UGA’s R/V Georgia Bulldog logs nearly two decades of sea turtle research

The revving of the engine serves as a wakeup call for those aboard the R/V Georgia Bulldog. It’s 5:30 a.m. and the deck is soon abuzz with commotion as the crew prepares to depart for a research cruise aimed at sampling sea turtles off the coast of Brunswick, Ga.

For the 18th year, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC DNR) has enlisted the help of the University of Georgia Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s R/V Georgia Bulldog crew to provide logistical support and assist with the collection of biological data for their In-Water Sea Turtle Research program. The program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, is designed to monitor abundance, distribution and health of sea turtles along the southeast coast.

“Sea turtles are long-lived, slow-growing, and late-maturing species that only go on land to nest unless they strand,” said Mike Arendt, assistant marine scientist at SC DNR and lead researcher on the project. “If you don’t monitor them in the water like we do, and for a long period of time since they take decades to reach maturity, you’re missing the most important information.”

Arendt has worked on the project since it began in 2000 and took over the survey in 2007.

Because of where the survey is conducted, most of the data collected have been for loggerhead sea turtles, but in recent years, greater emphasis has been placed on understanding the distribution of the next most common species, the smaller, endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

“Between 2000 and 2015, over 2,300 loggerheads were captured compared to around 260 Kemp’s ridleys,” said Arendt. “We were starting to wonder if we were sampling in the right places for them.”

The shallow coastal waters off Brunswick have been some of the best documented locations for Kemp’s ridleys, and Lindsey Parker, captain of the R/V Georgia Bulldog, knows exactly where to find them.

“After so many years of random sampling all up and down the coast, I’ve found a few hot spots for ridleys,” said Parker. “We tend to see more around inlets and because of my familiarity with the Brunswick area, we can sample those areas more fully than in other areas that I’m less familiar with.”

The Bulldog, a 72-foot shrimp trawler that was converted to a multipurpose research vessel in the 1980s, is an ideal vessel for this type of sampling because it can easily navigate shallow waters and estuaries.

Sampling involves pulling two 60-foot trawl nets behind the boat for 30-minutes. Each time the nets are pulled up after a drag, excitement on board starts to build, especially if there’s a sea turtle in tow.

On this cruise, a Kemp’s ridley is caught on the first trawl. Once it’s safely on board, researchers work quickly to process it to reduce as much stress on the animal as possible. The team, made up of research biologists, technicians and graduate students, move around the boat with ease, grabbing gloves, measuring tools and vials while calling out information that’s recorded on a data sheet.

They first scan the turtle to make sure it hasn’t been tagged before assigning it a unique ID. They then collect blood samples, measure the carapace, administer the pit tag and place the animal in a harness so it can be weighed. The last step is the release, which involves gently lowering the turtle over the side of the R/V Georgia Bulldog using the harness.

“Kemp’s ridleys, by and large, are really easy to process,” said Arendt. “They’re healthy looking, they’re clean. Plus, they’re small, so it’s really easy to work them up.”

He adds, with a hint of pride, that their record processing time is 14 minutes.

By the end of the day, the team processed eight sea turtles, seven Kemp’s ridleys and one loggerhead.

“We’re about three-quarters of the way through our sampling period and we have 34 Kemp’s ridleys so far,” said Arendt. “Two thirds of our Kemp’s for 2017 were caught this week, which amounted to almost half of the 2016 total.”

This long-term project has generated a wealth of data that’s been shared with over 25 collaborators, studying everything from sea turtle DNA to testosterone to blood chemistry. The cruises also train graduate students in veterinary or marine science programs in practical field experience that will help prepare them for their careers. Arendt explains that bringing in more partners and providing workforce development opportunities is important for getting the most bang out of the taxpayer dollar.

“We have the skill sets, funding, and federal and state permits to safely capture and handle the sea turtles, so that enables the collaborators easy access to animals that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to study,” Arendt said. “In return, we get important information on sea turtle health and foraging behavior that the collaborators have the funding and skills sets for, so it’s win-win.”

Additionally, Arendt has the R/V Georgia Bulldog and her crew, who have decades of trawling experience and strong connections to the research community and the commercial fishing industry.

“The Bulldog crew is a great interface between science and industry to help disseminate our results and generate support for our endeavors,” said Arendt.

Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348, ext. 107


Atlanta gelato business turns to UGA Small Business Development Center for expansion assistance

Wes Jones and Jackson Smith grew up as best friends in their north Atlanta neighborhood. At some point, says Jones, “we thought it would be fun to start a business together when we got older.”

Maintaining their friendship through college, they
went on to jobs in education, for Jones, and gelato
 production, for Smith, who had moved to New York
 City. When Smith would travel home, he’d bring
cartons of his delicious craft with him to share with family and friends. Their requests grew, and Smith realized he may have found a product they could turn into a business.

The friends started working on a business plan. They invited another friend, Khatera Ballard, to help them on a brainstorming session, and she joined them in the start-up.

Honeysuckle Gelato launched from a food truck in 2011. The locally produced gelato desserts were an instant hit.

Within the year, the partners knew they needed help working on their business rather than in it. “We had gotten tied down in the day-to-day demands, working just to make the sale or get to the next day,” says Jones. “We needed to take a step back, put a strategic plan in place and follow it.”

Ballard had heard about the resources available at the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, so Ballard reached out to the DeKalb office. She asked for help ensuring the business had systems in place that would lead it to long-term sustainability.

