Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Rivers to Reefs 2014
Mission Information

Thursday: June 26, 2014
Log Day 5

Brandy Chastain; Upson-Lee South Elementary,
   Thomaston, GA
Laura Payne, Jackson Elementary School,
   Jackson, GA

Brandy Chastain

Nakeshia Williams, Kaitlin Dunn, Lisa Schwenk and Bethany Todd use a CTD carousel to collect water samples

Nakeshia Williams, Kaitlin Dunn, Lisa Schwenk and Bethany Todd use a CTD carousel to collect water samples.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

I was very nervous as we boarded the RV Savannah early this morning. This was my very first time aboard a ship and my first trip out to sea. I made sure to take my motion sickness medicine! As we set sail, the scenery was breathtaking.

We departed Skidaway Island, took note of the saltwater marshes lining the waterways, and discussed the value of these marshes for protecting our aquatic ecosystems.

Kevin Faircloth and Kaitlin Dunn operate a sediment grab to collect a bottom sample from the sea floor

Kevin Faircloth and Kaitlin Dunn operate a sediment grab to collect a bottom sample from the sea floor.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

As we trawled along the bottom of the sea floor in Wassau Sound, we dragged a camera near the bottom to view sea life below. We watched on a monitor in the ship's wet lab in real time and color. This was so exciting to see the life growing and thriving on the reef. I have seen this in documentaries on television, but now I can say that I experienced this for myself.

Sea Mouse

A sea mouse (a marine invertebrate animal and a surprising find) was collected in a trawl and, of course, released again to the sea.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

A sediment sample of the ocean floor brought up sand and mud which were brownish in color due to the nutrient-rich waters that spill from the marshes into the sea. We also found tube worms, lancelets, sea squirts, a sea mouse, and mole crab in the sample. Trawling provided us with a variety of sea life including a horseshoe crab, baby black tip sharks, shrimp, flounder, and whiting. I was so proud of myself for holding a shark!

Sorting table viewing sediment grain size and animals

Teachers gather around a sorting table as Cathy Sakas leads them through a discovery of the variations in sediment grain size and animals living within the sediment on the sea floor along our continental shelf.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

We continued our water monitoring efforts offshore by collecting water samples with an instrument called a CTD (a CTD measures conductivity, temperature and density of the water). We were able to see marine technology in action and to learn to use these instruments, donning hard hats and life vests for safety. We took samples at approximately ten miles offshore and at JY Reef near Gray's Reef (approximately fifteen miles out from shore). The beautiful sunny weather and calm seas lent us the opportunity to experience visibility for thirty-six feet. Captain Raymond told us that visibility to this depth was unusual for this area. I guess we were lucky.

A wonderful dinner prepared by our chef in the galley filled our tummies beyond capacity. We shared our data from our water monitoring among our teams. We discussed the relationships between these data and described what we discovered about the flow of nutrients and contaminants from inland rivers to the Atlantic Ocean offshore from Savannah. The most exciting part of this day for me was our sunset cruise headed back to Skidaway Island. Several dolphins surfed on the bow wake of the ship. Seeing the dolphins playing in front us was a majestic experience and one I will never forget. This special treat ended our busy day.

Teachers view imagery collected with camera dragged below the ship

Teachers crowd into the ship's dry lab to view real-time imagery collected with a camera that is dragged below the ship.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Laura Payne

This entire Rivers to Reefs experience has been one that I will never forget! I am looking forward to sharing it with my students, friends and family. Learning to follow the path of a river from beginning to end has been extremely educational. As part of my third grade curriculum, I teach about the ecoregions of Georgia and our impacts to habitats. I believe that my students will feel more connected to the concepts I teach when they are able to see photos of me interacting with these environments.

Today we boarded the RV Savannah and cruised offshore to JY Reef, stopping to collect water, sediment, and trawl samples along the way. Comparing the sediment brought up in each grab and mining it for animals living within it was so much fun. My students would love to do something similar. I can't wait to tie my experiences to my teaching and to use my new scientific vocabulary in the classroom; these things will really grab the attention of my students.


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