Be a Citizen Scientist! Using Public Outreach to Study Invasive Species on the Georgia Coast

By UGA Odum School of Ecology | Linsey Haram

  • $3,100.00

    Funded. Goal: $4,000.00

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How a smartphone and social media can help track invasive seaweed

Do you want to help scientific research, but you don’t know how? Your support will benefit the development of an innovative outreach project through which the public can help monitor invasive species. With this project, we hope to foster public interest in science while promoting mindfulness of local environmental issues on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts. Your funds can help efforts to engage the public while supporting scientific research.

What Do We Study?

Invasive seaweed, Gracilaria vermiculophylla, was recently introduced to estuaries of the southeastern United States. Prior to the introduction of this invasive species, there was little seaweed abundance in the marshes of Georgia and southern South Carolina. Since the introduction, our estuaries have changed dramatically, as G. vermiculophylla now covers the once-bare mudflats. The novelty and sheer abundance of G. vermiculophylla has the potential to alter even the most basic aspects of life in our estuaries, such as where invertebrates settle, how predators find their prey, and how nutrients cycle through the food web.seaweed pic 1 At the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia, researchers from the Byers Lab (Odum School of Ecology) are studying the impacts of G. vermiculophylla on coastal food web dynamics and ecosystem processes. One of the challenges of studying the invasive seaweed is that we are unable to monitor it frequently enough to understand its fine-scale dynamics of colonization and recession on our mudflats. Using a citizen science project we will gain a better understanding how the G. vermiculophylla invasion changes over time.

What’s the Project?

Phone in proto bracket

Photograph taken from smartphone in bracket prototype. Photo taken by Andrew Ngeow.

Based on a successful model that was used to study ecological succession following wildfires in California, we have developed a project that combines outreach and scientific monitoring. Informational signs (pictured above) will be placed in high-traffic areas adjacent to mudflats where G. vermiculophylla can be found. The signs, along with educating the public about the invasive seaweed, instruct passersby to take a photograph with a camera or phone and to then to share the photograph with us using social media or email. A bracket will be installed adjacent to the sign to designate where the camera or phone should be placed, allowing us to guarantee that all photographs are taken from the same location. The photographs will be compiled in a time lapse series, which will be used to better understand seasonal changes in G. vermiculophylla populations. The time lapses will be available for viewing by the public through the project’s blog: seaweed pic 2

Why Should We Care?

Salt marsh estuaries are some of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems in the country. They provide humans with a number of essential ecosystem services including pollution removal, storm surge protection, and nursery habitat for many commercially and recreationally important fish and  invertebrate species. The maintenance of our estuaries on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts is fundamental to the future success of these natural gems. Thus, understanding the G. vermiculophylla invasion is crucial to the health of our estuaries. Bolstering public awareness of threats to our coastal ecosystems will help to ensure conservation efforts for generations to come.

How Can You Help?

By donating money to the project, you will aid in the creation and installation of citizen science outreach signs. With $4,000 we will be able to fund:

  • Creation of four high-quality 18’x24’ fabricated aluminum interpretive signs with back-decorated digitally printed acrylic panels
  • Installation of four interpretive signs at different locations along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts

The first sign will be installed on the Jay Wolf Nature Trail near the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia.

 Meet the Research Team

Haram pic Linsey Haram is a Ph.D. Student in Dr. James Byers’s laboratory at the Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia. She conducts her dissertation research at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah,  Georgia and at the Grice Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina. Upon graduating, Linsey hopes to enter academia and continue ecological research on invasive species. In her spare time, she volunteers as an  interpreter at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.   Kinney pic Kaitlin Kinney is the primary research technician in Dr. James Byers’s laboratory at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2013 with a degree in Biological Sciences.  During her undergraduate experience at UGA, Kaitlin held a number of public outreach positions including her work as a volunteer at the Sandy Creek Nature Center and the Georgia Aquarium. She also volunteered as a  Project FOCUS teacher, where she taught science to middle-schoolers. She hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Ecology.   GivingQuestions Lee Snelling  | UGA Odum School of Ecology Director of Development | 706.542.6007

  1. Lee Snelling
    $25.00 02/17/15 @ 3:41 pm
  2. Elizabeth Gavrilles
    $25.00 02/21/15 @ 8:15 am
  3. Anonymous
    $25.00 03/04/15 @ 11:36 am
  4. Kerstyn Crumb
    $500.00 03/04/15 @ 11:55 am
  5. gerald haram
    $25.00 03/06/15 @ 10:06 am
  6. John Gittleman
    $250.00 03/06/15 @ 11:53 am
  7. Ping Shen
    $100.00 03/06/15 @ 12:20 pm
  8. Swee-May Ngeow
    $100.00 03/06/15 @ 1:09 pm
  9. Audrey Ngeow
    $100.00 03/06/15 @ 1:26 pm
  10. Toni Gruber
    $25.00 03/10/15 @ 9:36 am
  11. john haram
    $500.00 03/11/15 @ 10:18 pm
  12. Anonymous
    $25.00 03/12/15 @ 1:57 pm
  13. Ryan Sapp
    $25.00 03/12/15 @ 3:08 pm
  14. Charleston Audubon Society
    $100.00 03/18/15 @ 2:45 pm
  15. Donna Haram
    $100.00 03/21/15 @ 1:10 pm
  16. Carrie
    $25.00 03/23/15 @ 3:49 pm
  17. Jenny Willenborg
    $50.00 03/25/15 @ 2:26 pm
  18. Thelma Haram
    $25.00 03/26/15 @ 2:19 pm
  19. John Haram
    $100.00 03/26/15 @ 2:31 pm
  20. Terri Haram
    $50.00 03/26/15 @ 2:55 pm
  21. Kay Haram
    $100.00 03/26/15 @ 7:04 pm
  22. Donna Haram
    $100.00 03/29/15 @ 9:40 am
  23. James Byers
    $25.00 03/30/15 @ 10:43 am
  24. Anonymous
    $5.00 03/30/15 @ 2:57 pm
  25. Andrew Ngeow
    $100.00 03/30/15 @ 8:01 pm
  26. Anonymous
    $100.00 03/30/15 @ 8:54 pm
  27. April Blakeslee
    $25.00 03/31/15 @ 9:19 am
  28. Brittany Coleman
    $25.00 03/31/15 @ 10:18 am
  29. Martha Sanderson
    $25.00 03/31/15 @ 10:31 am
  30. Roz Haram
    $320.00 03/31/15 @ 8:30 pm
  31. Kwee Ngeow
    $100.00 03/31/15 @ 9:59 pm
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