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Current Projects

Georgia Sea Grant funds over half a million dollars of coastal research every two years.

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Georgia Sea Grant funds research projects on two-year cycles, sponsoring projects that investigate or better understand coastal ecosystems, policy making and marine industries. Georgia Sea Grant research projects are shared with coastal communities and stakeholders, facilitating sustainable economic development and land use practices, healthy coastal ecosystems, safe and sustainable seafood and coastal hazard mitigation.

2020-2022 Projects

Field Testing a New Synthetic Sustainable Bait for Georgia’s Blue Crab Fishing Industry
Principal Investigator: Charles Derby, Georgia State University

  • This project is designed to test a sustainable, effective, and relatively inexpensive synthetic blue crab bait that releases attractants at desired rates for catching crabs. The project will support the blue crab fishing industry by resolving the issue of unavailable or expensive bait. Developing and testing new tools and technologies can help Georgia’s blue crab industry market its products and maximize profits. Advertising this novel fishing practice as using a sustainable and non-animal bait not only makes economic sense but also marketing sense, and the practice could contribute to Georgia Sea Grant’s Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture goal of supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

How do environmental conditions and oyster population genetics influence pathogen prevalence and intensity?
Principal Investigator: John Carroll, Georgia Southern University

  • Understanding the relationships and interactions that might influence oyster diseases and human pathogens is critical for growth and proper management of the oyster aquaculture industry in Georgia. The ultimate goal of this research is to examine the relationships between population genetics and environmental conditions with oyster susceptibility to parasites and human-pathogen loads. Building on preliminary work in Oyster Creek, the proposed research seeks to address the following objectives: 1) Examine the presence and intensity of common oyster diseases within the leases and cultured stock; 2) Determine the fine scale population structure of oysters in select harvest areas; and 3) Conduct fine scale bi-monthly sampling of oysters to explore whether abiotic stressors relate to pathogen or parasite risk. Results from this research will be useful for management of the wild- and culture oyster fishery.

Optimizing Georgia’s Shrimp Fishery in the Age of Black Gill
Principal Investigator: Marc Frischer, UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

  • This project will study black gill, a parasitic infection affecting shrimp on the Georgia coast. Research objective are to identify and determine mechanism(s) of ciliate transmission routes, continue to monitor black gill, particularly during the early summer (May – June) and winter (November – December) periods when black gill emerges and disappears from white shrimp and when routine monitoring is most limited, and develop new tools (mathematical models) to estimate the impact of black gill on shrimp stocks. The project will facilitate the dissemination and use of this information to the benefit of a sustainable and healthy shrimp fishery in Georgia.

Expanded Head of Tide Determination of Georgia’s Coastal Rivers: Influences of Upland Riverine Flooding, Tidal Inundation, and Stochastic/Storm-surge Events
Principal Investigator: Christopher Hintz, Savannah State University

  • This research will determine the head of tide, which is the transition from tidal fresh waters to upland river water, in each of the five major river watersheds along the Georgia Coast-line: Savannah, Ogeechee, Altamaha, Satilla. and St. Mary’s Rivers. Determining the head of tide will allow the research team to more clearly identify the boundaries of the Protection of Tidewaters Act, which placed restrictions on land use and development along Georgia’s coastal river ecosystems. The study will also identify critical areas of vulnerability for each watershed system, and develop present-day baseline for understanding future changes to the river from sea level rise or land use development. With limited resources available throughout the state to bolster coastal resiliency and protect the environment, this research strives to develop effective, low-cost, scientifically-sound methodologies to accurately identify head of tide in coastal watersheds. This research directly aims to improve the knowledge and technical skillset of Georgia’s citizens, improving the workforce potential and public environmental literacy.

Addressing Policy Barriers and Promoting Opportunities for the Success of Oyster Aquaculture in Georgia
Principal Investigator: Scott Pippin, UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government

  • Oyster farming present a number of different economic opportunities including wholesale to restaurants, direct sales to consumers, on-site restaurants, working with seafood distributors as well eco-tourism and other experiential type opportunities. Conflicts with oyster farms can be categorized into two broad categories: those occurring in the water (i.e., recreational boating), and those occurring on the land (i.e., zoning that restricts dockside operations). This project will address barriers to the growth and development of oyster aquaculture in Georgia. Specifically, this project supports the following goals: 1) Facilitate the development of model state laws and guidance to address typical legal and regulatory barriers to the aquaculture industry; and 2) Conduct surveys to assess and describe consumer, public, and coastal managers’ acceptance level and desire to promote aquaculture industries, including consumer perception and preferences, food safety, labeling and certifications, seafood demand studies and promotion of local seafood.

Tidal channel network dynamics and salt marsh ecosystem functioning along the Georgia Coast
Principal Investigator: Amanda Spivak, University of Georgia

  • This study will quantify tidal channel migration and marsh change along Georgia’s coastline from 1850s to present and characterize the impacts on both existing infrastructure and on marsh ecosystem functioning. Through a combination of historical, geospatial, ecological, and geochemical approaches, the project team will generate an integrated assessment of tidal channel migration and how this process affects marsh ecosystem ecology and carbon storage. Data will allow the project team to determine if the rate of channel migration has changed over time, whether plant biomass differs in retreating versus prograding marshes, identify hotspots of landscape change and determine whether they pose a risk to the built infrastructure (power lines, roads, pipelines). By integrating large- and small- scale processes, results will refine the role of Georgia’s marshes in large scale carbon budgets and facilitate ecosystem service valuation.

Role of Sediments in the Susceptibility to Ocean Acidification in Coastal Habitats
Principal Investigator: Martial Taillefert, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Ocean acidification (OA) decreases the pH and carbonate saturation state of seawater, modifies biogeochemical cycles, and is detrimental to benthic and pelagic calcareous organisms, ecosystems, as well as fishing and shellfish industries. Given the renewed interested in oyster mariculture in Georgia and the known effects of OA on oyster growth and development, it is important to determine if OA is significant and identify the main processes potentially generating OA in Georgia coastal waterways. The project objectives include: 1) Quantifying benthic alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon fluxes and biogeochemical processes regulating these fluxes using state-of-the-art in situ benthic landers and microbiological techniques; 2) Comparing benthic fluxes to water column processes across different habitats to determine the role of nutrient inputs and salt marshes on surface water susceptibility to OA; 3) Assessing the importance of runoff and coastal storms on the benthic flux of alkalinity or acidity; and 4) Engaging K-12 teachers and graduate and undergraduate trainees in research and preservation of coastal habitats to increase environmental literacy, and informing stakeholders and the general public about this potentially important problem.

2018-2020 Projects

The Role of the Spartina Phytobiome in Restoration and Resilience to Environmental Change
Principal Investigator: Joel Kostka, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • The goals of the project are to investigate the role of the Spartina phytobiome (plant host + constituent microbiome + environment) in supporting the health and ecosystem function of Spartina and to provide an understanding of the role of the phytobiome in the resilience of coastal marshes during restoration and in response to environmental change (drought, warming, sea level rise).

Shrimp Black Gill in Georgia
Principal Investigator: Marc Frischer, University of Georgia

  • This project will (i) determine the life history and taxonomic identity of the ciliate that causes shrimp black gill in Georgia, (ii) investigate the relationship between black gill infection and the shrimp life cycle and (iii) quantify effects of black gill on shrimp growth and mortality and how these effects are modulated by temperature. Addressing these objectives is of primary concern for the shrimping industry and resource managers charged with protecting the resource for a sustainable fishery.

Sensitivity of Gray’s Reef invertebrates and algae to ocean acidification and implications for the ecosystem
Principal Investigator: Daniel Gleason, Georgia Southern University

  • This study will provide baseline knowledge about the species-level effects of ocean acidification that will enable scientists and managers to better anticipate OA’s effects on hard bottom reefs of the South Atlantic Blight. Research results will inform resource management efforts by staff at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Incorporating Future Infrastructure Decisions into Salt Marsh Migration Models
Brian Bledsoe, University of Georgia

  • The goal of this project is to develop improved salt marsh migration modeling tools representing interactions between shoreline armoring techniques and marsh migration. This project will include a scientific assessment of salt marsh response to sea level rise and future shoreline infrastructure along the Georgia coast. PIs will develop a series of model scenarios representing interactions between plausible shoreline armoring actions and marsh migration to explore the upland edge of the Georgia coast in response to SLR through 2100. Results will show how armoring decisions, policies and approaches influence the extent to which salt marshes dominated by Spartina alterniflora and brackish marshes dominated by Juncus romerianus can be maintained through inland migration.

