University of Georgia
August 2015
Natural Resources

All aboard the R/V Savannah

Students get in-field training on the ocean’s surface.

This June, the University of Georgia introduced a summer course that gave undergraduate students a taste of oceanographic field research methods. Thirteen students signed up for a four-week Coastal Summer Semester that not only immersed them in their work, but also introduced them to life aboard a research vessel and taught them field methods in a salt marsh.

Students from UGA and other universities spent the first half of the course at the UGA Marine Institute on Sapelo Island and the second half at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. During the intensive studies program, they researched animals, plants, microbes and processes in coastal environments and participated in a small research cruise to the Georgia coast aboard the R/V Savannah.

“We wanted to use the coastal facilities and get students down on the coast and use some of the resources we have down here, both at the marine institute at Sapelo Island and at Skidaway,” said Jim Nelson, an associate professor at the Skidaway Institute in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’ marine sciences department.

The program was directed by Mary Ann Moran, a Distinguished Research Professor in Marine Sciences; Nelson; and Dana Savidge, an associate professor with the Skidaway Institute.

The Sapelo Island segment emphasized field methods in a salt marsh. Research projects included collecting data from the historical Teal’s Boardwalk on tidal rhythms of salt marsh invertebrates.

“At Skidaway, we focused more on ship resources and some of our instrumentation and did two field exercises—a daylong cruise on the R/V Savannah and then a diurnal study at the Skidaway fuel dock,” Nelson said.

Students also learned to analyze data sets they obtained during the cruise.

“I would do this again in a heartbeat,” said short course student Ruth Pannill. “It was an amazing time. I never thought I would have an experience like this in Georgia.”

Coastal Summer Semester will be offered again in 2016 from June 8 to July 6. The deadline for application is Jan. 18, and enrollment is limited to 20 students. Students will take “Field Study in Oceanography and Marine Methods” and choose one of the independent research courses for a total of seven credits. For more information, visit

— Mike Sullivan, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography