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.


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. 

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/

Artists, Writers and Scholars program highlights the value of Georgia’s coastal heritage and natural resources

Barbara Mann grew up going to museums and was always interested in art and the outdoors. She enrolled in UGA in 1971 to study painting and drawing, but soon discovered a passion for working with metal and jewelry that she would pursue for more than 45 years.

“I am amazed by the complexity and beauty of the natural world. A walk in the woods is a pleasure and a mystery,” said Mann, whose ongoing series of work focuses on the origins of life on earth, evolution and the carbon cycle. “In an effort to make sense of the complexity and chaos of the natural world, I create objects that are a distilled, metaphoric expression of an observation and idea.”

Her fascination with marine processes, like the carbon cycle, and the role of marine life within these processes is serving as the inspiration for her latest project funded by UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Artists, Writers and Scholars program.

As part of her project, she’ll be creating five pieces in her studio in Athens, Ga., including an oyster vessel made of silver, a jewelry pendant that represents different types of phytoplankton, a large plankton wall installation made of copper and brass, a marine carbon cycle necklace made of gold, silver, iron and other materials, and a vase depicting the marine carbon cycle.

Mann hopes that her artwork will help non-scientists understand a general, simple view of more complicated topics, like how an oyster grows its shell, or the intricacy of a plankton’s form and pattern.

Barbara Mann in her Athens studio (left). Her pendant, The Ocean (right), is an interpretation of the forms, energy and colors of the ocean. It's made with silver, gold, garnet, pearls, tourmaline and diamond.

Barbara Mann in her Athens studio (left). Her pendant, The Ocean (right), is an interpretation of the forms, energy and colors of the ocean. It’s made with silver, gold, garnet, pearls, tourmaline and diamond.

Supporting projects that increase awareness of Georgia’s coastal environments or help document the history, culture or heritage of the state’s coastal resources and communities is the goal of the Artists, Writers and Scholars program, which launched in 2021. Mann’s project is one of three selected for funding.

Alan Harvey, a biology professor at Georgia Southern University, received funding to highlight the contrast between natural habitats and human encroachment through panoramic photographs. He hopes that his project will offer a new perspective on the Georgia coast and inspire viewers to think more critically about coastal issues.

“It is kind of a challenge for photographers to present the beauty and the threats of this well-known environment in a way that would make people stop and think about it,” said Harvey, who plans to hold a large-scale photographic installation of his work later this year.

“I’m hoping that this jarring, unusual perspective and the potential to interact with it will get people to see these very well-known issues and think about them from a fresh perspective.”

Julie de Chantal and Kurt Knoerl, both assistant history professors at Georgia Southern University, are working on a project to shine a light on the history of African Americans on Georgia’s coast, an understudied and undertaught area of history.

Their project involves two components – building a database available to scholars for further research on African Americans in the region and an ArcGIS StoryMap to be used by tour guides or teachers as a study guide for customers or students. They hope to work with local coastal communities to bring this history to them so that they can learn, document and benefit from it.

Students survey a site on the Savannah coast

Georgia Southern University students survey Locks 4 in Savannah, which were constructed using slave labor. This is one of the sites that will be included in the StoryMap.

We hope that this is going to bring this history to life and that we will get a new narrative since not all African American history can be reduced to plantations and the history of Jim Crow. That history is incomplete,” said de Chantal. 

All three of the projects will be completed in July 2022. Information about where they can be viewed will be available at https://gacoast.uga.edu/aws-program/.

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is currently accepting new applications for the Artists, Writers and Scholars program. Creative projects that could be supported by this program include paintings, graphic art, sculpture, musical compositions, photography, poetry, science fiction, film and digital media. Learn more at https://gacoast.uga.edu/aws-program/.

Four graduate students selected for Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship

Four graduate students will gain hands-on experience in the planning and implementation of coastal and marine policies and programs in Georgia as part of their Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship. The year-long fellowship offers a unique opportunity for students to work in host offices that include state and federal government agencies as well as non-governmental partners and industries in Georgia.

“We’re excited to be working with a great group of partners to provide these incredible opportunities for students who will gain invaluable insights that shape their future,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “It’s a win-win for everyone as our partners will benefit from having talented students helping them solve critical coastal issues.”

The 2021-2022 fellows will work with the following partners: Georgia Audubon, NOAA Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, the Georgia DNR’s Coastal Management Program, and Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society.


Victoria Baglin has a bachelor’s in biological sciences from South Georgia State College. She is currently pursuing her master’s in biology at Georgia Southern University. Baglin’s graduate research focuses on assessing the effects of climate change on leaf decomposition rates and the macroinvertebrate communities that support decomposition processes. As a fellow with NOAA Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, Baglin will advance several science, policy and planning projects and programs while gaining the diverse skills and professional experience necessary to succeed in a natural resource management career.