Is groundwater a potential driver of oyster populations within Georgia creeks?
Principal Investigator: John Carroll, Georgia Southern University

  • The proposed project will (i) examine the relationship between oyster abundance and groundwater discharge (GWD) by mapping four tidal creeks; (ii) quantify oyster recruitment along discharge gradients; and (iii) discern between the effects of GWD and sedimentation on recruitment, growth and survival at the Oyster Creek field site. The proposed research would expand on preliminary work in Oyster Creek by investigating three new approved harvest areas, increasing the number of survey sites and conducting field experiments designed to examine the potential interaction between oysters, groundwater discharge, and sediment accretion.

A Social Census of Georgia’s Working Waterfronts
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Tookes, Georgia Southern University

  • This project will address concerns about the sustainability of Georgia’s commercial fishing industry by investigating these guiding questions: (i) What are the demographic, economic and social wellbeing patterns for businesses, workforce, and community in Georgia’s coastal seafood industry? (ii) How do these patterns change over time? (iii) What strategies can improve the long-term sustainability of Georgia’s seafood industry workforce? PIs will use participatory research to emphasize the involvement of local people in the research process. Insights from data analysis will be combined with case study results to better understand the long-term workforce sustainability challenges the industry faces; and their potential solutions. The project addresses critical workforce issues by identifying concerns voiced by the industry, and best practices to remedy these issues as determined through case study analysis and cooperative research.

Real-time Flood Risk Modeling Using Social Media Data
Principal Investigator: Ge Zhang, Georgia Institute of Technology 

  • This project aims to improve the understanding and prediction of flood risk through big data and social media analytics. Specific research questions addressed are: (i) Are there distinct geographic differences in flooding information obtained through social media and hurricane models? (ii) How do these differences affect the prediction of flood risk (i.e., flood model outputs)? (iii) How can social media data be used to improve flood risk prediction?

2016-2018 Projects

Seafood Epidemiology: Providing Mentored Marine Research Opportunities for Master of Public Health Students
Principal Investigator: Matthew Gribble, Emory University

Tag Horseshoe Crabs on St. Catherine’s Island
Principal Investigator: Fredrich Rich, Georgia Southern University

Resilience of Transportation Infrastructures to Extreme Weather Events in Coastal Georgia Area — Phase 1
Principal Investigator: Mehran Mazari, Savannah State University

Evaluation of the Return on Investment of Georgia Sea Grant Funded Research Projects
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Dorfman, University of Georgia

Oyster and Salt Marsh Edge Interactions: Informing Living Shoreline and Oyster Restoration Design
Principal Investigator: James Byers, University of Georgia

  • This project will expose the spatial relationships and mechanisms of interaction between the two dominant ecosystem engineers of Georgia’s estuaries — Spartina cordgrass and oyster reefs — as well as how their distributions and relationships are likely to change over time. It is intended to inform resource management and predictive modeling.
  • Project Abstract

Black Gill in Georgia Shrimp: Causes and Consequences
Principal Investigator: Mark Frischer, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; Kyle Johnsen, University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc.

  • The goals of this proposed project are to identify the causes, drivers and consequences of shrimp Black Gill (sBG) to the Georgia shrimp fishery and to facilitate the dissemination and use of this information to the benefit of a sustainable and healthy shrimp fishery in Georgia.
  • Project Abstract

Assessing Prevalence and Composition of Ingested Plastic Contaminants by Georgia’s Estuarine Organisms
Principal Investigator: Jay Brandes, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

  • The goals of this study are to quantify the amount and identify the type of plastic pollution found in Georgia estuarine organisms, particularly in shellfish, fish and shrimp species important to local Georgia fisheries. Another goal is to educate stakeholders, the public, educators and students about the issue of plastic pollution.
  • Project Abstract

