Research Traineeship Program

Georgia Sea Grant strives to identify qualified undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines displaying evidence of high-levels of motivation and the capability to pursue marine, coastal and ocean science research.

Important Dates

Application period:
Jan. 25 – Mar. 4, 2024

Under the supervision of faculty and professional mentors, Sea Grant Research Trainees will undertake research projects that advance the goals and objectives outlined in Georgia Sea Grant’s Strategic Plan. A Sea Grant Research Trainee is a full-time registered undergraduate or graduate student who is working towards a degree related to marine, ocean or coastal sciences. Through sustained interactions with faculty and professional mentors, Sea Grant Trainees will conduct high-quality research, understand the relevance and impact of their research on the real world and gain critical professional skills.

The purpose of this request for applications is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific workforce by supporting original and innovative student research projects that address one or more priorities identified in our 2024-2027 Strategic Plan. 

Each academic year, Georgia Sea Grant will invest nearly $120,000 in its Research Traineeship Program. Graduate Traineeship applicants can request up to $25,000 in assistantship, materials, and/or travel. Undergraduate Traineeship applicants can request up to $4,000 in stipend to cover expenses associated with a research project.


  • Prospective Sea Grant Trainees must either be enrolled or prepared to enroll in a university, college, or non-profit academic institution of higher education accredited in, and having a campus located in Georgia, no later than fall of the year the award is accepted.
  • Students may apply before enrolling in a degree-granting program, but all prospective Sea Grant Trainees must be affiliated with an institution of higher education in Georgia, at the time of acceptance through completion or termination of the Traineeship.
  • All applicants must identify a faculty mentor under whose supervision the Sea Grant Trainee will conduct research. The mentor is usually a faculty advisor at any institution of higher education in Georgia.
  • In addition to faculty mentors, potential applicants must identify a professional mentor who will be an individual representing an outreach group or education group or an end-user community or stakeholder group.

We strongly encourage applications from Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in Georgia.

Guidelines for Submitting Applications

Applications must be submitted using Georgia Sea Grant’s online submission portal: https://eseagrant.uga.edu. Mandatory registration is required before the pre-proposal submission process. Applications that are not submitted via eSG will not be considered.

Prior to submitting an application, the prospective applicant must complete a one-time registration process in the eSG. It can take as long as two weeks to complete the registration process so it is critical to begin as soon as possible before the pre-proposal due date.

Instructions on how to register to use the system and how to upload your proposal to the eSG system can be viewed here. 

Application Deadline: March 4, 2024 5:00 p.m. EST 


2023-2024 Trainee Projects

Comparing the genetic diversity of Spartina alterniflora populations from natural Georgia ecosystems to those of nurseries from adjacent states
Anna Carnes, Georgia Tech

  • Carnes will look at the success rate of planting native spartina versus the nonnative varieties. There are currently no nurseries in Georgia that supply native Spartina. Her research will help determine the need for local sources at plant nurseries and will inform future marsh restoration practices.

Studying corals found along the southeastern coast of the U.S.
Alejandra Daniel, Georgia Southern University

  • Oculina arbuscula has been found to be resilient to the negative effects of climate change, including ocean acidification. Unlike most corals, Oculina arbuscula can continue to produce its skeleton when exposed to ocean acidification. Daniel’s project will involve studying the mechanism behind the coral’s resilience to ocean acidification.

Studying the impact of contaminants, including microplastic fibers and pharmaceutical chemicals, on oysters
Julia Frees, Georgia Southern University

  • Frees will study whether microplastic fibers increase the uptake of synthetic estrogen by eastern oysters. She will survey the levels of pollutants in oysters in coastal Georgia and conduct lab experiments to examine how microplastic fiber exposure affects synthetic estrogen concentration in oyster tissue, oyster growth and reproduction. The findings will be valuable to recreational and commercial oyster harvesters..

Studying migratory bird populations, particularly those experiencing rapid declines, like the painted bunting
Diane Klement, University of Georgia

  • Klement’s project seeks to understand which plants provide high-quality habitat for migratory birds to inform conservation efforts. Her research will use new tracking technologies and corresponding space-use estimates to accurately quantify habitat quality for the painted bunting.

