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.

UGA graduate students selected as Knauss finalists

Two graduate students from the University of Georgia have been selected as finalists for the 2022 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program. The finalists will spend one year in Washington, D.C. in marine policy-related positions in legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

The students will join 74 finalists in the 2022 class representing 28 of the 34 Sea Grant programs in the coastal and Great Lakes states and territories.

The finalists from Georgia are:

Rebecca Adkins, 2022 Knauss Finalist

Rebecca Atkins, 2022 Knauss Finalist

Rebecca Atkins, who is working towards her Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology. For her dissertation project, Atkins is exploring spatial patterns in snail-plant interactions within salt marshes from Florida to Delaware. She holds a bachelor’s degree in wildlife ecology and conservation and a minor in fisheries and aquatic studies from the University of Florida.




Chandler Countryman, 2022 Knauss Finalist

Chandler Countryman, 2022 Knauss Finalist

Chandler Countryman, a Ph.D. student in marine sciences at the University of Georgia and is studying the oceanic biological carbon pump. Countryman is also earning a certificate in water resources to better understand the human dimensions of environmental issues and the role that government plays in allocating resources. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Northern Michigan University.




The 2022 Knauss finalists will become the 43rd class of the fellowship and will join a group of almost 1,500 professionals who have received hands-on experiences transferring science to policy and management through the program.

Placement of 2022 Knauss finalists as fellows is contingent on adequate funding in Fiscal Year 2022.

The National Sea Grant College Program announced finalists for the 2022 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships. Here is a link to the national release.

UGA helps shape the future of seafood safety

Seafood specials at the Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market in metro Atlanta can include Caribbean red snapper, crawfish or golden pomfret, a popular southeast Asian fish with soft white flesh.

With eight stores and hundreds of employees, it’s important that the Norcross-based retailer ensures safety of its seafood.

“We deal with so much seafood that knowing how to transport [and] carry it safely for our consumers is essential,” says Kathy Rivers, human resources director for the international Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market.

Nam Dae Mun has sent at least 14 employees through UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) seafood safety course. The government-mandated training helps seafood professionals learn to spot and prevent potential safety hazards from the time seafood arrives on the loading docks until it goes out the market doors.

“Learning how to create a HACCP plan was pretty important to us,” says Rivers, who participated in one of the training sessions herself a few years ago. “Figuring out how it was all connected, not just to my consumers’ lives, but to my own life because I eat a lot of seafood in my house, was important as well.”

Federal and state regulations require that all wholesale facilities processing, distributing or storing seafood have at least one employee—or hire a consultant—who has been trained in seafood HACCP.

“The training teaches participants how to identify and prevent biological, chemical, physical, and other food safety hazards to protect their products, company reputation, and ultimately, consumers,” says Tori Stivers, seafood specialist at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

HACCP is the primary program for assuring the safety of fish and fishery products processed and imported for sale in the US.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has offered HACCP training since 1997; Stivers has been the point person since 2011.

In the last 24 years, the organization has trained 889 seafood professionals.

Typically, the training occurs in-person over three days. Stivers and instructors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Georgia Department of Agriculture educate participants about the principles of HACCP, teach them how to identify species and process-related food safety hazards, and determine critical points in their process where hazards can be controlled.

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Stivers transitioned her in-person HACCP training to a virtual format so that businesses could continue to operate.

“During a time when a lot of businesses were struggling, some food retailers and wholesalers actually saw a huge increase in demand because consumers started rushing to grocery stores,” says Stivers. “Offering virtual HACCP training ensured that businesses could continue to operate and meet the needs of consumers.”

Thirty-five people from 10 different businesses and state agencies participated in the seafood HACCP trainings in 2020. Through these trainings, the economic value of jobs created or sustained last year reached $1.74 million.

In addition to continuing the training, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant received funding from the National Sea Grant College Program to implement a COVID-19 rapid response program for seafood processing facilities in Georgia. As part of the program, Stivers is providing free, on-site assessments of facilities to evaluate how they have adapted their operations during the pandemic and recommend additional cost-effective interventions.