“They were growing so quickly that they were going in many different directions. No one had a defined role. They were all doing whatever was needed to keep things running,” says Sharon Macaluso, area director of the Dekalb office of the UGA SBDC. She asked them to complete an organizational assessment chart to prepare for their strategic planning retreat.

With the assessment as a starting point, Macaluso led them through a strategic plan and helped them discover the areas that needed attention. She shared some of the resources available through the UGA SBDC, including IBISWorld Industry Research Reports and IndustriousCFO, a financial analysis software that provides four-year industry metrics. Jones and Ballard later attended the UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart® program, and Jones met with consultant Andy Fried of the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University to develop a financial scorecard and dashboard.

“Until we met with the SBDC, we had not set any goals or deadlines outside of what our customers want,” says Jones. “The SBDC offers the right environment to talk about goals and how we want to look in the next three-to-five years. They’ve helped us take a step back and really think about our growth. They helped us make sure to get results.”

They began to grow Honeysuckle Gelato “intentionally,” says Jones. Smith now oversees everything product-related. Wes manages the business and strategy, and Ballard leads branding and marketing.

They’ve secured several lucrative commercial contracts, including Whole Foods and Delta Airlines. In 2015, they opened their first retail shop at Ponce City Market to wide acclaim. Honeysuckle Gelato products are now available in stores throughout the Southeast.

Sales have grown more than 800 percent since Jones, Smith and Ballard first came to the UGA SBDC in 2012. Employment has grown to 10 full-time staff, with a store manager and production workers, and 15 part-time. In June 2017, they moved production into a building four times larger than their previous facility, with room to expand. They are located near the Atlanta Community Food Bank, to which they donate a generous portion of Honeysuckle Gelato’s profits, in keeping with their values.

“We want to make a tangible impact with our work through the food bank,” says Jones. “We’d always wanted to find a way to give back. Being in the food business, they were a natural t for us.”

Smith, Jones and Ballard continue to work with the SBDC as they expand nationally and internationally.

“Being accountable to someone else is really important. That has allowed us to take the time to be intentional about our business,” says Jones. “Our work with the SBDC has taught us how to make sure we’re asking ourselves the right questions and that we’re positioned to act on everything we put on paper.”


Pulaski County: L.I.F.E. League visits University of Georgia

On July 14, the Archway Partnership hosted L.I.F.E. League on the UGA campus for a day full of basketball, learning and planning for the future. Sponsors of the event include the Archway Partnership, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Office of International Education, Recreational Sports and the Georgia Museum of Art.

L.I.F.E. League is a middle Georgia nonprofit organization founded in Hawkinsville that enriches the lives of local, at-risk teenagers by teaching goal setting, good decision making, and life skills. This was the league’s fourth annual trip to Athens to play the championship basketball game for their summer camp league.

The organization was founded by three graduates of the Pulaski Tomorrow adult leadership program, including Middle Georgia State University faculty member Jeff Tarver, the CEO of L.I.F.E. League. Pulaski Tomorrow’s adult and youth leadership programs were created as an initiative of the Pulaski County Archway Partnership in collaboration with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

According to Tarver, “this trip exposes our campers to the educational opportunities that are available to them. Every summer, after our UGA trip, I have several youth who approach me to tell me that they now aspire to attend college!”

The high school graduation rate for L.I.F.E. League participants is 90 percent—more than 15 percentage points greater than the local average. Many L.I.F.E. League participants also go on to participate in Pulaski Tomorrow Youth Leadership.

The L.I.F.E. League students started their day on campus with lunch at the Joe Frank Harris Dining Commons where they were joined by UGA students, faculty and staff. After lunch, the students walked over to the Georgia Museum of Art for a tour, learning activities, and discussion of college admissions and opportunities to see the world in college. Following their time at the museum, the students played their championship basketball game at the Ramsey Student Center in front of cheering UGA faculty and staff, Hairy Dawg, the Georgia Redcoat Marching Band, and UGA football standouts Nick Chubb and Jake Fromm.

This partnership between L.I.F.E League and the University of Georgia provides rural students with the opportunity to experience a college campus and learn about the opportunities available to them in the future. According to Tarver, “The University of Georgia has a tremendous impact on our kids by inspiring them to reach their full academic potential.”

Freshmen get a jump on experiential learning before their first semester

University of Georgia first-year student Paula Rios couldn’t hide a smile when she stumbled upon familiar children’s books at Books for Keeps.

The flashback to her younger days was an added benefit to Rios as she sorted books during a service-learning project at the Athens non-profit, which provides books to children in grades pre-k through 12, who are from low-income families.

“Wow, it’s just been a great experience to see issues in the community I wouldn’t be exposed to,” Rios said. “Now, I want to find a local organization I can work with during my college career. It helps create a closer relationship between students and the community.”

The volunteer work at Books for Keeps is part of a service-learning course for participants in the UGA Freshman College Summer Experience. The class, “Strategies and Life Skills Needed to Succeed,” requires students to participate in a service project that addresses a community need and reflect on it to gain a deeper understanding of what they learn in class.

This summer was the second year students in the 17-year-old Freshman College program were enrolled in a service-learning course.

Chase Hagood, director of the Division of Academic Enhancement, which oversees Freshman College, said the class introduces the concept of service-learning to incoming students who may not have heard of it before. For many students, it also fulfills the university’s new experiential learning requirement instituted last fall.

“We deployed this course to both help students understand the university’s service mission and help them quickly become members of the broader community,” Hagood said. “Having this course builds a more holistic picture of what life should look like at UGA.”

