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

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/

UGA creates stormwater management tools to help reduce flooding in coastal communities

Fact sheets, checklists and a video created by faculty at the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are helping coastal communities invest in green infrastructure that protect areas from flooding and pollution from stormwater runoff.

In the first year of their development, eight communities, or 44% of the municipalities in coastal Georgia that are regulated to protect water bodies, have used the tools created by Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, a UGA public service and outreach unit.

With funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist at the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant office in Brunswick, partnered with Goodwyn Mills Cawood, an architecture and engineering firm, to produce a video highlighting the role of green infrastructure in coastal Georgia, factsheets on the most common green infrastructure practices, and inspection checklists to be used by professionals who maintain those practices.

“There is a lack of visual guidance and local, coastal examples of green stormwater infrastructure,” Brown said. “These tools help bridge that gap.”

Roads, buildings and parking lots that are impervious can lead to stormwater runoff and exacerbate flooding issues on the coast. When communities invest in green infrastructure, like installing permeable pavement or creating neighborhood rain gardens, they become more resilient.

According to the 2017 Coastal Georgia Low Impact Development Inventory, there are 220 green infrastructure practices in Georgia’s 11 coastal counties that manage 89.3 million gallons of stormwater annually. More than 94% of those green infrastructure practices are in the eight municipalities that are using the tools.

“We’re having to really rethink how we’re planning for our communities for the long haul,” said Jackie Jackson, director of advance planning and special projects with the Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission. “In Chatham County we’re faced with planning for saltwater intrusion, we’re seeing things that are impacting our waterways and tree canopies, and we throw that on top of huge issues with localized flooding and more and more storms.”

“We’re kind of at that tipping point where we’ve got to start doing something different, and these are tools that we can use to start making some of those important changes.”

Constructed bioswale at Marshall’s Run apartments in Garden City, Georgia.

Since the work is often carried out by maintenance staff in public works departments, Brown, created the user-friendly tools with them in mind. Jackson helped Brown gather feedback from public works staff as the factsheets and checklists were being developed. She then worked with the cities of Bloomingdale and Garden City to incorporate the resources into their stormwater management plans, which led to the tools being approved by the state of Georgia for these coastal communities.

“All inspection forms have to be approved by the state and the state agreed that these tools will work,” Jackson said. “The end product is something that the state of Georgia actually permits communities to implement, so it becomes a win-win for everybody.”

The tools are free and available to anyone interested in learning about or implementing green infrastructure practices. They are available at https://gacoast.uga.edu/stormwater-management/

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348 ext. 107
Contact: Jessica Brown, jtrbrown@uga.edu, 912-264-7341

UGA students develop plan to improve infrastructure at Fort Pulaski so that the site can remain open to tourists

A trio of UGA engineering students have found a way to maintain the Fort Pulaski National Monument site as a viable destination for park visitors for the foreseeable future.

Sea level rise, severe storms and more frequent flooding have made it difficult for the wastewater in the park’s septic drain fields to filter out through the soil.

“That could mean contaminated water is rising up onto the ground, and that’s not safe for humans or the environment in general,” said Sarah Pierce, a recently graduated senior who worked on the project.

Without a way to safely remove the waste, the park would not be able to continue welcoming the more than 350,000 guests who visit the National Park Service’s Civil War battle site each year. Currently, there are only six functioning toilets and two functioning urinals on the property.

Fort Pulaski National Monument

Fort Pulaski National Monument, located on Cockspur Island. The Civil War battle site welcomes more than 350,000 guests per year.

Pierce and fellow College of Engineering seniors Emily Mitchell and Sawyer Soucie spent the past year working with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant on a senior capstone project to develop a sustainable solution that would be resilient to changing water levels and not harm the protected marshlands that make up the majority of the park.