“We were constantly making sure we were keeping up with the latest guidelines for handling food for customers,” says Rivers. “Tori assisted in the review of our pandemic plan for our business and what safety measures and protocols we put in place. Some of the foundation of what we had [in the pandemic plan], like contact tracing, was part of the preventative controls that are in a HACCP plan.”

Community science supports environmental research

You don’t have to be a professional scientist with an advanced degree to make a meaningful contribution to scientific research. That is one conclusion of a recent paper by Dodie Sanders, an educator at the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, and UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Jay Brandes. The article was published in the winter issue of Current: The Journal of Marine Education.

The paper focuses on the researchers’ use of “community scientists” in a project to study the extent of microplastic pollution on the Georgia coast. The community scientists are volunteers, without extensive training or graduate degrees in the field.

The initiative began in 2018 when Brandes and Sanders were faced with the daunting task of collecting monthly water samples at 12 different sites along the Georgia coast, but without a large team to conduct the field work. The previous summer, a UGA undergraduate student, Jacob Mabrey, demonstrated that using community scientists to fill the gap might be the answer. Mabrey spent the summer traveling up and down the coast and collected dozens of samples.
Sanders and Brandes wanted to know whether community science could play a significant role in scientific research. They started with a model developed by the University of Florida microplastics project, Florida Microplastic Awareness Project.

“We took that model and adapted it to what we thought we needed here on the Georgia coast,” Sanders said.

Marine Educator Dodie Sanders

Sanders and Brandes initially approached the Satilla, Altamaha and Ogeechee Riverkeeper groups, who conduct monthly water tests in their areas already. The riverkeeper groups gladly joined the project. Sanders and Brandes then expanded to include a small group of volunteers who were working with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on the Skidaway Island campus.

“It’s worked out great because we have a group of volunteers that are very interested in learning more about this global issue,” Sanders said. “But more importantly, they’re interested in doing something about it. And so, this afforded an opportunity for volunteers to come in and not only help us do the science, but also become advocates for the project and advocates for what we were trying to accomplish.”

Roger Cayer is one community scientist volunteer. “I feel like studies like this are important to raise the awareness level of the general population about plastic pollution,” he said. “Who would have thought that synthetic clothing would become such a major problem?”

Brandes is very careful to avoid using the term “amateur” to describe the team of volunteers. “I think, sometimes, there can be a negative connotation to that word, but the people who have been working on this project have been wonderful and very dedicated.”

He said that everyone involved understands the critical importance of proper research technique, strict protocols and training in order to obtain believable data.

Volunteers collect water samples for microplastics.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the field work for the past 12 months. As Brandes said, it is difficult to socially distance on a 24 foot Carolina skiff.

Sanders and Brandes would like to see their work benefit other researchers and community scientists. The overarching concept of the article is to provide a model that other researchers can put to work elsewhere.

“Take community science, and its advantages, and its bonuses and how people can be an integral, an important part of scientific research, because they are force multipliers,” Sanders said. “They allow us to do so much more on such a larger scale than we would be able to do on a day-to-day basis.”

Sanders said the community scientists opened her eyes to how the public is interested in environmental issues, especially issues that are in their own backyard. And they want to be advocates.

“So that’s been a rewarding aspect of this project, to not only get to know the volunteers or the community scientists on a personal level, but to realize their passion for the work is just as great as our passion,” she said.

That passion is echoed by Cayer who said he has enjoyed “the camaraderie, the laughs, the sharing of knowledge and ideas. And getting to know each member on a deeper level by sharing a common passion and goals.”

The entire paper can be found here.

Published by Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

2020 Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Annual Report

Two University System of Georgia graduates begin their Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships

Amara Davis, a graduate from Savannah State University, and Maria Mercedes Carruthers Ferrero, a graduate from the University of Georgia officially began their 2021-22 Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships.

The fellowship program is designed for graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources, and in national policies that affect those resources. Davis and Carruthers Ferrero were selected as the two finalists to represent the state of Georgia as fellows working in Washington D.C.

Amara Davis was placed in the National Sea Grant Office where she will serve as a communications specialist. In her role, she will develop a podcast, Stories of Sea Grant, which highlights the accomplishments and impacts of Sea Grant’s education, extension and research initiatives. Davis will also help with social media and other Sea Grant communication efforts.

