When applying to the Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Student Scholars Program, I was intrigued by Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and wondered how I might apply my engineering skills while working with a unit focused on marine research, education and outreach. I came across an article on the Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant website about a UGA Engineering Senior capstone project focused on designing farming equipment that would make it easier to grow oysters on the coast. That project opened my eyes to the many ways I could utilize my engineering skills while working with this unit.

I officially began my 150-hour internship with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant during the spring semester. Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director, served as my advisor. He introduced me to some of the issues that commercial fishermen in Georgia are facing, one of which involves sharks damaging shrimp trawl nets. To address the issue, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is working with researchers at Georgia Southern University to study sensory-based deterrents to minimize these interactions.

We recognized the difficulty of trying to engineer new product that would fix this issue in one semester. Instead, I spent my internship researching electric repellents, magnetic repellents, acoustic repellents, and stronger trawl nets. I compared the effectiveness of these different repellants and considered additional research questions to address in the future.

Christine Bedore provides a tour of her Sensory Ecology lab at Georgia Southern.

Throughout the project, I was able to speak with shark and fisheries researchers, professors, electronics specialists, and fishermen. All patiently answered my questions and detailed their work and thoughts on the issue. Professor Christine Bedore from Georgia Southern University allowed me to visit her lab where she showed me her research on the electroreceptive senses of sharks. I was also able to visit Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s facility in Brunswick and meet Captain Lindsey Parker, who recently retired after 35 years of public service. Parker shared his knowledge of trawl nets and the broader fishing industry.

Eventually, I gathered all my research into a cost-benefit analysis that summarized the problem, current solutions, and included evaluations of cost, effectiveness, simplicity, and longevity.

This internship provided me with the opportunity to communicate with a diverse group of professionals and learn to approach problems from different angles. Speaking to fishermen about how shark interactions impacts their trade and finding out how extension agents are supporting the fishing industry has made me realize the importance of community outreach and extension. Being involved with the 2017-18 PSO Student Scholars Program has been such a rewarding and educational experience, and I have Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to thank for this.