The team studied the infrastructure on Cockspur Island, where the park and a U.S. Coast Guard station are located, looking at sea level rise projections, soil composition and wastewater volume. They ultimately proposed three different ideas: building an improved, mounded septic system; developing a mini wastewater treatment plant on Cockspur Island; and installing a network of pipes to transport the wastewater to the municipal wastewater treatment facility on neighboring Tybee Island.

The piping option was the clear choice. While all three proposals would solve the park’s issues in the short term, piping the wastewater off the island was the only solution that could permanently eliminate the need for the 13 septic systems on the island, including those used by the Coast Guard.

“Environmentally it’s safest for the long-term,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and a mentor to the engineering students on the project. “On a barrier island with sandy soil and increasingly high-water tables, [septic systems] are just less and less effective and more and more likely to cause environmental degradation.”

The big question was whether the City of Tybee Island, which is facing some of the same challenges with rising sea levels, would be willing to take on the additional waste from the fort. But city officials recognized that protecting the national monument would benefit the entire region, which relies heavily on tourism as a local revenue source. The students’ designs for the pipeline included the possibility of tying in waste from restaurants and retail shops on the outskirts of Tybee Island, which could soon face the same issues with their septic service.

“We were really being baptized by fire,” Soucie said of the project. “It’s more than just designing a septic system or a wastewater system. It’s about all these moving parts and trying to get them moving in the right direction. It’s been a lot of learning, which is exciting.”

The students virtually showcased their final presentation to Fort Pulaski administrators, Tybee Island officials and representatives from both the U.S. National Park Service and Coast Guard at the end of the spring semester.

Fort Pulaski superintendent Melissa Memory, herself a 1989 graduate from the Department of Anthropology at UGA, was thrilled by the quality of the students’ work.

“They’ve blown it out of the water metaphorically and literally with how far they’ve taken this project,” said Memory. “A lot of student projects are good at concepts, but it’s rare that they get it this far and give us a clear direction on path forward…They far exceeded our expectations for what they’d be able to do for us.”

Consultants are already working on pipeline designs and concepts based on the students’ presentation, which represents significant savings for the fort. Memory and US Park Service officials are exploring ways to finance the project.

A graph of the current and proposed sewer lines.

The sewer line proposed by the UGA engineering students would replace Fort Pulaski’s current septic system, which has been failing due to rising sea levels.

For the students, the project provided an opportunity to put their academic education to the test in the real world.

“This is a huge passion of mine,” Mitchell said. “Water quality engineering specifically. I’ll be pursuing this in the future, and this is a major steppingstone in my career. I’m just extremely grateful to be on such an incredible project like this, especially with so many stakeholders and importance of everyone involved.”

The demand for coastal engineering will only increase in the years to come. The students’ efforts — both in engineering and politics — is a showcase for how communities need to work together to combat the growing effects of sea level rise, said Brian Bledsoe, director of the College of Engineering’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems who mentored the students on the Fort Pulaski project.

“Fort Pulaski is not the only park or monument that’s grappling with having to adapt to climate change and sea level rise and a rapidly changing world,” Bledsoe said. “I think this could be a good example of how partnerships with adjacent communities can work. When we share infrastructure, we can keep our options open and maybe find more long-term and cost-effective solutions. Hopefully this is something that the park service can hold up as an example of what other entities can do.”

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant addresses flooding issues at Camden County Extension office

UGA’s Cooperative Extension office in Camden County has experienced its fair share of soaked floors and wet shoes. When it rained, water streamed into the building.

UGA’s Cooperative Extension office in Camden County is home to the new bioretention cell.

Fortunately, these days the floors remain dry thanks to the installation of a new stormwater management practice that alleviates flooding and serves as an educational tool for visitors.

In 2019, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant teamed up with the Camden County Extension office and the Camden County Department of Public Works to find a solution to the flooding. The fix was a bioretention cell that captures and treats runoff by mimicking the natural water cycle.

“A bioretention cell is a landscape depression that is designed to hold the rain for about 24 to 48 hours to slowly allow the water to seep back into the ground,” said Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, who led the project.