“The Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship will not only allow me to engage in personal career development planning, but it will also allow me to contribute and participate in solving important environmental problems while addressing real-world issues faced by conservation managers,” Baglin said.


Kim Savides received a bachelor’s in wildlife science from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. As a master’s student at Utah State University, she is studying the migratory timing and routes of the Lazuli Bunting, a small songbird native to the western U.S. Her fellowship at Georgia Audubon will involve expanding their coastal program with new bird research and monitoring, as well as public education and outreach about bird conservation.

“This fellowship is an exceptionally exciting opportunity that will allow me to build upon my research and monitoring experiences while also allowing me to interact with and engage a variety of resource managers, stakeholders and the public,” Savides said.


Shannon Matzke graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in coastal environmental science. She is currently a master’s student in the Department of Biology at Georgia Southern University. There, she is finishing up her thesis on Tybee Island’s coastal sand dune restoration project. Matzke will be working in the Georgia Coastal Management Program, which is led by Georgia DNR’s Coastal Resources Division. She will assist with updating the Coastal Nonpoint Source Pollution program. While working on the project, she will experience active coastal management as well as gain key skills in coastal policy, resource management, stakeholder engagement and public interaction.

“This fellowship will introduce me to the policy side of coastal environmental work which will help me to better understand the ins and outs of current and future restoration projects,” Matzke said.


Hannah Morris has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UGA and a master’s degree in anthropology from Ohio State University. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the Integrative Conservation program at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resource Management where she is studying land use history and forest change on several barrier islands off the Georgia coast. As a state fellow, Morris will be working with the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society to work on enhancing the resilience of Hogg Hummock, a private community on Sapelo Island widely known as the last “Saltwater Geechee” community on the east coast. In her role, she will draft comprehensive flood mitigation recommendations to address the types of flooding impacting the community.

“This fellowship will allow me to bring my knowledge of that history, along with the skills and training I’ve received in my education, to address some of the most pressing conservation issues our coast faces, including climate change, land use change and socio-environmental justice,” Morris said.


UGA to lead alliance promoting health equity and resilience in the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean islands

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded funding to Sea Grant programs and universities in the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean regions to study climate inequities in coastal communities.

“The Southeast and Caribbean Climate Alliance will work with communities in these regions to identify the root causes of health disparities and inequities and understand ways in which these are worsened by climate change,” said Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Coastal communities are experiencing increased flooding that can cut off access to healthcare facilities. Rising seas lead to saltwater intrusion, impacting water supply and wastewater infrastructure. Floodwaters that cover roads or encroach on residential homes carry pollutants and bacteria. All these threats pose a risk to public health.

“Populations that are typically most vulnerable to these risks are low-income communities, communities of color, rural communities, tribal and indigenous communities,” said project lead Mona Behl, associate director of Georgia Sea Grant at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

The alliance includes experts at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, Florida Sea Grant, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Puerto Rico Sea Grant, the University of Virgin Islands and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the next year, the team will work to identify the most vulnerable communities in the Southeast and Caribbean regions and cultivate partnerships with local leaders, businesses and public health professionals to improve communication, share existing tools, and identify information and resource needs. They will also host workshops to gather input that will inform policies, programs, and trainings needed to design community-led solutions to reduce health disparities and inequities in these regions.

“Local solutions to climate change are most effective when they are developed holistically, taking into consideration racial, socioeconomic and structural barriers,” Behl said. “By working with communities in these regions, we will develop a shared vision and research framework to improve community health, promote economic development and build climate resilience.”

Learn more about the alliance and how to get involved here https://gacoast.uga.edu/southeast-caribbean-climate-alliance/.

Para ver en español, haga clic aquí. 

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348 ext. 107
Contact: Mona Behl, mbehl@uga.edu, 706-542-6621



Seven students selected for Sea Grant Research Trainee program at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

Seven students from universities across Georgia have been selected to participate in the year-long Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program. The students will work with faculty and professional mentors to conduct marine research and gain new professional skills.

Research conducted by the trainees will address one or more 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.

“By pairing students with academic and professional mentors, and immersing them in interdisciplinary research experiences, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is helping prepare a diverse workforce for jobs in the future,” says Mona Behl, associate director of Georgia Sea Grant.

The trainees will design research projects that build on their dissertations or theses while connecting with extension and education specialists at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant who will help share their work with coastal communities. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is a UGA Public Service unit.

Samantha Alvey

Samantha Alvey

Samantha Alvey is a master’s student in biology at Georgia Southern University. As part of her traineeship, she will be studying antibiotic resistance in coastal waters.

Bacteria are able to develop resistance to antibiotics and enter streams and rivers through wastewater discharge and runoff. These bacteria accumulate on river sediments where recreational activities, like fishing and boating, re-release the bacteria into the water where they can cause disease. Alvey will collect water and measure how the amount of antibiotic resistance bacteria changes when sediment is disturbed by human recreation. She will also examine the potential for the resistant bacteria to spread from rivers to the coast, which will be useful to inform water policy aimed at reducing ecological and public health risks.

