(see Appendix 1 for details of scientific findings):
The affiliation of the Foundation with
The University of Georgia resulted from an invitation, extended by
R.J. Reynolds, to propose a program to utilize certain of the island’s
resources. A committee composed of George Boyd, Eugene Odum and
Donald Scott prepared the proposal for establishing a marine biology
laboratory. The primary objective of the laboratory was intended
to be basic research into the biological productivity in the coastal
waters and marshes of the region.
By July 1953, funds were made available
to cover operating costs, field and laboratory facilities, and housing.
Use was made of existing facilities. Families were housed in the
apartments on the eastern side of the central quadrangle, and the elaborate
dairy barn was gradually converted into laboratory space.
This was no conventional barn.
It had hot and cold running water and steam heat. The ground
floor boasted a tiled milk laboratory and a photographic darkroom
and the second floor housed a movie theater with seating for a hundred
people. At first, only one room was air-conditioned and it was
used as the instrument room (the instruments being a balance and a colorimeter).
The challenge for the first staff members were how to improvise with what
was available to them, and how to approach the concept of broad-scale,
field-oriented ecology. They had boats, ingenuity, a small amount
of equipment, and generally, a great deal of enthusiasm. This combination
of circumstances led to much of the preliminary research being observational,
a search for the means to qualify and quantify this complex environment.
In addition to the basic support from
the Sapelo Island Agriculture and Forestry Research Foundation (as
it was originally entitled), by 1956 all the research faculty had applied
for, and received, National Science Foundation grants.
As the new faculty settled in and developed
their programs, a parallel and complementary group from the main campus
in Athens also came to the laboratory. This was composed of
senior faculty such as Eugene Odum and Donald Scott and their graduate
students, who spent their summers or other available time researching
their specific areas of interest.
By 1957, the upper floor of the laboratory
was dedicated, providing flood-free laboratory space. More
sophisticated analytical instruments were obtained with Atomic Energy
Commission and National Science Foundation grants, and the first isotope
tracer work commenced, allowing more accurate tracing of nutrients through
Richard Reynolds and the Marine Institute
hosted the Salt Marsh Conference in March 1958. Support was provided
by the National Science Foundation which was, at that time, interested
in promoting interdisciplinary workshops on specialized subjects.
The fifty-five participants included the faculty of the Marine Institute
and a complement from the University of Georgia, with input from participants
from other maritime states, Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands
and New Zealand. The discussions ranged from geology to hydrology,
physiological stresses, production and the role of saltmarshes as historical
While questions relating to productivity,
energy flow and phosphorus cycling were being addressed, another gap
in the basic knowledge of the system became obvious. This was
its geology. Geology is a science which puts everyday measurements
into a time frame. No longer is a day, a season, or a year the major
consideration; instead, the accumulation of years becomes the focus of
enquiry. Discrepancies between the short-term and long-term then
become clues to hitherto unsuspected or unconsidered disturbances.
So it was, in the early 1960’s that a geology group was recruited.
This led, in 1966, to the Marine Institute
hosting a field trip of the Geological Society of America.
Thus an opportunity was provided for the Sapelo geologists to interact
with a large group of geologists from the south-eastern states, demonstrating
to, and discussing their research finding with, the participants.
In 1964, the Conference on Estuaries
was held on Jekyll Island. The initial planning was subsidized
by the Sapelo Island Research Foundation and financially assisted by
many other sponsors. The final product of the conference was the
book “Estuaries”, edited by George Lauff and published in 1967 by the
American Association for the Advancement of Science. This multidisciplinary
volume remains the classic work on estuaries.
The Marine Institute also hosted the
Oyster Culture Workshop in 1967, to discuss the potential for rebuilding
the oyster industry in Georgia.
Much of the biological research had elucidated the interactions
which occur in a healthy saltmarsh/estuarine environment: the roll
of detritus (the remnant of Spartina decay); the excretion of organic
and inorganic matter by a variety of animals and plants; the subsequent
use of excreted materials by others in the food web. This information
and that provided by the geologists on the stability of the sea island/saltmarsh
system became of vital public interest when a large industry wished
to strip mine marshland for phosphate. The “Conference on the
Future of the Marshlands and Sea Islands” was held at the Cloister on
Sea Island in October 1968 to discuss the problem from many aspects.
By showing that the proposed venture was neither economically nor environmentally
sound, a commission of experts from The University System of Georgia
provided the Governor and the legislators with the input which resulted
in a strong marshland Protection Act in 1970.
In December 1976, the State of Georgia
purchased nearly 5,000 acres on the south end of the island from
the Sapelo Island Research Foundation for $4 million. Half
of the funds used were State and half were Federal. The purchased
land, together with part of the R.J. Reynolds Wildlife Refuge in the
area of the Duplin River, was then designated as the Sapelo Island National
Estuarine Sanctuary, the second of a series of National Estuarine Sanctuaries
which fall under the aegis of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration in Washington. The only land remaining, which is not
State-owned, is 434 acres occupied by the residents of the Hog Hammock community.
The Marine Institute’s leasehold since the 1976 State acquisition occupies
the area within the sanctuary south of the road leading from Marsh Landing
dock to Nannygoat Beach, including all the Marine Institute buildings,
residences and the Main House.
By July 1978 (F.Y. 78-79) The University
of Georgia Marine Institute had become a line item in the State Budget.
In 1979, recognizing the needs for a
coherent program theme and a progression into new scientific fields,
the Marine Institute initiated an institutional level program to investigate
the phenomena associated with coastal “outwelling”. Outwelling
was established as a concept in 1967 and refers to the major export of
organic matter from the estuarine marshlands and the subsequent enhancement
of nearshore productivity. However, the reality of this concept and
its mechanisms, if real, have been seriously questioned for several years.
The new programs are aimed at clarifying all aspects of these processes.
Because of similarities in programmatic purpose, the Marine Institute hosted
a joint meeting with the University of South Carolina’s Belle Baruch Institute
in 1980. This very successful meeting should be the beginning of continued
cooperation and collaboration between the faculties of the two Institutes.
The Sapelo Island Research Foundation
continues to provide part of the annual funding for the Institute covering
essentially all faculty salaries. Recently the Foundation has
also considered and funded specific additional research programs (beginning