Since arriving in Savannah, Georgia, as a Georgia Sea Grant Marine Education Fellow at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, I have enjoyed a diverse set of experiences. Whether it’s teaching classes about marine science, cleaning tanks and filters, practicing reptile husbandry or participating in public outreach events, there is never a dull moment. However, one of my favorite adventures has been learning how coastal Georgia’s science and environmental education communities work together and share opportunities to make a larger impact.
Since the beginning of my fellowship, I have had the opportunity to meet scientists and educators within the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant as well as impactful organizations like The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Camp Jekyll, Tybee Marine Science Center, the South Carolina Aquarium, Burton 4-H, 100 Miles, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and Georgia’s Department of Environmental Regulation. This fellowship has introduced me to so many inspiring individuals that make me hopeful for the future of marine science and education.
The other Marine Education Fellows and I were asked to collaborate with the amazing staff at National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary on their float for the 195th annual Savannah Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. I was ecstatic when I was told would be able to also dress up as a shark and walk alongside the float in the parade! Throughout the months leading up to the parade, I helped construct the float to display types of marine life found in the Gray’s Reef habitat, like corals, sponges, crustaceans and mollusks. We spent many afternoons forming, sanding down and bringing to life foam creatures to represent the real species found along the reef. This was an amazing chance to put our creativity to the test as well as to learn about the different species that thrive just off the coast of Georgia.
The day of the parade arrived quickly, and I found myself eager for the festivities to begin alongside my friends dressed as jellyfish and scuba divers. It was amazing to see from inside the parade how much of Savannah’s community comes together to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The amount of people interested in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary was so encouraging. It was an amazing day that brought smiles, laughter and awe to the city of Savannah while also sharing a piece of the underwater reef community. I don’t think I will ever forget all of the joyful faces, shouts of excitement and shark songs that were sung to me throughout my Saint Patrick’s Day Parade experience.