Twenty-one UGA undergraduate students make up the 2018-19 Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars program, which concluded its fall sessions in November and will begin spring internships in January.

During the fall, the students gathered weekly to learn about the land- and sea-grant mission of the University of Georgia. The students visited each of the eight Public Service and Outreach units, learning how each fulfills the outreach mission of the university through leadership development, government training, small business assistance, coastal extension, community resources and educational programming.

One of the highlights of the semester was a trip to Skidaway Island, in Savannah, to visit Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. Students learned about the UGA oyster hatchery and efforts along the coast to help secure the future of Georgia’s marine industries and coastal economies.

The UGA Aquarium and Education Center is part of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in Savannah. Situated on an estuary, it is an ideal site to explore the coastal ecosystems. Students went on a dolphin cruise and met a particularly curious one, who swam alongside the boat. Back at the dock, they took samples and analyzed them in the on-site labs as part of ongoing recording keeping about the health of the estuary.

The focus of the educational outreach at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is about hands-on learning, literally. Touch tanks encourage exploration and the aquarium offers a first-hand look at the marine life along the coast.

Students handled horseshoe crabs, took a behind the scenes tour and even met the newly rescued baby sea turtle, Neptune, who will spend the next few years at the aquarium until she’s ready to be released back into the wild.

“The Marine Extension trip was one of my favorite site visits, if not the favorite trip I’ve taken in a while,” Student Scholar Emmanual Ayo said. “I learned a lot about the various industries there and how they affect Georgia and honestly the rest of the east coast. As an ecology and biology major, I felt at home at the center and discovered many new career paths as well as a new passion for what I do.”

In the spring, each of the scholars will intern in one of our eight units or in the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, where they will put their skills to work helping promote the outreach mission of UGA and making a difference in the lives of Georgians across the state.

Writer and Photographer: Shannah Montgomery, smont@uga.edu, 706-542-3638