Course instructor Megan Ward, administrative director of the New Media Institute at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, used nontraditional teaching methods, such as assigning students to a scavenger hunt around Athens to familiarize them with the city. She also asked the students to research campus organizations that benefit the local community and consider getting involved with one of them once the fall semester begins.

Getting students engaged with the community early can make a difference, said Louis Crow, Books for Keeps program director.

Crow grew up in Athens and graduated from UGA in 2015 with a degree in social work. He said he always felt a separation between the community and the university when he was in high school, but programs like those run by the Office of Service-Learning, a part of UGA Public Service and Outreach, are changing that.

“It’s been great to have regular volunteers throughout the summer,” Crow said. “This exposes students to the community. You’ve seen more students get involved, especially the last few years under President (Jere) Morehead, who has made it a clear priority.”

Freshman College participant Darby Day said she’s looking forward to exploring other service-learning classes at UGA.

“It’s made me realize I want to do more of it,” she said. “It expands your horizon to get involved in Athens.”

The UGA Freshman College Summer Experience is a four-week academic residential program that allows incoming first-year students an opportunity to begin forming academic and social networks before their first full semester on campus. This year, 275 first-year students participated in the Freshman College.

Writer: Christopher James

Downtown Renaissance Partnership helps boost economic vitality in northwest Georgia

Downtown business districts in some northwest Georgia cities are getting a face-lift, thanks to the University of Georgia and funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Chickamauga, Chatsworth, Rossville, Lookout Mountain and Ringgold are among the communities benefiting from the expertise of UGA faculty and students working with the Downtown Renaissance Partnership program in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Among the projects:

• A historic rail depot in Chickamauga has been converted into a downtown Welcome Center;

• An old textile mill in Rossville is being studied as a possible site for social and business ventures;

• The grounds around the duck pond at the John Ross house in Rossville are being updated. A log cabin on the grounds, the former home of Cherokee Indian Chief John Ross, is a National Historic Landmark;

• A new stage is going up in Chatsworth, and the city is making streetscape improvements to link the stage and surrounding park to downtown; and

• The city of Lookout Mountain is developing a new town center development concept.

The projects, intended to attract more new businesses and customers to rural downtowns, were developed by UGA students and faculty, led by Danny Bivins, a senior public service associate at the Institute of Government, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

“I don’t think it ever would’ve happened without Danny Bivins and the Carl Vinson Institute,” said Betts Berry, a cattle farmer and lifelong resident of Chickamauga. “We might’ve talked about it. They showed us the community’s potential and what people were interested in.”

The Downtown Renaissance Partnership is a 4-year-old collaboration between the Institute of Government and the Georgia Municipal Association and the Georgia Cities Foundation. The partnership includes intensive three-month fellowships for students in UGA’s landscape architecture program as well as other learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the university’s College of Environment and Design.

Since 2015, the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation has granted the institute $200,000 to fund projects in northwest Georgia.

“Over several decades, the Lyndhurst Foundation has supported numerous projects in Chattanooga aimed at improving the quality and impact of good urban design while also enhancing public participation in the community planning and design process,” said Benic M. “Bruz” Clark, president and treasurer of the Lyndhurst Foundation. “We feel extremely fortunate to be able to work with Danny Bivins and his team to expand this body of work in northwest Georgia. The results to date have been impressive, and we have really enjoyed our association with UGA staff and the students who are turning community aspirations into reality.”

The projects evolve through a series of meetings with people who live in the local communities. The local stakeholders drive the process and the conceptual designs. Bivins said he also works with other state and regional partners to assist with the planning process, such as representatives from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Northwest Georgia Regional Commission and the Small Business Development Center, another UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

The community relationships are valuable to the students working on the projects as well, said Doug Pardue, an associate professor in the College of Environment and Design, who leads an Urban Design Studio class. Students receive hands-on experience in downtown conceptual design, strategic planning and project implementation.

As a master’s student in landscape architecture, Dan Shinkle worked in Chatsworth in 2016 as a Renaissance Fellow. He provided Mayor Tyson Haynes with plans for a new stage at the city park, a streetscape connecting the park to downtown and plans to repurpose Chatsworth’s vacant downtown industrial site. By the time Shinkle graduated last May, the city was pouring new sidewalks he had designed.

Other projects underway include the restoration of a historic cemetery in Chickamauga and a regional trail system. The program “has jump-started projects in Chickamauga that the community would never have done,” Berry said. “Anything we do downtown encourages our merchants and small businesses. I think it makes a tremendous difference.”

Collaborating for Plant Conservation

When it comes to plant conservation, the key to success is collaboration. Partners in the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) know this all too well.

Headquartered at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA (SBG), GPCA is a network of more than 40 conservation organizations committed to preventing local extinctions of rare plant populations.

“Although each partner brings a different expertise to the network, the core of the GPCA is the connection between conservation horticulture and on-the-ground restoration,” said SBG Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders. “Botanical gardens specifically make good partners because they are in a unique position to communicate information about rare plant species and they can be instrumental in creating networks for effective conservation action.”

Since its inception in 1995, the GPCA has worked on 100 priority species projects. Of those 100, 99 have been brought into cultivation or safeguarding at a partner organization and 49 have been returned to the wild.

In November 2016, the GPCA partnered with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service and the National Wildlife Refuge Association for the inaugural Southeastern Partners in Plant Conversation (SePPCon) conference. The purpose of the meeting was to bring partners together in the same place to talk about the priorities for plant conservation in the Southeast and to gather information from attendees on specific lists of plant species identified as rare or at-risk by the Fish and Wildlife Service. For the Southeast, the lists included 104 at-risk plants.

