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Skidaway Institute of Oceanography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Skidway Institute of Oceanography
Skidway institute of oceanography logo.png
TypeIndependent Research Unit
Location, ,
31°59′19″N 81°01′16″W / 31.988548°N 81.021223°W / 31.988548; -81.021223
Campus700 acres (2.8 km2), coastal setting
AffiliationsUniversity of Georgia

The University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography is a marine research laboratory with a focus on research, education and service. Over the course of a half a century, the institute has established an international reputation for excellence. The institute is located on a 700-acre campus on Skidaway Island in suburban Savannah, Ga. Founded in 1968, Skidaway Institute was merged into the University of Georgia in 2013. Institute faculty are members of the Department of Marine Sciences at UGA and serve as mentors and advisors for undergraduate and graduate students from UGA and all over the world. Institute resources include state-of-the-art research laboratories and instrumentation, and the 92-foot Research Vessel Savannah.



Skidaway Island was originally a hunting and ceremonial ground of the Timucua Indians. European settlement of the island was successful between 1754 and 1771, and included John Milledge (the father of John Milledge), who established a plantation on the northern end. He named it "Modena," presumably after the Italian city for its famed production of silk. Silk was an early industry of the European settlers of coastal Georgia. The Modena Plantation grew corn, cotton, oranges and mulberry trees, and kept sheep, cattle, hogs and horses. It survived as a plantation into the 1840s, until John Milledge III sold it in 1843. The name "Modena" is still used to refer to the northern part of the island.

After the American Civil War (1861–1865), many of the plantations on the island were unable to continue without slave labor, and their owners gradually sold them to wealthy northerners, who mostly held them on speculation. Much of the island reverted to wilderness and was used mainly for hunting, trapping, fishing and lumber for several decades. The Modena Plantation changed hands sixteen more times after the war. In 1927 the property became a private hunting preserve for Ralph H. Isham, best known for purchasing a collection of James Boswell's private papers from Baron Talbot of Malahide and passing them to Yale University.

Mr. Isham sold the property in 1934 to Robert C. Roebling (great-grandson of John Augustus Roebling). The Roebling family (Robert, Dorothy, and five children) established a farm for Black Angus cattle while living on their 176-foot (54 m) schooner, the Black Douglas, which provided all of the power needed by the farm until it was sold in 1941 to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The cattle farm was very successful for the next twenty years, until it came to an end in 1954 due to post-WWII economic pressures. Many of the buildings from the farm are still standing and in use by SkIO, most notably the seven-sided barn with its compass rose mosaic at the center.

Another successful European settler of the mid-18th century was Henry Yonge, who had a plantation located just southeast of Modena, called Orangedale. In 1877 it came into the ownership of the Benedictine Order. The Benedictines tried to establish a monastery and Catholic school for the newly freed former slaves on the island, but were unsuccessful. They abandoned their efforts in 1889. The "Priest tract," as the property had come to be called, became one of many acquired by a partnership of Thomas Bourke Floyd, James Boog Floyd, and A. Goden Guerard Jr. Thomas Floyd eventually assumed ownership of the entire middle portion of the island, until economic hardship forced a transfer to C&S Bank in 1924. The Union Camp Corporation purchased it from the bank in 1941.

The Founding of SkIO

Main entrance to SkIO
Main entrance to SkIO

In 1966, the Georgia Science and Technology Commission of the Georgia General Assembly proposed the establishment of an oceanographic research center on Skidaway Island. The thought at the time was to foster economic growth in coastal Georgia by attracting secondary industries of oceanography, in much the same way that secondary industries of space exploration had arisen around NASA.

Dorothy Roebling donated approximately 790 acres (3.2 km2) of the Modena property to the State of Georgia for this purpose in 1967, including 384 acres (1.6 km2) of high land, all of the buildings and farm workers, and both of their docks on the Skidaway River at the western side of the island. In addition, Union Camp donated 635 acres (2.6 km2) of the Orangedale property, including 300 acres (1.2 km2) of high land with access to the Wilmington River at the eastern side of the island; this portion of the campus is now called Priest Landing.

With the land donations, the Georgia General Assembly created the "Ocean Science Center of the Atlantic (OSCA)" in 1967. The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography was officially created in January 1968 with Thomas Jackson (formerly of Georgia Tech) as director, two co-directors, a secretary, and several former workers inherited from the Roebling farm. Its first faculty member, Herbert L. Windom, began work in July 1968. President Richard Nixon and Governor Lester Maddox dedicated the first building of the program in 1970. Governor Jimmy Carter dissolved OSCA in 1972, at which point SkIO became an independent research unit in the University System of Georgia. In 2013, Skidaway Institute was merged with the University of Georgia.

