Curators at the UGA Aquarium, Devin Dumont and Lisa Olenderski, are currently collaborating with Savannah State University and the Odum School of Ecology on undergraduate and graduate student research. Dumont and Olenderski are working with Amanda Mahoney, professor at Savannah State University (SSU), to launch the next phase of a collaborative project investigating optimal enrichment methods for resident loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) at the UGA aquarium.

This provides a unique opportunity for SSU undergraduates to participate in observational studies and work with professionals to study animal behavior. The goal of the project is to enhance current enrichment practices and the well being of loggerhead sea turtles during their time at the aquarium and in the wild, if released in a few years.

Additionally, Dumont and Olenderski are collaborating with scientists in the Byers Lab of UGA’s Odum School of Ecology to investigate how an invasive species of seaweed, Gracilaria vermiculophylla, affects behavioral interactions between invertebrate prey, such as blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) and their predators.

Throughout this project, the UGA Aquarium has served as a research platform for doctoral student Lindsey Haram to conduct behavioral studies to determine how Gracilaria affects the food web of the local estuary ecosystems.