“I’m most excited about the Stories of Sea Grant program. I think it’s important to tell the stories of how these programs work, of the people behind them and the people that are affected by them,” Davis said. “I’m looking forward to learning how to use a new form of communication and getting to meet all the people who make this program work.”

Maria Mercedes Carruthers Ferrero was placed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), under the Federal Insurance Mitigation Administration (FIMA) Resilience Planning & Safety branch. In her role as the coastal hazards mitigation planning specialist, she will be collaborating on FEMA’s National Mitigation Planning Program’s mitigation assistance, flood hazards mapping and building science programs about policy updates, training and communications. She will also be working to maintain existing partnerships and foster new ones to help the program achieve its goals.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to better understand the inner workings of a federal agency, such as FEMA, and the partnerships these agencies form. I am also looking forward to learning about current hazard mitigation planning policies and how they account for climate change and future conditions,” said Carruthers Ferrero, who will be learning more about the agencies ongoing initiatives in the coming weeks.

UGA partners with Okefenokee swamp to conserve and protect native alligators

A partnership between University of Georgia researchers and the Okefenokee Swamp Park focuses on conservation and education efforts needed to maintain the swamp’s native alligator population, which is vital to the economic vitality of the region.

On Aug. 27, UGA’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and the Okefenokee Swamp Park (OSP) signed a commitment to continue its Alligator Education and Research Project, work that informs the OSP on conservation and management of the swamp, provides a better understanding of alligators, and enhances wildlife education.

“Applied research like this project in south Georgia is helping communities throughout the state address critical, local challenges,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for UGA Public Service and Outreach. “This is a great example of how UGA is fulfilling its mission as Georgia’s land-grant and sea-grant institution.”

The OSP first began funding the project in 2017 and since then UGA scientists have conducted field research in the swamp, located on the Georgia-Florida border, to inventory the current alligator population by sex, age and size.

“The American alligator remains a conservation concern for a number of reasons, including human persecution and loss of native habitat,” said ecologist Kimberly Andrews, a faculty member with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “It is important for us to understand how these reptiles are adapting to survive in a human-dominated environment.”

Graduate student Kristen Zemaitis radio-tracking an alligator at Okefenokee Swamp Park.

Graduate student Kristen Zemaitis radio-tracking an alligator at Okefenokee Swamp Park.

Using satellite tags and cameras Andrews and her team at UGA have tracked seven adult alligators in the swamp, observing interactions between the sexes and age classes, courtship between males and females, maternal care and interaction with other species, such as bears or otters.

They regularly survey areas of the swamp to get approximate counts of the alligators there and their activity levels during day and night, from season to season and under changing environmental conditions.

So far, their research has shown that adult females and their guarded young, ages one to three years, are typically the most visible while the males are on the move and the mid-size subadults are more covert. Alligator activity and their visibility in the swamp is influenced by social structure and the presence of dominant individuals and changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature and rainfall.

The UGA researchers have collected tissues samples from every animal they have caught at the Okefenokee Swamp Park in Waycross. These samples will reveal more of the story about the swamp alligator’s diet and family tree.

“We are excited to renew our partnership with Dr. Andrews and UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant,” said Dr. William Clark, an ophthalmologist in Waycross and chair of the OSP Board of Trustees. “So far, the results of the alligator research have already changed the way many people view this apex predator and we look forward to increasing our collaboration for years to come.”

Hatchling alligators form “pods” that are guarded by the mother. Photo: Michael Lavery

Alligators are a conservation success story: they were the first species to be listed federally as an endangered species. Alligator farming replaced the overharvesting from the wild that caused their decline and alligator populations began to rebound.

Alligators are apex predators, consuming a diversity of food sources and regulating prey populations. At the swamp, researchers have seen that a single adult alligator may eat prey that range in size from a moth to a deer. When alligators are lost from a system, this balance is lost and the ecosystem instability impacts many other species, including people who rely on predators to manage prey populations, such as deer, that pose risk to our safety when overabundant.

Alligators are the engineers of their economy, creating habitat that is used by other smaller animals. During drought, alligators create “wallows” or use den sites that retain water after it becomes scarce in other areas. These wallows can be critical for breeding habitat for frogs. The loss of alligators in some ecosystems has contributed to subsequent declines in amphibian populations in many of their habitats where they have been removed.