More than 160 people from 24 states and territories attended the conference, representing a wide variety of groups including state agencies, environmental research organizations, utility companies, universities, and more. As a result of bringing together these partners, one unexpected outcome was that they were able to identify plants on the list that were actually not rare enough to warrant conservation action.

“We expected to gather information and set priorities for these plant species, but we didn’t anticipate finding out that some of them actually didn’t need urgent attention,” said Cruse-Sanders. “But this was just as important. Because of limited resources for plant conservation as a whole, if you can eliminate some of these from the list, there’s a greater percentage of resources to use for those plants that do actually need it.”

Following the meeting, the group submitted a list of 10 plant species that were more common than previously thought to the Center for Biological Diversity. As a result, the CBD contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw these species from the petitioned list. For the service to review each plant, it costs roughly $100,000, Cruse-Sanders explained. “So, one result of this meeting was a million dollars in savings that can essentially be used elsewhere for conservation.”

Under the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Endangered Species Act, plants make up more than 50 percent of listed species, but receive less than 5 percent of available funding for conservation. This is why conservation alliances like the GPCA and meetings like SePPCon are so important, explained SBG Conservation Coordinator Jennifer Ceska.

Ceska, along with other GPCA representatives, led sessions at the SePPCon meeting for other interested parties on how to establish conservation alliances within their own states.

“While planning for the SePPCon meeting, we were able to really tease through what has made the GPCA model work for the past 22 years,” Ceska said. “Federal and state agencies asked us to teach our model to others in detail, sharing how we work with other organizations, inspire people to stay actively involved, and train volunteers to watch over the last remaining population of a species.”

Since the SePPCon meeting in November, several states have launched their own conservation alliances, including, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. In May 2017, the first tri-state plant conservation alliance meeting with Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia was held in Chattanooga to discuss plant and habitat recovery projects for the tri-corner region. GPCA leaders have also consulted with partners in Kentucky, Texas, Arizona and Colorado on creating their conservation alliances.

“Moving forward, the goal for us at the garden, as well as through GPCA and SePPCon, is to continue this open line of communication and collaboration,” said Cruse-Sanders. “Without these partnerships, we truly wouldn’t be able to accomplish all that we do.”

To learn more about GPCA or how you can get involved, visit

Georgia Sea Grant funds project to enhance jellyfish industry

A Georgia Sea Grant funded project will help protect turtles and enable fishermen trawling for cannonball jellyfish to operate more efficiently.

Georgia fishermen recently conducted several 30-hour cannonball jellyfish trawling trips to test the turtle excluder device, which is similar to the TED for shrimpers first developed in 1968.

Cannonball jellyfish, commonly referred to as jellyballs, is the third largest seafood commodity by weight in Georgia. Considered a delicacy in Asian countries, most of the jellyballs caught by Georgia fishermen are exported to Asian markets, where they’re sold in restaurants and grocery stores.

The jellyball industry emerged in the late 1990s but only has been recognized as an official industry in the state since 2013.

Shrimpers have been required by the federal government to use TEDs since 1987.

However, the TED required of shrimpers doesn’t work well with jellyballs because the four inch opening which prevents turtles from getting into the net is also too small for the jellies.

This requirement is seen as a hindrance to Howell Boone, a commercial fisherman who expressed concern over the impact of the current TED on his jellyball harvest.

“We can’t make any money using it…zero,” said Howell Boone, who captains a commercial fishing boat that trawls for the jellies.

The project to develop a jellyfish TED was proposed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the College of Coastal Georgia, and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, all of whom recognized the benefits of the commodity to both commercial fishermen and the economy.

“This was a project where we needed to support a developing industry,” said Mark Risse, director of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “We have to protect our turtle populations, but also need to find a way to support our fishing industries. Much like the shrimping industry and TEDs, we are hoping to find a win-win solution.”

The team first tested Boone’s argument that the shrimp TEDS were ineffective for jellyball trawlers by pulling two identical nets behind his boat. One net was equipped with a certified TED; the other had no TED. Results of the trawl showed that nets with certified TEDs caught 23.6 percent fewer jellyballs by weight, when compared to a net with no TED, which supported Boone’s concerns about the TED limiting catch.

The next step involved designing a practical TED for the jellyfish industry that would appease fishermen, state resource managers and biologists.

“We’ve been involved with TED development and certification since it began in the late 1970s,” said Lindsey Parker, a marine resource specialist at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“We are familiar with how government agencies evaluate TEDs. We know the tasks it will have to perform and how well it needs to perform those tasks when put to the test.”

Parker, who has a 35-year history with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, worked with Howell Boone’s father, Sinkey Boone, who invented the first turtle excluder device. The original design has been modified over the years to be more efficient and eventually gained national certification in 2012.

The new jellyball TED, designed by Howell Boone, has an eight-inch opening, large enough to let 6- to 8-inch jellyballs into the net but small enough to keep sea turtles out.

The team conducted 22 paired trawls using the same methods as before, but yielding much different results. There was no significant difference in the amount of jellyfish caught between the net with the experimental TED and the net with no TED.

Patrick Geer, chief of Marine Fisheries for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and co-principal investigator on the jellyball TED project, said the new design looks promising and could be considered for use in state waters.

“If we can use the results of this study to support and manage this emerging fishery in an ecologically responsible manner that not only helps the economy but supports commercial fishers then it’s our responsibility to do so,” Geer said.

Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348, ext. 107

Contact: Bryan Fluech,, 912-264-7268





Local student brings pollinator program to Colham Ferry, helps school with STEM endeavors

Harper Ann Moffett, an Oconee County High School junior, recently introduced third graders at Colham Ferry Elementary School (CFES) to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s pollinator conservation program, Connect to Protect.

In March, Moffett spoke with the students about native plants’ benefits for wildlife, including pollinators. Afterwards, she instructed them on ways to take care of the demonstration garden she planted at the school.

Weeks later, and after years of planning, CFES became one of 26 Georgia elementary schools to earn STEM certification, a status rewarded to schools invested in science, technology, engineering and math education. Only one percent of Georgia’s elementary schools are STEM certified.

Moffett discovered the Connect to Protect program while searching for community leadership opportunities. It was her father, Mincy Moffett, a botanist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who suggested she contact the garden about Connect to Protect.

“My dad has always emphasized the environment and the plants that make it up,” Harper Ann said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how essential they are to us and our communities.”

Connect to Protect, a multi-faceted program, encourages local businesses, schools and homeowners to support pollinator communities by using native species in their gardens and plant displays.

The purpose of Connect to Protect is to teach others about the importance of native plants for restoring pollinator resources and to prevent diversity loss from disrupting our natural communities.

Heather Alley, conservation horticulturist and Connect to Protect program coordinator, supplied Moffett with the plants and wooden planter for the demonstration garden. The State Botanical Garden’s education department provided her with Connect to Protect handouts and signage.

“This is a mutually beneficial project,” said Alley. “Harper Ann was able to gain leadership experience, and the garden’s conservation and education efforts were promoted to a young audience.”

The teachers at CFES agree that Moffett’s presentation brought a fresh look to their science education curriculum.

“The collaboration between the State Botanical Garden, Moffett, and Colham Ferry Elementary School was a great fit with the school’s science and math focus,” said Heidi Wolfe, a third-grade teacher at CFES. “The installation of the Connect to Protect planter and the adoption of the program figured noticeably in our recent STEM Certification.”

Moffett hopes that she can continue to promote Connect to Protect by speaking at more schools throughout Oconee County this spring and fall.

“I’m trying to get my school’s environmental club involved,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to plant each demonstration garden, and I think a larger group can really engage with the kids and show them how to take care of the plants.”

Moffett said the club intends to build new planters for those schools looking to add a Connect to Protect garden on site. By working with the University of Georgia’s Materials Reuse Program, they hope to help offset the costs and labor that may be involved with each planter.

Her appreciation for the environment and community has inspired her to consider a career where she can make the most impact.

“I’d like to do something that makes the world a better place, whether that’s through the medical or law profession,” she said. “My dream job, however, would be in international law, working with environmental sciences.”

Contact: Heather Alley, , 706-542-1244


New management practices promise a bright future for established middle Georgia business

Small, start-up businesses are not the only type of company that can learn from experts at the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.

Associated Paper is a case in point. A successful family-owned distributor of industrial packaging, shipping, janitorial and sanitary maintenance supplies, Associate Paper serves more than 3,000 clients in middle Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, and a showroom/warehouse in Marietta.

In 2012, its top executives began looking for training in the new tools and technologies that would allow them to run the business more effectively and efficiently, ensuring its long-term sustainability.

“We needed help getting better organized and doing some long-range planning,” said CFO Gerald Hinesley. “We thought the UGA SBDC would be the best place to start.”

Hinesley and President Ronnie Kent reached out to Sharon Macaluso, area director of the Decatur office, for help on warehouse issues. She and consultant Bob Thiele helped them conduct reviews and provided recommendations for improving inventory management and warehouse layouts. This work led to a strategic planning retreat in 2013.

“Associated Paper had reached a good level of success,” said Macaluso. “But like many businesses, they hadn’t focused on their long-term goals. Looking further down the road would tell them what opportunities lie externally and what internal changes they needed to make.”

“We felt we had some areas we could improve upon,” Kent said. “The strategic plan helped us there, and it confirmed some of the things we were doing well.”

The strategic planning helped them identify Associated Paper’s core values: integrity, commitment, excellence and accountability.

“We came to the realization we’d been hiring folks whose core values didn’t match ours, which helped us deal more quickly with people who weren’t a good fit,” said Hinesley. “It’s now a major part of our hiring practices.”

Two years later, the company had experienced a great deal of turnover in its customer service and purchasing departments. Inexperience and shortages between hires had generated frustration across all departments, so Kent and Hinesley turned again to Macaluso.

They decided a team building exercise would get everyone rowing in the same direction, so Macaluso phoned Steve Dempsey, associate vice president of UGA Public Service and Outreach. He recommended Brendan Leahy, a public service associate and leadership development trainer with the UGA Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Their discussions led to a Saturday team building retreat with 30 of the company’s employees from customer service, purchasing and sales, along with officers and managers, led by Leahy.

“We were a little concerned because we scheduled this on a Saturday,” said Hinesley. “It was a bit challenging bringing our employees in for the day, but Brendan was wonderful. We had a lengthy conversation before the training, and he came in and did an outstanding job getting all the employees engaged in the process. At the end of the day, our employees said it was a great exercise for them.”

The exercise allowed Associated Paper an easier transition while making personnel and operational changes. Inter-department and cross-department communications improved, leading to overall higher efficiencies and productivity.

Associated Paper has realized five percent annual sales growth and hired a new vice president of sales since its management began working with the UGA SBDC.

“We kicked off our big 50th anniversary promotion in January 2017. Led by our goals and objectives, we have a lot of plans for growth that we’re doing with our employees,” said Kent. “We are excited about the potential.”

