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Professor Receives Grant to Help Grow Georgia’s Oyster Production

Jennifer Sweeney Tookes, Ph.D.

Georgia Southern Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jennifer Sweeney Tookes, Ph.D., has received research funding to help oyster farmers in Georgia develop aquaculture methods for their oyster production.

The goals of this project are to work with Georgia oyster farmers to develop sustainable oyster farming methods of single oysters through aquaculture to increase production; to identify safe and successful means of distribution directly to restaurants throughout the state; and to create culturally appropriate marketing tools and communication channels between oyster farmers and restaurants to ensure the high value of these single oysters is conveyed.

This project is part of a collaborative, multidisciplinary team project with researchers from the University of Georgia and Emory University. Tookes received research funding through a subcontracting agreement with the University of Georgia. The project is sponsored by the USDA-NIFA with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.

The qualitative component of this project will be led by Tookes and Tracy Yandle of Emory University, who will explore ways to connect these artisanal oyster farmers with buyers interested in supporting the local foods movement, as well as what types of education will be necessary for chefs and restaurants to incorporate this product.

Tookes will also work with the oyster farmers to assess their perceptions of the project, the new method of aquaculture and the sustainability of this new form of marketing.

“I enjoy working with Georgia’s coastal fishing industry and am excited that this project may provide a new income stream for existing shellfish businesses,” said Tookes. “I also know that there are many excellent restaurants in Georgia that will love to have access to a new, premium type of oyster that is produced in our own state. This project is an excellent example of how sustainable local aquaculture can fulfill local food needs.”

In 2013, Georgia produced 23,998 pounds of oyster meats valued at $114,629 from approximately 52,000 acres of approved shellfish growing area. This low volume harvest is a result of the fact that Georgia’s oyster industry is built upon wild harvest strategies of clustered oysters where harvest is conducted by hand and is not cost effective.

The demand for high-quality single oysters for the half shell market continues to grow along with the popularity of the “farm-to-table” movement. Most farms in Georgia are small and do not produce enough oysters to transport them using distribution companies and therefore need to find alternative avenues to get oysters to market.

Oysters take on the flavor of the water in which they are grown, and this attribute can increase their marketability. Information about oyster harvest location and the farmer can also appeal to consumers who want to learn more about local foods and support communities that produce them.

The larger project, “Developing sustainable eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) farming in Georgia through evaluation of growout methodology, distribution, and marketing,” is led by Thomas Bliss, director of University of Georgia’s Shellfish Research Lab, and was granted $288,511. Tookes’ subcontract on the grant is in the amount of $68,683. The grant also includes funding for a student researcher at Georgia Southern.


This article was originally posted on November 30, 2017 by the Georgia Southern Newsroom. Original posting can be found here. 

Alumna spearheads award-winning technology project for Jenkins County School System

Julie Chance is pictured (left) accepting the Richard B. Lewis Award from Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) President Eugene Kowch, Ph.D.

Georgia Southern University College of Education (COE) alumna and doctoral candidate Julie Chance developed the Innovative Teacher Technology Project (ITTP), which is now a system-wide, award-winning project.

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) recently named Jenkins County School System (JCSS) the 2017 recipient of the Richard B. Lewis Memorial Award for outstanding technology integration and media utilization programs for the development of ITTP during the 2013-2014 school year.

Chance serves as the Director of Federal Programs and Professional Learning for JCSS.

“As the overseer of both of those programs and because we funded ITTP through federal money, it was my responsibility to help develop the program as one of our school improvement strategies,” she said.

ITTP is an instructional technology integration initiative that places an emphasis on a structured system to support the efforts of teachers to transition their classrooms into digital learning environments.

“The thing that is different about ITTP from other instructional technology integration programs is that it was built on the foundation of the professional learning – not on equipment distribution,” said Chance.

To assist in the creation of a strong learning program for teachers, Chance requested the help of Georgia Southern Instructional Technology Associate Professor Charles Hodges, Ph.D.

“Dr. Hodges began consulting with our system four years ago as we began the development and implementation of ITTP,” said Chance. “He has been an invaluable resource for training our teacher leaders to become experts in this field and to continue training all of our instructional staff.”

What began as a voluntary program with 25 teachers participating in the original cohort has grown to 100 percent of the system’s teachers and staff enriched in the project and instructional development. School employees are now meeting to review student data and research based on their content areas, and learning how instructional technology can help their students develop inquiry-based learning and critical thinking skills.

Chance holds a bachelor’s of social studies education and a master’s and specialist degrees in educational leadership from Georgia Southern. On her way to becoming a Quadruple Eagle, Chance is working to complete an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University this fall. Her dissertation is a program evaluation of ITTP.

“I believe instructional technology is the key to better student engagement and individualized learning,” she said. “Doing a program evaluation as my dissertation means that the Jenkins County School System will have an evidence-based evaluation of whether their instructional technology integration program was effective. It will also give the school system recommendations for future practice.”

Hodges, along with COE Associate Professor Teri Melton, Ph.D., nominated Jenkins County for the award, and Hodges says what they have been able to accomplish has “been really impressive.”

“I have worked with other systems, some with more resources, that have not been able to see the same levels of success with technology integration in their schools,” said Hodges. “When I saw the award announcement, it was an easy decision to nominate JCSS.”

For more information about the instructional technology programs at Georgia Southern University’s COE, visit


This article was originally posted on November 20, 2017 and can be found here.

GSU Members Receive Research Funding

The Office of Research Services & Sponsored Programs at Georgia Southern University would like to congratulate the following GSU faculty and/or staff members.

