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Skidaway Marine Science Day pairs science with fun

DO FISH SEE in color? It depends on what kind of fish they are.

The swim bladder of one species of fish has the fastest muscle contraction of any animal in the animal kingdom. What kind of fish is it?

Explore these and other mysteries of the deep when the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography holds its annual Skidaway Marine Science Day on Saturday, Oct. 11, noon-4 p.m. The campus is at the north end of Skidaway Island.

Marine Education Specialist Maryellen Timmons will present a program about fish at the UGA Marine Extension Service Aquarium. “It’s really not about how to fish or what bait to use,” she says. “It’s interesting facts about fish you don’t find in textbooks or when you’re looking through fish books. It’s the sorts of things I’ve learned over the years.”

During her talk, Timmons will show unusual photos. “They’re sort of the weird things you wouldn’t usually see,” she says.

She’ll also do a bit of myth-busting to sort out fact from fiction about fish. Timmons also will take visitors to a part of the aquarium that isn’t usually open to the public.

“We’ll go to the other end of the building that no one ever gets to see unless they’re in a school group,” she says. “We have four different labs. We’re going to have a touch tank room, reptiles, and they can touch invertebrates.

“In one of the labs, we’ll look at microscopic plants that live in river water and the ocean,” Timmons says. “In the invertebrate lab, they will look at organisms that if you’re out kayaking, you might find on the other side of dock and that might be attached to the bottom of the boat,” she says.

Timmons also will show visitors a Web site where they can learn more about the animals they will see. Visit www.marex.uga.edu and click on the Coastal Georgia identification link.

Visitors can do a variety of activities. “There will be a maritime forest walk, and there are certain times on the schedule that there are going to be behind-the-scenes feeding of animals in the aquarium,” Timmons says.

“We have a handicapped-access nature trail that goes out to the dock,” she says. “I’ve found since I’ve been living here that very few people actually have been out to the water.

“We get a lot of visitors who are interested in the historic venues of Savannah,” Timmons says. “They look at the marshes as either pretty scenery or stinky. They have no idea what coastal marsh lands can do.”

Events such as Marine Science Day foster stewardship of the coastal areas, Timmons says. “We give them information about the environment the marshes are in so they’ll be more proactive when it comes to protecting them,” she says.

Coastal Georgia has an amazing environment, Timmons says. “I’ve lived all over U.S. in coastal counties, and Georgia has the most pristine, undisturbed marsh lands and barrier island system that I have seen,” she says.

“Early in the 1960s and 70s, people recognized the value of the marsh,” Timmons says. “There were people who really wanted to save it.”

Timmons is especially happy to show off the newly renovated aquarium, which is only a year old. “It’s a lot darker inside now,” she says. “There’s an interactive kiosk with displays that light up. We have artifacts from an archaeological sites.”

All the campus buildings will be open for the tour. “There will be lots of things outside as you go from building to building,” Timmons says. “People can spend four hours here and still find things to do.”

SKIO External Affairs Manager Michael Sullivan says the activities are geared for all ages, from young children to adults. “All the various organizations open their doors and set up a series of programs and displays and activities,” he says. “It’s all free. We’ll have program running throughout the afternoon on such things as horseshoe crabs, fish feedings and behind-the-scenes tours.”

The activities will cover one end of the campus to the other, Sullivan says. Everybody’s favorite seems to be the Plankton Sink-Off, he says.

“We have a mock dock study that one of our scientists is conducting between the aquarium and the area of the quadrangle. The study is measuring the effects docks have on the salt marshes they cross over. There’s been a lot of discussion, but no one’s determined if shadow cast has any effect,” Sullivan says.

“There are four fairly large docks sitting out in the yard on the lawn. I think when people walk by, they’re going to say ‘What’s that?’”

That’s one reason the Marine Science Day is held, so people will ask questions.

“Everything out here is a part of a government agency. It’s important that the people who are the taxpayers see what is going on out here. It’s also part of all our missions, each of the agencies, to disseminate information about science,” Sullivan says.

“This is an opportunity to open the doors, let people come and see what we’re doing. We roll out the red carpet, tell the public to come on down and see what we’ve got here. It’s kind of a win-win.”

Skidaway Marine Science Day

Continuous activities from noon to 4 p.m. will include a campus-wide scavenger hunt, touch tanks at the aquarium, tours of the aquarium, Plankton World in the Roebling House, tours of the Research Vessel Savannah at the Skidaway Institute Dock and science and agency displays. Programs include Invertebrates Up Close at the aquarium’s Invertebrate Lab, What is in a drop of water? in the aquarium Plankton Lab, Crabs Up Close and Personal and Sea Dawg Tours at the aquarium dock and a tour of the Shellfish Lab/ – Oyster reef restoration, shell bagging, various displays, demonstrations and activities

The WSVH Georgia Public Radio Station will be open for tours, and DNR’s Coastal Resources Division will have a display at the Skidaway Institute Quadrangle. The Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and Shrimping on the Georgia Coast also will have displays on the SkIO Quad.

From noon to 4 p.m., Music on the Quad will feature live performances.

Scheduled events include:

12:30-1:00 p.m. -- Horseshoe Crabs the Living Fossil in the MAREX Aquarium Lecture hall.

12:30-1:30 p.m. -- Nature Hike Adventure with John “Crawfish” Crawford. Meet at the aquarium front entrance.

1 p.m. – Fish Feeding. Meet in the aquarium lobby.

1 p.m. -- Science Career Information Program in the Library Auditorium.

1-1:20 p.m. -- Introduction to the Coastal Wetlands – in the Aquarium Auditorium.

1:30-1:50 p.m. -- Effects of Marine Debris in Coastal Georgia in the Aquarium Lecture Hall.

1:30 p.m. – Behind the scenes tour of the aquarium. Meet in the aquarium lobby.

2-2:50 p.m.The Lives of Fishes in the Aquarium Lecture Hall.

2 p.m. -- Behind the scenes tour of the aquarium. Meet in the aquarium lobby.

2:30 p.m. - Crab Crawl Race (4 years and under) at the north end of the campus.

2:45 p.m. - Dolphin Dash Race (5-7 years) at the north end of the campus.

3 p.m. - Shark Shuffle Race (8-11 years) at the north end of the campus.

3-3: 45 pm – Reptile show with John “Crawfish” Crawford on the cafeteria porch.

3:30 PM - Plankton Sink-Off at the Roebling House.

For additional information, call 598-2325, or visit www.skio.usg.edu.

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Linda Sickler

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