ecosystem.

The 2022-2024 research projects are part of Georgia Sea Grant’s request for proposals process, which occurs every two years to address research priorities identified in Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s strategic plan.

“These two-year projects were selected by coastal resource managers, state and local agencies, and other Georgia stakeholders as well as a panel of scientific experts to address Georgia’s most critical coastal issues,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “They represent applied research efforts that will have short and long-term impacts on our state’s coastal communities and natural resources.”

The projects include:

  • Assessing the Socio-Economic Value of Salt Marsh Ecosystems for Climate Resilience Financing in Georgia
    Matthew Bilskie, University of Georgia
  • Black/African American/Gullah Geechee Economic Development Research Project for Coastal Georgia
    Cheryl Hargrove, Hargrove International, Inc.
  • Conserving Ecologically and Culturally Important Plants in Georgia’s Coastal Ecosystems
    Elizabeth King, University of Georgia
  • Enhancing the South Atlantic Black Sea Bass Pot Fishery with Acoustic Subsea Buoy Retrieval Systems
    Charles McMillian, Georgia Conservancy
  • Probiotics for Plants: Harnessing Microbiomes to Improve the Propagation of Marsh Grasses to Support Coastal Ecosystem Restoration
    Joel Kostka, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Scales of Influence: Examining Multiple Stressors from the Bag to the Estuary on Shellfish Culture Potential in Georgia
    John Carroll, Georgia Southern University

Information about Georgia Sea Grant research topics, funding and current opportunities can be found at https://gacoast.uga.edu/research/funding/current-projects/

Trawling for trash: Using recycled shrimp nets to remove marine debris

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has come up with a creative way to clean up the Georgia coast and provide financial support to local commercial shrimpers whose income was limited during the pandemic.

Through Trawl to Trash, funded by the National Sea Grant College Program, commercial shrimpers are recruited to sew bags made of recycled shrimp net material that can be used to collect marine debris.

“It’s exciting to find a new purpose for these trawl nets and who better to make the bags than the shrimpers who have spent countless hours mending their nets ahead of shrimping season?” said Dodie Sanders, marine educator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and lead on the Trawl to Trash project.

The shrimpers earn $20 for each bag they sew.

One fisherman, Jonathan Bennett, used the money he earned from the nets to pay the people working for him.

“It was extra money, it helped us out,” said Bennett, a fifth-generation commercial shrimper from Brunswick, who now captains his own boat, the Flying Cloud. Bennett has been shrimping since he was four. His grandfather taught him how to repair the shrimp nets.

Jonathan Bennett sews a Trawl to Trash bag

Shrimper Jonathan Bennett sews a trawl to trash bag made from a recycled trawl net.

“For years I was the only man on the boat who knew how to sew so I got pretty good at it,” he said. He and his grandfather, who is still a shrimper, joined the Trawl to Trash project during the off season when their boat was being repaired.

In an effort to produce more bags for outreach efforts, Sanders teamed up with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium to recruit additional shrimpers into the program. As of January 2022, 15 shrimpers in both Georgia and South Carolina have earned a total of $30,700 for 1,535 bags.

“This opportunity came along at a great time, in that shrimpers are making the bags in between the peak of the brown shrimp season and white shrimp season, when landings and income are lower than the rest of the year,” said Graham Gaines, living marine resources program specialist at the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and partner on the project.

A participant in one of the trawl to trash education programs learns how to sew the bags.

A participant in one of the trawl to trash public programs learns how to sew the bags.

With more than a thousand bags in hand, Sanders and other educators at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island have been working to distribute them to the public through education programs and community science efforts.

“We’re educating and engaging ecotour guides, students, recreational boaters beach goers and others who can make a difference by alleviating the impacts of marine debris,” Sanders said.

As part of their outreach effort, the team launched a Marine Debris Community Science Program, which engages volunteers in removing marine debris from barrier islands and salt marshes along the Georgia coast while tracking what they collect using the Marine Debris Tracker App.

Since April 2021, community scientists involved in the program have conducted more than 25 marine debris cleanups across three sites on the Georgia coast and collected thousands of items.

They are also working with ecotour guides who have been certified through Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Coastal Awareness and Responsible Ecotourism program. The guides are providing bags to their customers and encouraging them to collect debris while exploring Georgia’s beaches and barrier islands.

This summer, educators will deliver hands-on afterschool programs to Boys and Girls Clubs in Chatham and Glynn Counties, educating the next generation about marine debris and encouraging them to make difference by using the Trawl to Trash bags to clean up their communities.

“These efforts illustrate and reinforce the importance of building community capacity and encouraging behavior change as a way of supporting the long-term prevention of marine debris,” Sanders said.


Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 336-466-1520
Contact: Dodie Sanders, sandersd@uga.edu, 912-598-2340


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