As stormwater flows over surfaces like the parking lot outside of the extension office, it picks up pollutants and carries those to streams and larger waterways, degrading water quality, Brown said. The bioretention cell limits the amount of runoff, keeping nearby bodies of water clean.

A bioretention cell is a stormwater management practice that helps mitigate flooding risks by layering organic materials such as sand, top soil, gravel, mulch and plants.

Brown first learned about the flooding issues from Jessica Warren, Camden County Extension agriculture and natural resources agent, who is based at the facility Woodbine, Georgia.

“Our office had some flooding issues when we had heavy rainstorms, or severe weather events, since the parking lot is slightly graded towards our building,” said Warren. “We would have water come in the doors and saturate areas in the office, so you would see it standing several inches up on the foundation of the building.”

UGA PSO Scholar Jake Forcier talks with Brown about his plans for the bioretention cell. Photo taken prior to February 2020.

With a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the assistance of a UGA student studying biochemical engineering, Brown designed and oversaw the installation of the bioretention cell.

The project was a valuable experiential learning opportunity for Jake Forcier, a UGA Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar interning with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

Brown “truly set me up for success and allowed me to put my best foot forward in my first engineering project outside of school,” Forcier said. “Going out there and seeing all my calculations being used to properly dig the bioretention cell was a really cool experience.”

Camden County’s Public Works Road Crew helps prepare the plot of land for the installation of the bioretention cell. Photo taken prior to February 2020.

Camden County’s Public Works Road Crew provided the tools and construction assistance for the installation. They worked alongside Warren and Brown to excavate the area and add sand and topsoil to form the base layer of the bioretention cell. Mulch, rocks and gravel form the second layer, and a variety of native plants including swamp sunflower, blue ageratum and blue-eyed grass were planted on top.

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the progress of the project, the bioretention cell was fully installed and functioning by the end of 2020. The native plants have been established in the area, and two rain barrels donated by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division have been installed. The final step of the project is to create and display educational signage at the site in 2021.

Brown and Warren plant various native plants in the cell.

“We will hopefully have an open house and some educational events that will help give people examples and a demonstration of what they could do with their landscape issues, [such as] how to better integrate native plants or how to manage stormwater issues in their landscape,” said Warren.

The project, which was recently awarded the Four for the Future award by Georgia Trend and UGA Public Service and Outreach, has also opened the door for the Camden County Extension office to serve as an example for other communities in coastal Georgia experiencing similar issues.

Warren (pictured on the left) and Brown (pictured on the right) partnered together to create the bioretention cell that will serve as an educational tool for community members.

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant welcomes summer interns

Six interns are working remotely this summer with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant staff and faculty on research, education and outreach initiatives. Summer internships with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are critical to enhancing environmental literacy and workforce development in the coastal region.