“Associated Paper is an established business with a higher level of sales,” said Macaluso. “But they, too, came to the UGA SBDC to learn how to develop solutions to the variety of management issues they’ve encountered. We provide the resources and small Georgia business needs to address any management issue.”

“The SBDC has a lot of capabilities to use if you just reach out and are open to discussing the problems you are having,” said Kent. “They have a wealth of knowledge and their people are available when you need them.”

Dressing up the Georgia Center

Uga and Hairy Dawg stare out from the elevators at the Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. The Savannah Room has a bright new look with a separate bar area, and a new menu on the way. Bikes soon will be added to the amenities guests can enjoy when they stay overnight. Got a room at the hotel? You qualify for the faculty and staff rate at the UGA Golf Course. These and other changes are underway as Georgia Center Director Dawn Cartee revitalizes the 60-year-old facility, built with grant money from the Kellogg Foundation. Stay tuned for more.

UGA partners with Goodwill to help local entrepreneurs start new businesses

As Marcus Lawrence’s cheesecake business expands, a program at Goodwill of North Georgia, in partnership with the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, is providing him with the skills necessary to manage his growing company and staff.
Lawrence is one of 20 students enrolled in a program called Goodbiz, which combines Goodwill’s entrepreneurial training with leadership training from the Fanning Institute. It serves Athens-Clarke County residents from disadvantaged, often low-income backgrounds who may not have the same access to business training as other entrepreneurs. Since the partnership began last year Goodbiz has helped about 15 people launch or prepare to launch revenue-generating businesses.

Lawrence launched his business, Cheesecaketopia, in 2012. He established it as an LLC in 2015 and has since hired two part-time employees. As business increases, he’ll need to hire additional staff.

Through Goodbiz he is learning how to mange the growth of the business and how to lead his team of employees.

“Understanding what leadership is like in a business setting is completely different than what I expected leadership to be,” Lawrence said. “I am a father of six, so I have to lead, but it is a completely different concept when you are dealing with adults in a work environment.”

Goodbiz teaches a unique blend of skills to people at all stages of a business, thanks to the partnership with the Fanning Institute, said Kerry Tracey, director of workforce development for Goodwill of North Georgia.

“Partnering really helps bring in some components that aren’t just about lectures, facts, numbers, and the things that you have to do, those hard skills,” Tracey said. “It also brings in some of the empathy, character development, the leadership development, and really building confidence.”

One unique aspect of Goodbiz is its initial focus on self-esteem, said Richard McCline, a senior public service associate with the Fanning Institute.

“The theory is that if you don’t feel good about who you are, you are not going to be able to do much,” McCline said. “Before we jump in to how to start a business, we jump in to how you start yourself from the inside out.”

Another unique aspect, McCline said, is a focus on self-efficacy.

“If I make you feel good about who you are, the next step is to make you feel good about what you want to do,” said McCline.

Over the 15-week Goodbiz program, the Fanning Institute also covers topics such as leadership, values and conflict. The conflict class made an impression on Lawrence.

“I realized that my concept of conflict was negative and it should not be,” Lawrence said. “I think that is going to help play a huge part in growing my business.”

Raisa Drew, a case manager for Goodwill of North Georgia, said a lot of participants talk about the program’s emphasis on business values.

“I’m hearing a lot of the participants, when they talk about their businesses, talk about what their values are and how that is affecting what they want their services to be,” Drew said.

Writer: Charlie Bauder,, 706-542-7039,
Contact: Richard McCline,, 706-542-7149

Long-time volunteer helps State Botanical Garden and partners conserve endangered native species

Nita Haley has volunteered with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia for 16 years, often focusing her efforts in the gift shop. This year, however, Haley is using her sewing skills to help the garden and its southeastern partners collect the seeds of rare and endangered plants.

Haley makes seed bags, small mesh pouches with drawstrings that fit over the top of flowering plants to collect their seeds. She created the bags with Jennifer Ceska, conservation coordinator for the State Botanical Garden, a unit of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia.

“The charm of the bag is that it’s made of polyester, so you can see through it and it dries quickly,” Haley said. “It’s also lightweight, so it won’t weigh the plants down during a heavy rain.”

Seed collection has long been a popular conservation method for those working with rare and endangered plants. Unfortunately, when the seeds mature, they are often blown away by wind and rain. The garden’s conservation team has sewn their own collection nets for years, but they often get wind-damaged or come untied.

Haley’s model is more efficient.

“Nita’s seed collection bags are well-made, they don’t fray and they’re re-usable,” Ceska said. “People have even used panty hose as collection tools before, but Nita’s are a breathable and uniform solution that can be used by conservationists all over the southeast.”

So far, Haley has made more than 150 bags, which are being used by the Chattahoochee Nature Center, The Nature Conservancy, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the Georgia Department of Transportation, in addition to the State Botanical Garden.

Haley moved to Athens from Atlanta 19 years ago after retiring from teaching, and she comes from a family of sewers. While she doesn’t know the long-term implications or the range of the project, Haley hopes to continue assisting the conservation teams throughout the state with their seed collection needs.

“I call the people who work with the plants ‘seed scientists,’” she said. “They use the bags to preserve rare seeds, but I’m the one having fun, doing what I love.”


Georgia’s exports up significantly thanks to UGA

The University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center opened doors to the world for Carl Hazenberg.

His company, Everlast Synthetic Products, saw its sales of seawall materials and services increase by as much as 40 percent after the SBDC’s International Trade Center helped it expand exports.