The Okefenokee is the largest blackwater swamp in North America, serving as the headwaters of the St. Mary’s and Suwanee rivers. Most of the swamp is located in Southeastern Georgia and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the state. Protected largely by the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Okefenokee Wilderness, the swamp has an array of habitats including cypress swamps, peat bogs, marshes, open lakes and wooded hammocks. The diversity of ecosystems encompasses an assortment of over 620 plant species (including four carnivorous plant species), 39 fish, 37 amphibian, 64 reptile, 234 bird and 50 mammal species.

Learn more about the project at https://gacoast.uga.edu/research/major-projects/alligator-research/

Learn more about the Okefenokee Swamp at https://okeswamp.com

Three students selected to participate in the Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship

Three graduate students will be serving the Georgia coast and community as Georgia Sea Grant State Fellows. The Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship Program provides recent graduates the unique opportunity to acquire hands-on experience in the planning and implementation of coastal and marine policies in Georgia.

By coming alongside select host local, state and federal agencies, this fellowship increases the partner’s capacity, promotes integration of diverse perspectives into problem-solving for Georgia to provide richer and more inclusive solutions while training and developing the next generation of coastal and marine leaders.

“Our State Fellowship program continues to draw an incredibly well-rounded and diverse talent pool. We are excited to expand our State Fellowship program to include three host offices this year. In collaboration with our partners, we look forward to nurturing the professional growth and development of the next generation of marine science leaders,” said director Mark Risse.

The three positions available to the applicants were made possible by partnerships with Georgia Audubon in collaboration with Jekyll Island, Gray’s Reef Marine Sanctuary and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division.

Meet the 2020-21 Georgia Sea Grant State Fellows:

Sergio Sabat-Bonilla

Sergio Sabat-Bonilla

Sergio Sabat-Bonilla graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in biology. Now as a master’s student at Georgia Southern University, he is studying how aquatic macroinvertebrate communities will respond to the hydrological variations in wetlands of the coastal plain. As the State Fellow working with Georgia Aubudon and Jekyll Island, he will be tasked with getting the diverse communities in the southern region of Georgia engaged in the enjoyment and conservation of birds. He’ll also be focusing in part on expanding shorebird monitoring efforts on Jekyll Island with ongoing support from the Jekyll Island Foundation. He is most interested in helping make the Georgia coastline more engaging and inclusive, so that any individual can enjoy the diverse ecosystems that shape the Georgia landscape while learning the effect humans’ lives have on the system and what they can do to conserve it.

“With my career goal of becoming a researcher and science communicator, this fellowship is the ideal opportunity to help me develop my science communication skills while pursuing a personal goal of aiding in the efforts to provide minorities and communities of color with the knowledge and resources to enjoy and explore the environments that surround them.”


Cristin Archer

Cristin Archer

Cristin Archer graduated from Allegheny College with degrees in biology and environmental science and a minor in psychology. As a marine science master’s student at Savannah State University, she is analyzing the factors influencing the human-interaction behaviors of common bottlenose dolphins. Archer will be serving as the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary’s Sanctuary Program Specialist. In this position, she will responsible for advancing several science, policy and planning projects and programs while gaining the diverse skills and professional experience that are needed to pursue a career in natural resource management. She is most looking forward to developing a scientific plan to help manage marine and conservation as well as building upon her scientific diving experience.

“Understanding policy is an important skill for any job or career, but it will be especially beneficial as I hope to work in marine sanctuaries and help with education and conservation in the future. Not everyone gets to grow up next to the ocean, but we should all understand our connection to it; how it impacts us and plays a part in controlling how we impact it.”


Meghan Angelina

Meghan Angelina

Meghan Angelina, a graduate from the University of Tampa with a degree in marine science-biology and minors in chemistry and environmental science, graduated from Clemson University with a master’s in August where she studied the environmental drivers of southern flounder growth, condition and juvenile recruitment in an estuary along the Gulf of Mexico. Angelina is working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resources Division in their Georgia Coastal Management Program (GCMP). In this role, she will be tasked with conducting flood literacy research, developing flood literacy materials, conducting outreach and displaying and disseminating results. She is looking forward to working alongside diverse stakeholders and gaining first-hand experience in policy and management.

