Our Savannah coastline teems with amazing wonders of life from the Atlantic Ocean. People of all ages can learn more about oceanography and the life that surrounds us at the free annual Skidaway Marine Science Day on Oct. 13.
Attracting over 2,500 visitors annually, Skidaway Marine Science Day is a campus-wide open house presented by the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, UGA Marine Extension Aquarium, UGA Marine Extension Shellfish Laboratory and Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary.
Michael Sullivan, external affairs manager for UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, said he is amazed at how much the oceans influence everyone on the planet. Sullivan has been with the institute since 2005.
"The oceans cover approximately 75 percent of the Earth's surface," he said. "It is the major driver of the climate anywhere on the planet. That is easy to appreciate here on the coast, but it is just as true in Kansas. It is the source of much of our food supply. Most people don't realize that plankton in the ocean produce approximately half of the oxygen in our atmosphere.
"Yet, as important as the ocean is to life on Earth, we still know very little about how the ocean works. My former boss is fond of saying that we probably know more about the moon than we do about the ocean. However, the moon has no real effect on our climate, food supply or atmosphere, and the ocean is a major player in all of those."
Skidaway Marine Science Day includes a wide range of marine science-related exhibits, tours and activities and covers all age groups. The UGA Aquarium offers behind-the-scenes tours. Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is presenting a variety of activities, including a microbe hunt, a drone exhibit, a greenscreen photo booth, a plankton sink-off competition for children and other science displays. The UGA Shellfish Laboratory will provide tours of Georgia's only oyster hatchery. They will also host several dozen environmental and science groups with outdoor exhibits and activities, as well as food trucks.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet the aquarium's newest temporary resident, a loggerhead hatchling that was discovered in early August as a straggler in a nest on Ossabaw Island by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The hatchling will reside at the UGA Aquarium as an education ambassador for roughly three years before being released.
Sullivan encourages future scientists to take up the cause, adding that understanding how the ocean functions helps us protect the waters and prepare for disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis.
"Marine science, or any science, for that matter, can be a wonderful career," he said. "The world is full of questions just waiting for someone to find the answer, and it is scientists who spend their days solving those mysteries."