Kadie Beth Duncan is a rising senior at UGA where she is studying public relations and Spanish. This summer, she will be serving as one of the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s communications interns. She will be drafting and editing blog posts, updating the website and helping out on social media campaigns. Overall, she is excited to learn all about marine science research and how to communicate that to the general public. In her free time, Kadie Beth enjoys walking at the park with her dog, watching TV shows and cheering on the Dawgs!
Gabriel Rey, originally from Colombia, attends Stetson University where he is studying environmental science. He is passionate about technology and the ocean. This summer, he will be interning with the stormwater program continuing the work he started last year. He will continue helping implement green infrastructure and low impact development trainings and monitoring infiltration rates of low impact development projects in coastal Georgia. Gabriel likes to spend most of his time on the water; he is an avid surfer and advanced scuba diver.
Casey LaBar comes from a small town outside of New York City. She is a student studying Illustration for Entertainment with a focus in Scientific Illustration at Savannah College of Art and Design. This summer, she will be serving as one of the UGA Marine Extension and GA Sea Grant’s communications interns. She will be working on an illustration project that includes drawings of fish, crabs, equipment and marine habitats that will help people visiting the coast of Georgia learn more about it. She loves animals and drawing, so being able to draw animals is a dream come true.
Ipsita Tingi, a rising sophomore, attends Princeton University where she is studying chemical and biological engineering. Using this degree, she wants to connect citizens to science, whether it be through innovative technologies or organizations. She is a Public Programs Intern, so she will be helping to teach, evaluate, develop, coordinate, and market the virtual programs we have this summer. Ipsita especially loves plants, camping, and learning about cultures, though she is excited to learn about marine sciences.
Sam Lance attends Washington University in St. Louis where she is a rising junior majoring in environmental earth science. She is specifically interested in metamorphic processes such as mountain building, glaciers and the rock formations they create, and field geology. Sam is working as a Water Quality Intern, so she will be tasked with creating lesson plans for students about freshwater wetlands and how they are impacted by climate change. She is drawn to teaching and helping others see why she finds the STEM field so fascinating
Raven Kern is a student at College of Coastal Georgia where she is studying character design. Her grandfather is a shrimper in Brunswick, so the coast has always been a big part of her life. This summer she will be working with the stormwater program where she will help organize information into spreadsheets making valuable data easy to find. Raven is extremely interested in marine life.

UGA helps coastal communities address a potential public health crisis: Failing septic tanks that contaminate groundwater

Ashley Cooper-Heath and her husband had lived in a house on the banks of the St. Mary’s River in Camden County for about a decade when they noticed that their septic tank was leaking, spilling sewage into the river.

“I really didn’t want to have to spend the money replacing it, but I knew at some point we were going to have to,” Cooper-Heath said.

Fortunately for her, Camden County was on top of the problem. The county had assessed its septic systems and identified 21 that were failing, including Cooper-Heath’s. Using a grant from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the county replaced the failing septic systems with mounded systems that are better suited to the local environmental conditions because of the high groundwater table.

“I understand why they don’t dig into the ground because we’re right next to the water and if anything should leak it goes into the (river),” Cooper-Heath says. “Everybody is starting to see the importance now.”


A mounded septic system replaced Ashley Cooper Heath’s failing septic system.

In an effort to assist other property owners along the coast, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is mapping every septic system in an 11-county region and adding that information to a database that helps officials recognize and address septic system failures before a serious public health crisis can occur. It also will help communities better plan when they need to install new septic tanks to accommodate growth.

“Georgia is one of the first states in the country to develop a comprehensive inventory of existing septic tanks in the entire coastal region,” says Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and lead on the septic system mapping project. “This should allow us to better manage these systems in the future and avoid problems that other rapidly growing coastal areas have experienced.”

Camden County was one of the first of the coastal counties to address the problem of failing septic tanks. Most of the failing systems were installed in areas with poor soil that were prone to flooding, said Terry Ferrell, environmental health manager for the Camden County Coastal Health District. They were also installed before 2000, when the state passed a rule requiring septic tanks be separated from the groundwater table by at least one- to two-feet.

Since replacing the failing or failed systems, water quality samples taken near those sites have shown a decrease in bacteria levels. Ferrell said 20-30 septic systems in the watershed will be replaced in the next phase of the project.

In rural Georgia, where centralized wastewater treatment facilities are few and far between, most homes rely on underground septic systems to store and treat wastewater. Each system has its own drain field where effluent from the tank is slowly discharged into the soil, which treats the wastewater by removing harmful bacteria and nutrients before reaching the groundwater.

