Over 80 partners from across the state of Georgia gathered in Athens in July for a two-day Research Symposium and Strategic Planning Retreat as part of the Georgia Sea Grant strategic planning process. Every four years, Georgia Sea Grant, in partnership with the University of Georgia Marine Extension, develops a long-range strategic plan that describes goals and priorities for the coming years. An inclusive, multistep process that incorporates fresh input from a diverse constituency is necessary for the development of a strong strategic plan.
On the first day of the meeting, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant staff shared information about programmatic initiatives and their impacts on coastal communities. Georgia Sea Grant-funded researchers representing universities across the state also had the opportunity to present updates on their research.
Katie Mascovich, a master’s student at UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, talked about her research on Jekyll Island’s sea turtles and the importance of finding a balance between the Island’s ecological, economic, and social needs. Tracy Yandle, an Emory University researcher studying the barriers of getting locally harvested seafood into inland markets, discussed her work to improve the relationship between seafood producers and consumers and provide more economic stability to Georgia’s seafood community. The projects that were highlighted spanned a variety of topics and emphasized the importance of multidisciplinary, collaborative research to effectively enhance coastal communities and ecosystems.
The second day of the meeting was more focused on the future direction of Georgia Sea Grant. Partners played a more participatory role by separating into breakout groups based on important coastal topics, like sea level rise, ecosystem health, and coastal hazards.
Each group developed a list of research questions and topics for Georgia Sea Grant to focus on over the next four years.
The meeting was an outstanding success that both enabled UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to share information about its programs and obtain valuable input on research priorities. Next steps in the strategic planning process involve hosting meetings at the coast to engage additional coastal stakeholders in the strategic planning process.