New bluebird boxes are on the horizon for the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, adding additional educational resources to help visitors learn more about the importance of native wildlife to coastal ecosystems.
Contributions from Friends of the UGA Aquarium, a nonprofit organization that supports UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, are being used to buy new rakes, clippers, hammers, gloves and other tools that volunteers can use to maintain the Jay Wolf Nature Trail and add educational attractions that will enhance the aquarium experience.
“This purchase affords our volunteers appropriate tools and storage of these tools to do regular trail surveys and maintenance, pruning, clearing of debris and other small but necessary maintenance at the Marine Education Center and Aquarium,” says Katie Higgins, educator and volunteer coordinator at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. Prior to acquiring the tools, volunteers brought in their own equipment or worked with the personal tools of aquarium staff.
As the volunteer program continues to grow under Higgins’ leadership, so do volunteer opportunities at UGA’s coastal facilities on Skidaway Island. One of the most popular areas on the UGA Aquarium campus includes the bluff overlooking the Skidaway River and the Jay Wolf Nature Trail which runs through a maritime forest. The outdoor spaces inspire visitors to develop a stronger connection and appreciation for the outdoors.
Andy Van Epps, who has been volunteering with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant since 2018, was instrumental in putting together a list of appropriate tools needed to accomplish outdoor maintenance. He also helped assemble the new storage shed used to house the equipment.
“Having the tools provided by the aquarium allows volunteers like me to show up and to be ready to address the basic landscaping needs,” Van Epps says.