Lisa Liguori, associate director of UGA Marine Extension Service and extension leader of Georgia Sea Grant, came to Georgia specifically to work for MAREX. The wide scope of her work at UGA is motivated by her underlying desire to serve, and she believes that service-learning provides the best on-the-job training available for students on any career path.

Where did you earn your degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?

As an undergraduate, I studied anthropology at Haverford College. After working for a few years, I went to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada to pursue a master’s in resource management and environmental studies. Now at UGA, I supervise 12 amazing faculty and staff members who conduct applied research and outreach related to fisheries, water quality and sustainable land use. We look for practical solutions on the coast, helping people protect their local resources and livelihoods.

When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?

I came to Georgia specifically to work for the Marine Extension Service (MAREX) six years ago.

What is the best part about your job?

For me, the best part of my job is having the freedom and flexibility to work on pressing problems as they occur and to be pro-active about issues before they become controversial.

Describe your current research or service projects.

Some of my current projects include: working with managers and shrimpers to track giant Asian tiger shrimp; providing affordable mercury screenings for women in their childbearing years; and working with fishermen to develop conservation gear for new fisheries.

What does service mean to you?

Working in extension means staying connected with people on the coast. This kind of public service means being able to translate scientific information into practical solutions and also making sure that researchers are aware of current problems.

What do you feel is UGA’s role as a land- and sea-grant university?

We use UGA’s resources to serve the people of Georgia, but we’re also part of something much larger. The national Sea Grant network connects 33 programs that use science to support environmental stewardship, long-term economic development and responsible use of resources. Of the people I’ve met who are doing this work across the nation, the vast majority are doing it because they love it.

What does it mean to you to work at a land- and sea-grant university, both personally and professionally?

Before I came to work here, I had no idea what being a “land- and sea-grant university” meant. At my own college graduation, I remember learning the Latin motto from my younger brother’s school, “that I may serve,” and the words stuck in my head. I was exhausted and overwhelmed from four years of cramming knowledge into my head and I was questioning the point of it all. For me, the point is putting that education to work to help people solve their own problems, to address the issues that matter to them with solutions that work in the real world. Being part of a land- and sea-grant institution means that it’s my job to put university resources to work for communities in Georgia.

Why is public service an important aspect of higher education?

Pursuing academic degrees automatically means that you have to take some of your focus away from being a practical thinker while you learn about theories and paradigms. Academia allowed me to embrace “higher learning;” the public service aspect kept my feet on the ground.

What are the benefits of attending a land-grant university for students as opposed to the experience they would get at a non-land-grant university?

Being part of a land- and sea-grant university means we’re part of an institution that values knowledge and expertise from people who make a living using natural resources. As part of Sea Grant, UGA is part of a dynamic, university-based network with more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students and outreach experts working on topics that are vital for human and environmental health. This means that local needs receive national attention and research stays relevant for real people.

What are some of the service-learning and public service opportunities for students that you are involved with?

It’s hard stay clean at our office. Our two student interns spent last summer visiting docks and fish houses to talk with Georgia shrimpers about a newly approved Turtle Excluder Device invented by a local shrimper. They worked in our native plant gardens (where we teach about how human land use affects local ecosystems, water quality and coastal fisheries) and they helped faculty prepare hundreds of human hair samples from Central America for mercury analysis.

What is the value or benefit of students engaging in service-learning and public service?

This is the best kind of on-the-job training for students on any career path. It taught me how to connect the smallest details of a particular local problem with the big picture, sometimes on a national or even a global scale.