As a Marine Education Fellow for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, my responsibilities vary from day to day. I have the luxury of a very dynamic job that allows me to gain practical skills and partake in exciting experiences every day. I get to teach marine science classes to students from pre-K to college and practice reptile and aquarium husbandry. I also get to participate in some absolutely fascinating research. This fellowship is wonderful for many reasons, but one of my favorite aspects is the ability to tailor some of my work to my own interests. One of the ways I’ve been able to incorporate my personal aspirations is through studying underwater robotics.
I took the initiative early on in my fellowship to get in contact with Assistant Professor Catherine Edwards at the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in order to gain more experience with underwater robotics. I originally fell in love with this groundbreaking subject in college. As an undergraduate at the University of New England, I built a Blue Robotics remote operated vehicle (ROV) and used it to conduct coral research. At the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, I have been able to work with Edwards to expand my experiences in underwater robotics to include autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which is a technology I have been wanting to study for a while now. Specifically, the AUVs that she works with are called Slocum Gliders. These advanced tools are capable of moving to specific locations and depths, moving horizontally and vertically underwater to collect data. Recently, I had the opportunity to help recover a Slocum Glider for Southern Florida University, and I deployed one of Edwards’ gliders on March 19, 2020. I worked closely with Edwards and her laboratory technicians to get the glider ready for deployment and even had the chance to pilot the glider through Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary during its mission. Although I already had experience in underwater robotics, I have learned a tremendous amount from Edwards and her team.
In addition to the research I have done at Skidaway Institute, I have also been collaborating with one of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s own educators and researchers, Dodie Sanders, to get ready for the Aquarium’s first ever fisheries robotics camp. The goal of this program is to teach students ages 13-15 about diverse underwater technologies through discussion and hands-on activities. The main focus of the camp is the opportunity for students to build their own Seaglide Glider in small teams. To prepare for this, the other Marine Education Fellows and I worked together to assemble one of the small AUV kits ourselves. By doing so, we were able to practice soldering, programing and creativity skills. Unfortunately, the inaugural Fisheries Robotics camp had to be cancelled due to caution surrounding the coronavirus, but preparing for the camp allowed me to gain valuable experience bridging how scientists communicate underwater robotics research with the public and incorporate it into marine education.