The Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach recognized faculty and staff members for outstanding service to the state and UGA April 16 at the 27th annual Public Service and Outreach Meeting and Awards Luncheon. Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s James Marty Higgins and Tori Stivers were among those recognized for their dedication to public service. 

Walter Barnard Hill Award

The Walter Barnard Hill Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach recognizes faculty members and service professionals for their contributions to the improvement of the quality of life in Georgia and beyond.

Tori Stivers is the seafood and marketing specialist for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. She provides guidance and training to the seafood industry, helping businesses meet food safety regulations and ensuring that Georgia seafood is safe for consumers. Stivers also educates consumers across the state on the health benefits of eating seafood and works to ensure that markets are available for Georgia seafood products.

Stivers has directly impacted hundreds of seafood businesses in the Southeast by providing the federally-mandated Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) training to industry professionals. This training teaches employees how to analyze their seafood products and processing systems and develop a plan to control hazards that may impact their products. It is essential to ensuring consumer safety. Stivers is one of few certified instructors in Georgia who provide the HACCP training for seafood. Without this service, companies would not be allowed to operate, which would negatively impact about 165 seafood retailers in the state.

Stivers further supports the seafood industry through marketing efforts. She has taken a lead role in promoting Georgia seafood, not only on the coast, but to inland markets in Atlanta and Athens. Stivers individually matches potential buyers with suppliers and identifies niche markets for Georgia seafood. She developed the Georgia Seafood Directory, an online resource listing certified seafood wholesalers and retailers in Georgia. This tool has increased the visibility and sales of small seafood businesses that that don’t have the time or expertise to host website platform. It also serves as a resource for visitors to the coast who want to purchase local seafood.

Stivers serves on many regional and national committees, including the Seafood HACCP Alliance Steering Committee and the International Association for Food Protection.

“Due to Tori’s dedication and highly motivated work ethic, she is recognized as a national leader and voice for many educational efforts related to seafood,” said David Wiggins, southeast regional shellfish specialist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Under Tori’s leadership, Georgia is known to have one of the best, if not the best, programs in the country.”

Read about the other recipients of the 2018 Walter Barnard Hill Award here.

PSO Staff Award for Excellence

The Public Service and Outreach Staff Award for Excellence is the most prestigious award for staff members and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a strong work ethic, commitment to service, and exceptional job performance.

The 2018 recipient of the Public Service and Outreach Staff Award for Excellence is Marty Higgins, a marine resource specialist for Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. For 33 years, Higgins has assisted in the research and development of fisheries gear and advised conservation research while serving as the first mate of the R/V Georgia Bulldog. His work has helped conserve coastal resources while keeping fishermen in business.

Born and raised in Brunswick, Higgins has developed a deep, trusting relationship with Georgia’s coastal fishing community. When UGA Marine Extension was at the forefront of assisting in the development and certification of turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, which prevent sea turtles from being caught in shrimp nets, Higgins provided countless hours of technical assistance and consultation to ensure the devices not only met conservation standards but also minimized economic loss to fishermen.

Higgins has spent most of his ­career on the water, advising hundreds of research projects and making sure field gear meets state and federal ­standards for safety and performance. He has maintained the 40-year-old R/V Georgia Bulldog, allowing the crew to continue to support fisheries and conservation research on Georgia’s most valuable coastal resources, including loggerhead sea turtles and the North Atlantic right whale.

He also operates the Brunswick station’s smaller research vessels for both water quality and fishery needs and provides maintenance and support for the entire Brunswick facility so that faculty and staff work safely and efficiently as they carry out the service mission of the university.

Higgins provides welding and mechanical services to visiting scientists and local fishermen. His ability to repair, rebuild and maintain fishing and research gear has saved fishermen thousands of dollars on boat repairs and kept them on the water. Higgins’ commitment to public service has established UGA’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant program as one that is nationally recognized for being responsive to the public.

“If we had more people like Marty in this world, [the fishing industry] would have a lot less problems,” said Bruce Collins, the packing house manager with City Market Seafood in Brunswick. “He’s kept us educated about new fishing equipment and ways the university is supporting the industry. He’s probably helped every fisherman on the waterfront.”