SkIO has had five directors during its existence: Thomas Jackson (1967–1970), David Menzel (1970–1993), Herbert L. Windom (1994–2001), James G. Sanders (2002–2016), and Clark R. Alexander (2016–present).

The UGA Skidaway Marine Science Campus

Location of Skidaway Island in Georgia, USA
Location of Skidaway Island in Georgia, USA
SkIO main building and water tower
SkIO main building and water tower

The institute operates on a 684-acre (2.8 km2) campus at 31°59′19″N 81°1′16″W / 31.98861°N 81.02111°W / 31.98861; -81.02111 (31.9885476, -81.0212228)[1] surrounded by another 600 acres (2.4 km2) of salt marsh.[2] It has ten faculty with research interests ranging from nutrients and pollutants of the salt marshes and estuaries, to the movements of water masses between the coast and Gulf Stream, to the ecology of plankton and microbes of the open ocean. Much of the institute's research since its inception has focused on the southeastern U.S. continental shelf, the influences of land, open ocean, and atmosphere on the continental shelf, and other continental shelf environments worldwide.


UGA Skidaway Institute scientists conduct oceanographic research across all the major disciplines (chemistry, biology, physics and geology) and on a geographic scale ranging from the waterways adjoining the campus to sites around the world.

A sample of ongoing research projects at Skidaway Institute includes:

  • Coastal and estuarine physics which investigates the processes that affect circulation on continental shelves and in estuaries
  • Studying the way carbon cycles through the ocean and its implications on global climate change.
  • The chemical, physical and biological processes that regulate the biological productivity of the Georgia coastal ocean.
  • The role plankton play in the cycling of energy and materials in the oceans
  • Helping Georgia coastal communities build their resilience to storms by locating sand resources for post-storm beach renourishment.
  • Investigating the way microscopic parasites affect the Georgia shrimping industry


Skidaway Institute has always had a role in training future scientists, especially at the graduate level. Since being merged into UGA in 2013, that mission has grown. Skidaway Institute's education mission is primarily focused on research. Graduate students at both the masters and doctoral level come to Skidaway to conduct research with institute faculty. Some are enrolled at UGA, but others come from other institutions around the country and internationally. Advanced undergraduate students in marine sciences receive hands-on research experience in Skidaway’s active internship program. UGA Skidaway Institute scientists also teach on-line and field courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level.


Skidaway Institute includes state-of-the-art biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanographic research laboratories as well as a number of specialized facilities:

  • The 92-foot Research Vessel Savannah.  A part of the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System fleet, the R/V Savannah is a modern, state-of-the-art vessel ideal for marine research in estuarine and continental shelf waters throughout the southeastern U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In addition to a crew of seven, the R/V Savannah can accommodate up to 16 research personnel for 24-hour “round the clock” research cruises, or larger groups for shorter day-trips.
  • A fleet of smaller boats for inshore field work
  • Advanced instrumentation for trace analysis of inorganic and organic constituents, and a variety of instruments for molecular and cellular investigations and sophisticated image analysis systems.
  • State-of-the-art facilities and instrumentation to analyze the genetic identity, diversity and functionality of marine organisms and microbial communities.


UGA Skidaway Institute scientists’ research efforts are funded by both public and private agencies. The State of Georgia provides a portion of Skidaway's funding, but most of the research at Skidaway is underwritten by grants from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation. State agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia State Coastal Zone Management Program and the Georgia Department of Transportation also provide support for important studies of Georgia's coastal region.

Campus Partners

UGA Marine Extension

The University of Georgia Marine Extension Service consists of several educational outreach facilities in the state of Georgia, including one on the Skidaway Marine Science Campus. The Marine Education Center and Aquarium (MECA) operates a small public saltwater aquarium of local marine fish and invertebrates, which is visited by 18,000 schoolchildren per year. There is also a small research facility for shellfish aquaculture.

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary

The campus hosts the administrative offices for NOAA's Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, which is one of thirteen marine sanctuaries in the United States. It consists of 17 square nautical miles (58 km2; 23 sq mi) of a nearshore live-bottom rock reef, 17 nautical miles (31 km; 20 mi) off the coast of Sapelo Island, Georgia.

GSU Applied Coastal Research Lab

Georgia Southern University's Applied Coastal Research Laboratory (ACRL), studies sedimentary processes of the coastal zone of Georgia, such as groundwater hydrology and shoreline erosion.

  1. ^ "Geographic Names Information System". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  2. ^ "Geographic Names Information System Feature Detail Report". U.S. Department of the Interior (U.S. Geological Survey). Retrieved 2007-08-28.

External links

This page was last edited on 2 May 2020, at 02:55
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