“My career goals are to work for an agency that actively pursues advancements in marine policy that contribute to various ecosystems, and the humans that live nearby. I want to work for an agency where I can inspire the community and promote the value of marine and coastal resources. The Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship will give me the experience I need to advance to these next steps in my career.”

Two graduate students from Georgia selected as Knauss finalists

Graduate students from University of Georgia and Savannah State University have been selected as finalists for the 2021 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program. The program is designed for graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources, and in national policies that affect those resources.

The finalists will spend one year in Washington, D.C. in marine policy-related positions in legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

The finalists from Georgia are:

Maria Mercedes Carruthers Ferrero, Knauss Finalist

Maria Mercedes Carruthers Ferrero, Knauss Finalist

Maria Mercedes Carruthers Ferrero, who recently graduated with a degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. While in law school, Carruthers Ferrero worked as a research clerk and Georgia Sea Grant Legal Fellow at  the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government. As part of her fellowship, she helped Athens-Clarke County compose a long-term sustainability plan. Carruthers Ferrero earned her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary sciences at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus.



Amara Jones, Knauss Finalist

Amara Jones, Knauss Finalist

Amara Jones is pursuing her master’s degree in marine sciences from Savannah State University. Jones’ master’s thesis is focused on how temperatures affect the viral load of Panulirus argus virus 1 (PaV1) in Caribbean spiny lobsters. She is also comparing fishers’ opinions on the status of the spiny lobster fisheries in Florida and the Bahamas. Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in marine sciences from Savannah State University in 2012.



The two finalists from Georgia will join a cohort of 74 finalists in the 2021 class representing 27 of the 34 programs in the coastal and Great Lakes states and territories.

Placement of 2021 Knauss finalists as fellows is contingent on adequate funding in Fiscal Year 2021. For more information and a full list of finalists, visit the Knauss page on NOAA’s website.

Georgia Sea Grant awards funding for seven coastal research projects

The Georgia Sea Grant College Program at the University of Georgia has announced funding for seven new projects that will advance coastal science in Georgia. The diverse projects include investigations into policy barriers related to oyster aquaculture, tidal river flooding in upland communities, the development of artificial bait for the commercial blue crab fishery, impacts of black gill on shrimp, oyster pathogens, and the function of salt marsh ecosystems.

The projects are part of Georgia Sea Grant’s request for proposals process, which occurs every two years to address research priorities identified by coastal stakeholders.

This year, Georgia Sea Grant is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Ocean Acidification to fund a project looking at whether sediments increase or decrease the susceptibility of Georgia’s coastal waters to ocean acidification.

“By leveraging our federal partnerships, we can expand coastal research that addresses Georgia stakeholder concerns,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “These projects will help coastal communities, allow resource managers to plan and implement better policies, and engage scientists throughout Georgia in applied research and outreach.

The two-year projects include researchers from five universities in the state, including: The University of Georgia, Savannah State University, Georgia College, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia Southern University.

The 2020-2022 research projects and the lead investigators are:

  • Optimizing Georgia’s Shrimp Fishery in the Age of Black Gill – Marc Frischer, University of Georgia
  • Addressing Policy Barriers and Promoting Opportunities for the Success of Oyster Aquaculture in Georgia – Scott Pippin, University of Georgia
  • Tidal Channel Network Dynamics and Salt Marsh Ecosystem Functioning along the Georgia Coast – Amanda Spivak, University of Georgia
  • Expanded Head of Tide Determination of Georgia’s Coastal Rivers: Influences of Upland Riverine Flooding, Tidal Inundation, and Stochastic/Storm-surge Events – Christopher Hintz, Savannah State University
  • Field Testing a New Synthetic Sustainable Bait for Georgia’s Blue Crab Fishing Industry – Charles Derby, Georgia College
  • Role of Sediments in the Susceptibility to Ocean Acidification in Coastal Habitats – Martial Taillefert, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • How do Environmental Conditions and Oyster Population Genetics Influence Pathogen Prevalence and Intensity? – 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/

Stay connected to the coast. Subscribe to our newsletter today!