The problem is that as sea levels rise, so too does the groundwater table, leaving less soil to filter out contaminants before it reaches the groundwater. Increased flooding also leaves the ground more saturated, rendering the drain field temporarily ineffective and leading to septic system failure. These hazards are threatening as many as 60,000 septic systems in coastal Georgia.

septic performance

failing septic

When septic failures occur, bacteria and viruses from human waste can enter the groundwater and coastal waterways, making people sick. Coming into contact with this polluted water may result in symptoms that range from vomiting to more severe illnesses like typhoid or dysentery. Poor water quality can also shut down public beaches and restrict shellfish harvesting in certain areas, impacting Georgia’s tourism and commercial fishing industries. Excess pollutants from failing systems that make their way to tidal creeks and estuaries can cause algal blooms, which deplete oxygen levels in the water and kill fish.

“As sea level rise leads to a higher groundwater table, and encroaches on the septic drain field, even the newer systems will begin failing,” says Scott Pippin, a faculty member with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Both the Vinson Institute and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant are UGA Public Service and Outreach units. “It is important that communities have plans in place to deal with these issues down the road.”

That’s where the database becomes essential. With funding from the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resource Division and the Environmental Protection Agency, the inventory has been expanded to show which septic systems might be at risk based on other factors in the database, such as the likelihood of flooding, sea level rise or pollution. Anyone can access the data to make informed decisions about installing septic systems in certain locations. It also makes it easier for conservation groups and researchers to study or better monitor high risk areas.

So far, the septic inventory includes a total of 57,865 septic tanks in eight of the 11 counties. The team is still entering data from Charlton, Brantley and Wayne counties.

Pippin, in partnership with the UGA Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems, has funding from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration to use the septic inventory to assess present and future vulnerabilities of septic systems in Bryan County, west of Savannah and home to the Fort Stewart Army Base.

According to the 2016 U.S. Census, Bryan County was the second fastest-growing county in Georgia. As population growth and coastal development increases, improving management and planning for future on-site septic systems in these vulnerable, rural areas becomes increasingly important.

“We’re using inventory data as well as groundwater and sea level rise data,” Pippin says, “to develop a method for evaluating septic system vulnerability and potential site suitability for septic tanks that’s based on present coastal conditions as well as future conditions.”

You can access the database at https://www.welstrom.com/coastal/

Writer: Emily Kenworthy, ekenworthy@uga.edu, 912-598-2348
Contact: Mark Risse, mrisse@uga.edu, 706-542-5956

UGA receives $50,000 grant from AT&T to address flooding in Athens-Clarke County

A grant from AT&T will help an interdisciplinary team of UGA faculty assess long-term flood frequency and severity for Athens-Clarke County in order to better plan for future development and infrastructure investments.

Paul Chambers Jr., regional director of external affairs for AT&T presented the check to Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach, and Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Risse will work with Shana Jones, planning and environmental services program manager at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and Brian Bledsoe, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Resilient Infrastructure, in the UGA College of Engineering. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government are UGA public service and outreach units.

The UGA project will assess potential future flooding issues for Athens-Clarke County. The county and UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems will work together to develop flood inundation maps, visualizations and a modeling framework for rapidly assessing flooding pressure points at the municipal scale. These products will create an improved understanding of future flood hazards and inform long-term planning and infrastructure investment priorities.

UGA is one of five southeastern institutions selected for AT&T’s Climate Resiliency Community Challenge, a project designed to help communities in the United State build a resistance to climate change. The teams will use data commissioned by AT&T from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and funding from AT&T to conduct innovative research on climate impacts and community responses in the southeastern United States.

UGA’s new Green Living Series promotes conservation through individual action

Residents of Georgia’s coastal communities can learn how to save money and better preserve natural resources during “Green Living,” a new series of programs offered by the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in Brunswick this winter.

“Our goal is to help coastal residents realize how everyday actions, from picking up after pets to using reusable bags, not only saves money but also helps conserve and protect our vital coastal resources,” says Kayla Clark, public programs coordinator for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We know how much people value living in the Golden Isles. Our hope is to share some fun, innovative ideas for how they can help protect this area as well as the rest of the coast.”

From December through March, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will offer sustainability-focused events, including a film screening, tips on how to save money by using less energy, the environmental impacts of animal waste, recycling habits, and a lesson in building a rain barrel.