Harmful algal blooms on the coast
Mallory Mintz, University of Georgia

  • Mintz’s research involves collaborating with UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant volunteers who participate in NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network to document the abundance of a HAB-forming red tide species, Akashiwo sanguinea. She hopes to determine the drivers of Akashiwo blooms and enhance understanding of HAB dynamics in coastal Georgia to improve monitoring efforts.

2022-2023 Trainee Projects

How capture and handling affects the physiological response and overall fitness of sharks local to Georgia
Chestina Craig, Georgia Southern University

  • Craig 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.

Identifying mitigation methods used in aquaculture and aquaponic facilities to control A. hydrophila
Jennifer Dorick, University of Georgia

  • A. hydrophila is 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.

Oyster reef restoration using naturally strengthened oysters to prevent erosion on Georgia’s shorelines
Sarah Roney, Georgia Tech

  • Roney 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. 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.

Investigating the effects of microplastic fiber contamination on zooplankton
Conner Simon, Georgia Southern University

  • 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.

Comparing morphologies of mainland and coastal Amphiuma means populations
Alexandra Theisen, Georgia Southern University

  • Theisan 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. The 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.

2021-2022 Trainee Projects

How does sediment disturbance affect resuspension and persistence of antibiotic resistance in the water column?
Samantha Alvey, Georgia Southern University

  • 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.

Impacts of Current and Future Septic System Failure in Glynn County, Georgia
Courtney Balling, University of Georgia

  • 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.

Two-year Microbial Evaluation of Foodborne Pathogen Sources in a Commercial Decoupled Aquaponics System
Jennifer Dorick, University of Georgia

  • This 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.

Analysis of benthic foraminiferal communities in the Savannah River Estuary in relation to harbor deepening
Monét Murphy, Savannah State University

  • This 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.

Studying the hydrodynamics and coastal impacts of the wake generated by container ships
Alexandra Muscalas, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • This project 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.

Using Predator Chemical Cues to Increase Oyster Mariculture and Restoration Efficiency
Sarah Roney, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • This project is looking at 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.

Integrating infectious disease dynamics with fisheries models to quantify effects of Hyalophysalynni on Georgia white shrimp population and harvest
Megan Tomamichel, University of Georgia

  • This 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.

2020-2021 Trainee Projects

Developing a safe, high-quality crosslinked jellyfish gelatin to diversify Georgia’s jellyfish industry
Peter Chiarelli, University of Georgia

  • This research will develop the gelatin powders by combining the sustainable supply of Georgia-caught cannonball jellyfish and Georgia-grown fruits. The powders, which have great potential in the marketplace as a low-calorie food thickener, can be used to microencapsulate probiotic, or health-promoting, bacteria.

Trends in juvenile fish and crustacean abundance and diversity related to environmental change
Lauren Carroll, University of Georgia

  • Her research will help to establish monitoring protocol for juvenile fish and crustaceans and create spatially explicit models to forecast impacts of long-term and short-term environmental change on coastal Georgia fisheries.

Using eDNA as a cost-effective tool to quantify the abundance and biomass of economically important white shrimp
Raven Hurt, Georgia Southern University

  • eDNA is an emerging methodology that involves collecting water samples and extracting DNA from those samples to detect the presence of aquatic species. Hurt will study samples collected along the coast looking for the abundance of white shrimp DNA. With her research, Hurt aims to remedy some of the eDNA limitations, so it can replace more traditional monitoring methodologies that may not be as efficient or economic.

Researching the effectiveness of planting restoration treatments on sand dunes to find the best methods for sand accumulation and shoreline stability
Shannon Matzke, Georgia Southern University

  • This research will help determine the effectiveness of Tybee Island’s large-scale dune reconstruction project at restoring degraded coastal areas to proper ecological function. The project will also incorporate the use of LiDAR to assess change in dune morphology. Overall, the project will provide insight into to which planting technique sustains optimal plant growth and maximum sand binding capacity.

Developing an integrated urban-hydrology-hydraulics-coastal model to analyze and forecast flooding in coastal cities
Minjae Kim, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • This research will help urban areas near oceans better prepare for potential flooding by providing a forecasting model which would account for incoming climate changes and degree of urbanization of the area. The data collected through this research will help cities create customized mitigation plans and develop preventative measures.
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