“We’d probably be floundering without the SBDC,” said Hazenberg, who was named Georgia Exporter of the Year by the Small Business Administration in 2016. “That business may not have happened. They helped us understand tariffs and what it takes to do business in other countries. It’s like having my own consulting company internationally when I need it.”

Hazenberg isn’t alone. The SBDC’s contribution to a growing sector of the Georgia economy earned it the Advancing International Trade State Award for Georgia from the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators in March.

“We’re very focused on how we’re helping Georgia small businesses,” said Rick Martin, director of the SBDC International Trade Center. “It’s nice for an outside organization to recognize we’re having that impact. It validates our mission.”

Today, Georgia has 14,000 companies exporting goods and services with a sales value of $35.5 billion, a 52 percent increase over the last decade. Martin and his colleagues have contributed to that growth through training programs like ExportGA, an intensive four session, 16 hour training program which allows export-ready companies to develop their skills, as well as a monthly program in Atlanta that covers key topics on successfully developing an import/export business.

The award, given to only a few states each year, is like a lifetime achievement for the SBDC and its work in international trade.

“I think it’s always nice to be recognized by your peers,” said Darrel Hulsey, a consultant with the SBDC International Trade Center. “This is the ultimate recognition from our peer group.”

The UGA SBDC was one of the first states to open an international trade division in 1978. Six states, including Georgia, had an international office by 1985. In addition to ExportGA, the SBDC developed Export-U, a free, online training program which has been supported and promoted by the U.S. Department of Commerce.


Writer: Christopher James,, 706-542-3631

Contact: Rick Martin,, 470-578-2530


Fanning Institute to host inaugural Embark Georgia conference this month

The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development will host an inaugural Embark Georgia Leadership Conference on college access and resources for students who have experienced foster care or homelessness.

The conference will be held May 18-19 at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

Embark Georgia is a statewide network of support for young people who are or have been in foster care or homeless and are enrolled or interested in attending any postsecondary educational institution in Georgia.

As of November 2016, 13,070 young people were in foster care in Georgia, according to state statistics. According to research by Casey Family Programs, 84 percent of youth with foster care experience want to go to college. About 20 percent actually enroll and far fewer complete a degree. Foster youth are three times more likely to persist in college if they participate in a campus support program.

The conference is open to higher education professionals, high school professionals, case managers, homeless liaisons, private foster care professionals, and any other interested community partners.

More than 140 people have registered.

“Support has been phenomenal,” said David Meyers, a public service associate at the Fanning Institute.

The conference will include simulations and breakout sessions on a variety of topics, such as financial and social supports for students, how campus and community organizations can structure targeted support for students, and challenges the students face.

Attendees will also have a chance to network with each other.

“That’s really one of the big goals, to bring folks together who serve these populations independently, but get them together in one room so they can learn from each other and share with each other about how they do what they do,” Meyers said.

On Friday, May 19, attendees will hear from keynote speaker Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. Goldrick-Rab also founded the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s only translational research laboratory seeking ways to make college more affordable. She also is author of “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.”

Goldrick-Rab is an expert on financial aid and higher education, an issue particularly important to students who have experienced or are experiencing foster care or homelessness, said Lori Tiller, a public service assistant at the Fanning Institute.

“She is a national leader right now in the conversation in how financial aid and financial aid debt affects students and how that is changing within higher education,” Tiller said.

To learn more or to register go to


Writer: Charlie Bauder, 706-542-7039,

Contact: David Meyers, 706-542-5062,

This release is also online at

UGA engineering students benefit from leadership training in addition to degrees

A group of University of Georgia civil and environmental engineering students will enter the workforce with both a degree and leadership training designed to help them transition from student to professional.

This year, the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development partnered with the College of Engineering on a pilot program called the Emerging Engineering Leaders Development Program.

Jason Christian, an assistant professor in the engineering college, and Stephan Durham, assistant dean for student success and outreach and an associate professor of civil engineering for the college, enlisted the Fanning Institute to create and deliver the program as part of their Capstone Senior Design course for seniors majoring in civil and environmental engineering.

Durham said the engineering industry has identified leadership training as a real need.

While engineering is a very technical profession, Durham said a large part of the job does involve soft skills, or what he called “professional skills,” such as leadership and communication.

“The aspects and characteristics we want our students to have are strength in the professional skill set to go along with the wonderful technical education they are receiving here at UGA,” said Durham.

The Fanning Institute’s curriculum covered leadership vision and styles, group decision making, conflict management, communication, and community engagement.

According to Senior Public Service Associate Jenny Jordan, the Fanning Institute designed the program around what students will likely encounter at their future workplace.

“What companies are saying they need more than anything are students who have seen these kinds of skills and that have spent some time looking at how they manage conflict, how they understand their own strengths and weaknesses, how they engage with the community, how they interact with different generations, and how they make teamwork and communication happen,” said Jordan.

Hailey Hebebrand, a senior from Atlanta graduating in May with a degree in civil engineering, is among the 55 students who participated in the inaugural leadership program.

“Because we are upperclassmen and often considered the leaders of the college, it’s important to remember that we must learn how to lead in different ways once we start our full-time jobs,” said Hebebrand. “We must lead by example and be team members before advancing into positions of leadership.”

She felt the most valuable lesson taught dealt with generational differences in the workplace.

“The exercise allowed us to better understand how we should interact with co-workers of multiple generations in order to succeed in our jobs,” said Hebebrand. “Without having this perspective, it would be difficult to successfully lead a diverse group of people.”

