The University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is collaborating with Georgia Southern University to host a special exhibition, “SUBMERGED: An Underwater Exhibition of Bioceramic Artwork,” at the UGA Aquarium. The exhibition will debut during the aquarium’s World Oceans Day event on June 10 and will showcase a collection of sculptures created by Assistant Professor Casey Schachner and her undergraduate students at Georgia Southern University.  

Schachner received funding to create bioceramic pieces as part of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Artists, Writers and Scholars program. The program supports projects designed to produce professional-quality art and literature that increases awareness of Georgia’s marine environments, improves understanding of Georgia’s coastal communities, and helps document history, culture, or heritage of Georgia’s coast. Schachner was one of three projects awarded this year.

a young person wearing a face mask draws in a sketch book with an aquarium tank in the background

Georgia Southern students visited the UGA Aquarium to gather ideas and inspiration for their ceramic pieces.

The pieces are made using algal biomass produced from Algal Turf Scrubbers®, which are designed to remove nutrients from the water and enhance water quality. The algae are harvested from the Skidaway River, ground into a powder and mixed with regional Georgia Lizella clay to make artwork. 

“In 2023, it is an important element to consider environmental impacts of the materials we work with as artists,” said Schachner. “To work with material that has such an important link to the local ecosystem is exciting.” 

The bioceramic sculptures created by Schachner’s students will be submerged in the UGA Aquarium’s 16 saltwater tanks, where they will serve as underwater features to be explored by the aquarium’s ambassador education animals, such as stingrays, striped burrfish, red drum and diamondback terrapins.  

“This is a great opportunity for Georgia Southern art students to create professional quality work to be displayed out in the community, said Schachner. “It also expands their interpretation of the role of an artist as an advocate by engaging with the community about environmental awareness and sense of responsibility as coastal Georgia residents.”

a person reaches their arm into a blue tank filling with water with ceramic pieces inside

Casey Schachner places students’ work in a tank at the UGA Shellfish Lab to begin the process of growing oyster spat on them before being shown in an underwater exhibit at the UGA Aquarium.

 The exhibition will run throughout the summer, concluding on July 31. Afterwards, some of the pieces will be recycled and used to create new oyster reefs along the shoreline behind the aquarium facility. Oyster reefs are an essential part of coastal ecosystems, providing habitat and protection for a wide range of marine organisms. Educators at the facility will be able to show visiting school groups how the sculptures are being used to establish new reefs.  

“We are excited to present SUBMERGED as a means to engage visitors and raise awareness about the critical importance of our coastal habitats,” said Mark Risse, Director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “The artwork not only bridges the gap between art and science but also supports our ongoing efforts to promote coastal conservation and restoration.”   

The UGA Aquarium’s World Oceans Day event on June 10 is free and will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing attendees with the opportunity to explore the exhibition and talk with Georgia Southern students about the inspiration behind their work. Staff at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s Shellfish Research Lab, who specialize in oyster aquaculture and reef restoration, will also be offering oyster-themed activities for people of all ages.     

For more information about the event, please visit: