Five students from universities across Georgia have been selected to participate in Georgia Sea Grant’s Research Trainee program. During their year-long traineeship, these students will conduct high-quality research and gain critical professional skills while working with faculty and professional mentors.
Their research will address one of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s four focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, and environmental literacy and workforce development.
“Our Research Trainee Program allows us to support students who are studying real-world issues,” says Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The results of their research projects will help Georgia’s coastal communities and economies and these students will benefit from working with our coastal partners.”
The trainees will design and execute research projects that inform their dissertation or thesis while working closely with extension and education specialists at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant who will mentor these students and help share their work with coastal communities.
Peter Chiarelli is a food science and technology master’s candidate at the University of Georgia whose research focuses on developing a safe, high-quality crosslinked jellyfish gelatin that can help diversify Georgia’s jellyfish industry while maximizing profits.
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.
“My academic and professional goals entail being able to take an idea from just a concept to learning about that idea enough to be able to share it with others in a way that they too become excited in your idea. Then, I desire to take it one step further to successfully achieve that idea to produce a tangible product.”
Lauren Carroll is studying fisheries and aquatic systems at the University of Georgia as part of her master’s program. She is researching trends in juvenile fish and crustacean abundance and diversity related to short-term and long-term environmental change.
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.
“The Georgia Sea Grant Research Traineeship will provide the resources needed for my modeling project, while connecting me with outreach professionals so I may learn to effectively communicate my findings and mentor the next generation of scientists.”
Raven Hurt is a master’s student at Georgia Southern University studying biology. She will be researching the feasibility of using environmental DNA (eDNA) as a cost-effective tool to quantify the abundance and biomass of economically important white shrimp.
Currently, 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.
“The overall research trainee experience will help make my future as a research scientist more achievable and attainable since it will allow me to build new skills while demonstrating my ability to acquire funding and carry out research.”
Shannon Matzke, a master’s student studying biology at Georgia Southern University, is conducting research on the effectiveness of four different planting restoration treatments on sand dunes to find the best methods for sand accumulation and shoreline stability.
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.
“This traineeship will allow me to learn more about challenges facing coastal Georgia and the organizations that are working to tackle these challenges. This knowledge will help me to understand more about the ecosystems that I want to restore and conserve and will connect me to the people who know the specific needs of these habitats and the people who rely on them.”
Minjae Kim is a doctoral student studying civil and environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His research focuses on developing an integrated urban-hydrology-hydraulics-coastal model to analyze and forecast coastal flooding in cities on the coast, like Savannah, Georgia.
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.
“The program can provide connections between researchers and specialists who are working on application of theory and research. It can empower my research which can lack adequacy without connections to stakeholders, field specialists and more advanced researchers.”