“This program not only provides essential resources to support my research but also opportunities to communicate my findings to my peers and the public through conferences and public outreach events that I might not otherwise have access to during my graduate program,” Alvey said.


Courtney Balling

Courtney Balling

Courtney Balling, a Ph.D. student in the departments of Integrative Conservation and Geography at UGA, is researching the environmental drivers of septic system failure.

Coastal areas are especially at risk of septic system failure in the coming decades due to sea level rise and changes in rainfall patterns. Balling will look at how environmental conditions, like tidal fluctuation and precipitation, impact bacterial concentrations in groundwater near residential septic systems. This research will be shared with officials working in public health, wastewater, and planning to help create sustainable wastewater solutions for the future.

“I would love to be a part of an extension service. I truly enjoy research and community engagement, and extension would allow for both. This traineeship is allowing me to gather more of the skills I’ll need for that kind of work—everything from grant writing and research design to strategic communication and community partnership,” Balling said.


Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick

Jennifer Dorick is a Ph.D. student at UGA studying food science with a focus on food safety. Her project will focus on food safety hazards in aquaponics, a sustainable agricultural practice that integrates aquaculture and hydroponic farming.

Dorick will study a commercial aquaponics system, looking at what pathogens, like E.coli and salmonella enterica, are present and where they are most prevalent within the system. This research will provide more insight into foodborne pathogen risks in the aquaponics industry and will provide valuable information to other commercial aquaponics farms that could prevent the introduction of these pathogens in their systems.

“The traineeship will contribute to my research goals by funding a research field that is creating an innovative and sustainable method to produce fresh food sources to urban, rural, and food desert areas in Georgia,” Dorick said.


Monét Murphy

Monét Murphy

Monét Murphy is an undergraduate student pursuing a double major in marine science and environmental science at Savannah State University. Her project will involve studying benthic foraminifera in the Savannah River Estuary. Benthic foraminifera are tiny, single-celled organisms that can serve as bioindicators of environmental conditions in marine environments, including natural variability and human impacts. They are generally well preserved in the fossil record.

As part of her project, Murphy will study foraminifera distribution and abundance in samples collected before, during and after the deepening of the Savannah River harbor. This research will determine if the upstream extension of saline waters due to Savannah harbor deepening has impacted foraminifera distribution and if these changes have the potential to be impacted in the sediment record.

“The traineeship program will help me better communicate my results, the importance of benthic foraminifera, and the impacts of harbor deepening to stakeholders and how the study of the fossil record informs us of the range of past climatic, coastal and oceanographic conditions,” Murphy said.


Alexandra Muscalus

Alexandra Muscalus

Alexandra Muscalus is a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech. Her research focuses on hydrodynamics and coastal impacts of the wake generated by container ships, which pose public safety hazards and have been linked to rapid shoreline erosion along shipping channels.

Muscalus will study sites in the Savannah River to measure the wave characteristics and energy of ship wake in the main shipping channel as well as nearby secondary channels. Her research will be beneficial in providing new information for coastal managers when it comes to mitigating impacts of low-frequency wakes on shorelines.

“The traineeship will allow me to conclude my thesis work in a way that transforms my previous findings into meaningful and actionable results for stakeholders. At the same time, it will provide a means for me to interact with stakeholder groups and help me decide in which specific direction I would like to take my career,” Muscalus said.


Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney

Sarah Roney is a Ph.D. student in the Ocean Science and Engineering program at Georgia Tech. Her traineeship will involve researching how different types of organic compounds identified from predator waste products can improve how oysters defend themselves against predation.

Working with researchers at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Shellfish Research Lab, Roney will introduce two organic compounds in a hatchery system that have been shown to induce defensive responses in oysters. The goal is to produce a stronger, well-defended oyster that can increase the success of restored reefs and living shorelines as well as the productivity of farmed oysters, enhancing oyster restoration practices as well as oyster mariculture efforts.

“With the trainee program, I can work with not only my academic and scientific advisor, Marc Weissburg, but also the director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Shellfish Research Lab, Tom Bliss, learning about the ins-and-outs of the shellfish industry in Georgia and the ways scientific research can be beneficial and applicable to the trade,” Roney said.


Megan Tomamichel

Megan Tomamichel

Megan Tomamichel is a Ph.D. student at UGA’s Odum School of Ecology researching black gill disease in shrimp. Her project involves developing a stock assessment model of shrimp populations that incorporates black gill transmission and harvesting strategies under ongoing oceanic warming.

The model will account for the impacts of black gill on shrimp, and it can be used to inform management strategies for shrimp harvest under changing environmental conditions.

“I was interested in applying to the Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program to support my current research addressing a disease of concern in Georgia fisheries. This program aligns with my goals to use science as a tool to help support the people and ecosystems of the Georgia Coast,” Tomamichel said.

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