A novel hybrid approach for mapping belowground productivity and carbon sequestration potential within Georgia salt marshes
Principal Investigator: Deepak Mishra, University of Georgia

  • The purpose of this study is to develop data fusion tools that use remote sensing to estimate both above and belowground production, GPP, CHL and overall carbon sequestration potential in salt marshes.
  • Project Abstract

Investigation of the Shallow Hydrogeologic System on St. Catherines Island to Define Salt Water Intrusion Pathways and the Potential for Shallow-Deep Aquifer Communication
Principal Investigator: Robert Vance, Georgia Southern University

  • This study’s objectives are to develop a three-dimensional framework of the shallow stratigraphy and geologic structure of St. Catherines Island on which to build a more accurate conceptual model of the hydrogeology of the surficial aquifer; to characterize the spatial and temporal changes in the geochemistry of the island’s surficial aquifer; and, characterize possible temporal variations in the hydrologic flow system of the island’s surficial aquifer.
  • Project Abstract

Promoting Flood Hazard Resilience: The Economics of Elevation Retrofitting of Homes
Principal Investigator: Warren Kriesel, University of Georgia

  • The objectives of this project involve obtaining property-specific measurements of the elevation of homes’ first floor above the base flood elevation in Savannah/Chatham and Camden Counties. The researchers will analyze the benefits of home elevation retrofitting from a regression analysis of how elevation and other important property characteristics affect property sale prices. Additionally, the research team plans to incorporate the results into an outreach effort and development of a web-based application that will allow any user to estimate the benefits and costs of retrofitting a home to be resilient to flooding hazards.
  • Project Abstract

A Geospatial Assessment of Nearshore Sand Resources and Sediment Transport Pathways for Georgia Coastal Resiliency and Recovery
Principal Investigator: Clark Alexander, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

  • Sand resources are needed to rebuild beach and dune systems to provide the same or better level of protection to lives and property, and to restore habitats that are degraded by events such as hurricanes and large storms. These sand resource data are critically needed in Georgia, as the sand resources on the continental shelf are the most poorly known of all the states along the East Coast. This project proposes to collect new, high-resolution data to build toward an understanding of the sand resources available on the Georgia shelf, and the transport pathways by which these sediments are redistributed. The focus will be on the three developed barrier islands that have not been renourished (Sea, St. Simons and Jekyll Islands) as these are the regions that may require renourishment in the future.
  • Project Abstract

2014-2016 Projects

Adding dynamic information to resiliency planning: wetland mitigation and open space opportunities
Principal Investigators: Liz Kramer, University of Georgia; Craig Landry, University of Georgia; Shana Jones, University of Georgia

  • The objective of this project is to identify and prioritize the best sites for wetland protection, mitigation, restoration and migration along the Georgia Coast, taking account of potential future land use change and the impacts of sea level rise. Recognizing that local government financing of infrastructure has a 30-year life cycle, the researchers will identify and prioritize wetland sites that could be restored, created or protected based on their location and condition 30 years from now.

Black Gill Disease in Georgia Shrimp: Causes, Distribution, and Transmission
Principal Investigators: Marc Frischer, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography; Richard Lee, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

  • The objectives of this project are to identify the cause of Black Gill in Georgia shrimp, develop tools to identify the source of Black Gill and conduct studies useful for forecasting and managing Black Gill in coastal Georgia. Through collaboration with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Georgia shrimpers, the results of this research will be utilized to guide the management of Georgia’s shrimp fishery.

Can the local food movement be an opportunity for Georgia seafood producers to participate in the inland seafood market?
Principal Investigators: Tracy Yandle, Emory University; Peggy Bartlett, Emory University

  • This study’s objective is to answer the broad question: “How can Georgia seafood producers use the burgeoning local food movement to increase their participation in the inland market and make sustainable, local fish available to a larger segment of the Georgia population?” The researchers will assess the potential of three innovative ways to bring Georgia seafood into the local food market (Community Supported Fisheries, placement in existing farmers markets and greater presence at farm-to-table restaurants). Recommendations of how each market could be developed will be provided, and the most economically advantageous option will be piloted.