Congratulations to:

Dr. Michael Pemberton, with the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, who received research funding from Duke University (Federal Agency: National Science Foundation.

Dr. Charles Ownes, with the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, who received research funding from Union General Hospital.

Dr. Jennifer Tookes, with the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, who received research funding from the University of Georgia (Federal Agency – USDA).

Dr. Christopher Kadlec, with the Allen E. Paulson College of Engineering and Information Technology, who received research funding from the Collin County Community College District.

Dr. Melissa Garno, with the School of Nursing, who received research funding from Health Resources and Services Administration.

Dr. Weihua (Marshall) Ming, with the College of Science and Mathematics, who received research funding from Runtai Chemical Co, Ltd.

Dr. Domique Halaby, with  the Business Innovation Group (BIG) and Department of Business Research & Economic Development, who received research funding from the Economic Development Administration/Prime Sponsor: US Department of Commerce.

Ms. Nicole Withers, with the Office of Alcohol & Other Drugs Programs, who received funding from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Dr. Mark Edwards, with the College of Science and Mathematics, who received funding from the National Science Foundation.


Georgia Southern earns honorable mention for Second Nature’s 2017 Climate Leadership Awards

An electric vehicle charging station is one of the projects the CfS has funded in efforts to make Georgia Southern a greener campus.

Georgia Southern University has received an honorable mention designation from Second Nature and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) for the 2017 Climate Leadership Awards, announced earlier this month.

Georgia Southern’s designation of honorable mention is the second highest an institution can receive in the nation. The pool of finalists included only nine four-year institutions, among them, Furman University, Duke University, two Ivy League schools and three universities from California, all widely known and supported for their commitment to sustainability. Loyola University Chicago was the winning university in the Four-Year Institution category.

Lissa Leege, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sustainability (CfS), says the honorable mention is the most impressive sustainability recognitions Georgia Southern has received yet.

“I could not be prouder of Georgia Southern for this accomplishment. To be recognized as one of the top two schools in this select group of high-achieving universities is a testament to the power of partnership among Georgia Southern’s students, faculty and staff in creating a more sustainable campus, and ultimately a more sustainable world,” Leege said.

She believes strong student involvement and a shared commitment to sustainability helped the University garner such a high recognition.

“All Georgia Southern students take an Environmental Science course, and the student-initiated sustainability fee supports innovative sustainability advances on campus,” Leege added. “Many students engage in environmental service-learning, having contributed more than 10,000 hours of service to the environment since 2015.”

Bottle-filling stations, bicycle parking facilities and repair stations, an electrical vehicle charging station, and tree plantings on the University’s golf course are just a few of the projects the CfS has funded in efforts to make Georgia Southern a greener campus.

“From an operations perspective, we have made excellent progress toward sustainability goals with energy reduction, water conservation and alternative transportation on our campus over the past several years,” Leege added. “We are one of the state’s top participants in Georgia Power’s Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebate Program. We irrigate with a cutting-edge reuse water system, and we are ranked No. 1 nationally for the number of passengers on our buses per mile.”

Former University President Bruce Grube signed the Climate Commitment in 2007 for Georgia Southern, paving the way for the University’s national recognition since then.

The Climate Leadership Awards recognize advanced leadership in sustainability, climate change mitigation and resilience at college and university campuses that are part of Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Network. Second Nature is a national nonprofit that works to accelerate climate action in, and through, higher education.

“The Climate Leadership Network continues to drive innovative solutions, which is the only way the sector and the nation will continue to remain globally competitive,” said Tim Carter, president of Second Nature. “This demonstrates to students – our next generation of leaders – what a commitment to climate action looks like.”


This article was originally posted on October 23, 2017 and can be found here.

Department of Biology researchers bring fish hatchery back to life

Although the Bo Ginn Fish Hatchery has been idle for many years, the Georgia Southern Department of Biology will soon put it to use to conduct cutting-edge research.

The Department signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to allow University biology students and faculty to use the facility, located in Magnolia Springs near Millen, Georgia, as a resource to better understand the future of ecosystems in the southeastern U.S.

Lance McBrayer, associate dean for Research in the College of Science and Mathematics, said the University is excited to work with the USFWS.

“Our relationship with USFWS and the Bo Ginn Hatchery will substantially increase the research infrastructure available to our faculty and students.”

Associate Professor of biology Checo Colon-Gaud, Ph.D., is leading the initial work at the site. He believes the hatchery is the perfect place to conduct research in the area.

“The many impoundments at the site, which can be filled with water or drained as needed, offer a perfect setting for experiments in aquatic ecology,” said Colon-Gaud.

Most of the experiments will address a basic prediction of climate change. Ephemeral ponds, those that fill from rainfall but dry out weeks or months later, are vital habitats for many species in the southeastern U.S. Yet, changes in rainfall due to climate change are expected to cause these ponds to fill for shorter periods of time or to hold water less predictably. Colon-Gaud and others will conduct experiments to quantify the impacts of such changes on aquatic life.

“The key question is whether animals such as amphibians and insects can complete their life cycles as ponds dry out faster or fill less predictably,” said Colon-Gaud. “The hatchery gives us the ability to manipulate the duration of flooding in many ponds at once so we can measure how aquatic communities respond.”

The significance of these ephemeral ponds extends well beyond the water’s edge. Many insects that start life as aquatic larvae become adults that leave the pond and move into surrounding fields and forests. There they become an important food source for terrestrial animals such as reptiles and birds.

“Although we are studying the ecology of ephemeral ponds, this may be the key to the health of surrounding forests,” said Colon-Gaud.


This article was originally posted by the Georgia Southern Newsroom and can be found here.

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