The leadership training was integrated into the capstone projects for the civil and environmental engineering students, which require the students to work in groups on a real-world engineering design project in a community. Capstone projects are required as part of each undergraduate degree program in the engineering college.

Christian and Durham grouped students in their class based on their identified leadership styles, and they said the groups felt more cohesive and seemed to manage conflict more effectively.

A Fanning Institute faculty and staff team that included Jordan, Lauren Healey, Brendan Leahy, Brandy Walker, Lori Tiller, Emily Boness, and Dessa Morris worked on the program.

Durham and Christian said the Fanning Institute did a fabulous job, and they want to see this program expanded from just their course, which was the only one to include the leadership program, to the entire College of Engineering.

“This training is so impactful,” Christian said.  “It really could be the difference between a graduate that has a good workplace experience leading to a very satisfying career versus a student that goes to work and gets frustrated because they don’t know these characteristics about themselves, they haven’t practiced leading, and they haven’t seen good leadership in action.”

Workshops give UGA students edge in job market

In addition to management and human resources, public administration theory and finance, students in UGA’s top ranked Master of Public Administration program are now getting lessons in an area that employers say they need: soft skills.

Taught by faculty and staff from UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, MPA Student Professional Development: Soft Skills includes six workshops that help the students understand business etiquette and self-motivation, skills that make them more marketable once they receive their degrees.

“We focused on picking workshops that provide training in as many personal skills as possible, including things as basic as what to wear to work, how to introduce yourself properly, effective communication and how to address a conflict early on,” said Stacy Jones, associate director for governmental training, education and development at the Institute of Government.

The program was developed by Andrew Grandage and Jacob Wingate, both graduate students in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). As a graduate assistant for the Institute of Government, Grandage helped with the governor’s High Demand Career Initiative, where he learned about the value employers place on soft skills. Wingate also is a graduate assistant at the institute, coordinating its student internship programs.

Aaron Redmon, the MPA recruitment and career services coordinator for SPIA’s Department of Public Administration, said the classes are especially important to younger students who come directly into the MPA program without spending time in the workforce.

“Some haven’t had the on-the-job opportunities to learn soft skills like professional etiquette, public presenting, and conflict management,” Redmon said. “That is why this is so beneficial to our students; it provides them with these critical lessons now so they do not have to learn them the hard way while on the job.”

The connection with Vinson also is a benefit for the students, many of whom could be working in the public sector one day.

“They will have firsthand experience working with the institute, planting a seed for future partnerships for education and development,” Wingate said.

Sachi Delacruz, a second year student in the MPA program, said she’s better prepared to communicate professionally with future colleagues and supervisors.

“It’s helpful to talk about the importance to have constant professionalism that allows you to build and maintain relationships,” Delacruz said. “Most of our classes are big picture and theory, but this gets down to the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to walk into professional situations, and what to do when you’re there.”

Contact: Stacy Jones,, 706-542-9771

Georgia celebrates small businesses

After four decades of teaching Marta Collier is making a business out of her passion for children’s books by black authors, with help from the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“Starting up a business is more than having a notion,” said Collier, a former school teacher and college professor. “Many fail because they don’t have the support base. We not only feel like we have a supportive infrastructure. We feel like we have a friend.”

Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services is just one of thousands of companies celebrating Small Business Week across Georgia March 13-17. Over the last five years, SBDC clients have started 1,422 new businesses, creating 11,785 new jobs and generating $8.9 billion in sales in the process.

Collier says the help she received from SBDC consultant Michael Myers was “game-changing.”

He encouraged Collier that her idea to sell lesson plans for children’s books from neglected black authors was sound

Myers helped her focus her energy on lesson plans and take the steps to set up her home-based business in Newton County. And he connected her with interns from UGA to make it a reality.

“Mike turned us onto a wealth of talent and they need experiences like this for their resume,” Collier said. “It’s been phenomenal for us to have someone to connect us to that kind of resource.”

Collier’s work is an outgrowth of consulting she has done for decades. The basement of the home she shares in Covington with her husband and business partner, Willyerd, resembles an elementary classroom. Shelves, tables and crates overflow with books and educational materials.

Many of those books come from authors who weren’t commercially successful. She wants to expose them to a new generation of children.

In addition to help edit lesson plans, the interns also are marketing Collier’s new business through social media platforms that  the 64-year-old admits she’s not as familiar with.

Krysten Hardee, a senior English major at UGA, is helping Collier setup a Pinterest page. Eyeing a career in publishing, Hardee was thrilled to read about the internship on a UGA listserv. She said she’s interested in diverse voices in children’s literature, which matches Collier’s mission.

“This is where I can shine. I love this and I’m passionate about it,” Hardee said. “I think it’s going to be great for my career after college. I think it’ll be great to talk about in an interview.”

Myers said the Colliers’ passion for the subject will make them successful. They just needed the tools SBDC provides to execute a business.

“She has a real good point of differentiation,” Myers said. “Hers is pride in the heritage of African-Americans. She’s trying to make sure this group isn’t forgotten. There’s some darn good stories they could share. “

Writer: Christopher James,, 706-542-3631

Contact: Mike Myers,, 706-542-7436


Links to:





Financial help for Summer Academy at UGA students

The Summer Academy at UGA (SAUGA) program and UGA Foundation have created a fund to provide support for the Summer Academy at UGA program by offsetting the costs for children to attend the program. Support shall include, but not be limited to, instructor salaries, lodging, meals, UGA vehicles, staff pay, supplies, and other program-related expenses as directed by the program coordinator.

For more information on scholarships or to register, click here.