Closing the water budget for the Satilla Basin, Georgia*
Principal Investigators: Marc Stieglitz, Georgia Institute of Technology; Elizabeth Kramer, University of Georgia

  • The goal of this project is to show proof of concept for being able to model the water budget for ungauged portions of the coastal zone. Prior to examining the effect of land use change and management of freshwater to the coastal estuary, it is necessary to prove that it’s possible to determine the water budget, especially prove that evapotranspiration (ET) can be modeled accurately. The results of this study would provide a better understanding for the development of a more targeted wetland restoration program, thereby enhancing the resiliency of estuary fisheries through the restoration of the timing of delivery of freshwater inputs.

Coastal Georgia Regional Wastewater Planning
Principal Investigators: Laurie Fowler, University of Georgia; Katie Sheehan, University of Georgia

  • With supervision and support from the Coastal Regional Commission, this project aims to develop a regional wastewater plan that will provide the framework for sustainable wastewater infrastructure decisions on Georgia’s coast. We will convene groups of experts and stakeholders, construct a framework for the plan, educate our constituents and analyze regional wastewater infrastructure alternatives according to a set of parameters chosen by our coastal stakeholders.

Creating a Model System for Sustainable Development: Striking a Balance Between the Ecological, Economic, and Social Needs of Jekyll Island State Park
Principal Investigator: Kimberly Andrews, University of Georgia; Katie Mascovich, University of Georgia; Tracey Tuberville, University of Georgia

  • As one of Georgia’s four barrier islands accessible by car, Jekyll Island is in a unique position to serve as a model for sustainable development. In order to balance maintaining a healthy beach ecosystem while developing Jekyll’s beachfront, this project focuses on accomplishing the following goals: monitor the response of the federally protected loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) to the developing and changing beach habitat; create a habitat change model that can be used in the development of Jekyll Island’s beach management plan; work with Jekyll Island stakeholders to promote sustainable development; and increase the environmental literacy of Jekyll Island’s guests and residents such that they become better beach stewards.

Evaluation of a turtle excluder device (TED) design for use in the cannonball jellyfish fishery operating in Georgia’s territorial waters
Principal Investigators: David Stasek, College of Coastal Georgia; James Page, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Todd Mathes, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Patrick Geer, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Lisa Liguori, University of Georgia

  • The practice of harvesting jellyfish for human use is a relatively new endeavor in Georgia. Since fishing efforts began, several fishers have expressed concerns over the negative impact of the mandated use of the TED on jellyball catches. Gear-related concerns in this fishery need to be addressed. This study will develop and evaluate new TED designs to potentially increase jellyball retention in nets while still promoting sea turtle exclusion.

Increased Tidal Flooding in Coastal Georgia: Assessing the Barriers and Value of Acquiring and Relocating Property
Principal Investigators: Scott Pippin, University of Georgia; Shana Jones, University of Georgia

  • A strong need exists in Georgia to develop tools and information for local decision-makers so that they understand the growing risk posed by sea level rise and identify where acquisition and relocation might be an appropriate response. Where a risk analysis indicates that an acquisition program will be beneficial, local officials need information to help them overcome identified barriers to establishing such a program, in order to improve local resilience to flood risks. This project will calculate, using Tybee Island as a study area, 1) the up-front and long-term costs to the local government and 2) the benefits of generating Community Rating System (CRS) credits and reducing flood insurance rates with respect to acquiring the most at-risk properties currently subject to repeated flooding. The researchers will examine legal and policy barriers to property acquisition and analyze existing studies that demonstrate how green space increases property values and promotes community continuity.

Planning for Competitive Port Expansion on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard: The Case of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP)
Principal Investigator: Stephen Ramos, University of Georgia

  • This project will analyze the geographic coastal impacts of port competition and look at the unique circumstances of the Greater Savannah Metropolitan Region in planning for future growth of its port. The project will incorporate GIS to generate thematic maps, exploring issues related port expansion and river deepening. These include a regional impact analysis of the transportation and land-use changes, an impact analysis on local ecologies and government capacity in the area surrounding the port and job creation and economic development generated by the port.

*Program Development Project

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