Class topics and dates are provided below. Registration is required for each class. Participants can register online here. More information is available on the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant event calendar.

Film Screening: The Human Element, Dec. 5
Enjoy a free screening of the visually stunning documentary, “The Human Element,” in which environmental photographer James Balog captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. Following the film, a panel of local experts will discuss efforts to address climate resiliency in coastal Georgia. Panelists include Susan Inman, the Altamaha Coastkeeper; Randy Tate, Ft. Stewart/Altamaha Partnership coordinator for the Longleaf Alliance; and Rachel Guy, research coordinator at Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Home Energy Economics: Saving Money by Going Green, Jan. 23
Learn about utilities that save energy and money. Talk with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s marine economist, Adam Stemle, about the costs and benefits of different types of energy, and make a plan for reducing energy costs at your home or office.

What’s the Scoop? Environmental Impacts of Animal Waste, Feb. 6
Animal waste from wildlife and domestic pets can introduce harmful bacteria into waterways. Understanding where this waste is coming from can help us better prevent and manage it in the future. Join Asli Aslan, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Georgia Southern University, on a field trip to St. Simons Coast Guard Beach where you will survey the beach for possible sources of pollution. Afterwards, participants will engage in hands-on activities in the Brunswick Station laboratory to learn about the water testing that takes place behind the scenes to help protect human health.

Beyond the Bin: Rethinking Recycling Habits, Feb. 20
Learn about some of the negative impacts of single-use plastics and other types of marine debris on coastal ecosystems before exploring new, creative ways to reduce, recycle and reuse plastic material. Lea King-Badyna, executive director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, will discuss local cleanup and recycling initiatives taking place in the Golden Isles and Jennifer Zamudio, owner of Dot and Army Sustainable Everyday Goods, will share her story about building a sustainable business out of reusable materials.

Planning for Rainy Days: Building your own Rain Barrel, March 6
Rain barrels are an easy and affordable way to manage and conserve rainwater that can be used for your garden or to maintain your lawn. The Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is partnering with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to teach residents how to build a rain barrel they will take home following the program.


UGA Brunswick Station Open House scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 26

UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is hosting its second open house at the Brunswick Station on Sept. 26 from 4-7 p.m.

Visitors of all ages are invited to tour the facility, engage with coastal experts, and learn about Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s research, education and extension efforts on the coast.

“The whole idea is to connect people in the community to the resources that we have here at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant,” said Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director. “From helping residents prepare for hurricanes to installing a rain garden, we have in-house experts ready and willing to serve people on the coast.”

Staff will have stations set up throughout the facility that feature live marine animals and reptiles, hands-on marine debris activities and information about Georgia’s shellfish industry.

A new virtual reality demonstration station will allow visitors to experience what it’s like when an 8-foot storm surge impacts a home on the coast. The program, which was developed in collaboration with the Games and Virtual Environments Lab in the UGA Grady College and Mass Communication, takes users through a hurricane event with storm surge and then allows them to elevate their house and obtain flood insurance to protect their family and property against future flood risks.

The R/V Georgia Bulldog, a 72-foot shrimp trawler that has been converted into a multipurpose research vessel, will be open to visitors. The Bulldog has been providing logistical support for research projects that involve fishery development, bottom mapping and sea turtle conservation since the 1980s.

Visitors are also invited to explore the station’s half-acre native plant demonstration garden with more than 115 types of native plants.

Staff at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Brunswick Station have been serving coastal Georgia communities for over 40 years, conducting important water quality research, ensuring safe seafood, preparing communities for coastal hazards and educating Georgians about stormwater management.

Additional details about the event can be found here: https://gacoast.uga.edu/event/brunswick-station-open-house/

Learn more about Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant at https://gacoast.uga.edu/.

Contact: Emily Kenworthy, 912-598-2340 ext. 107, ekenworthy@uga.edu

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