Coastal Plain Research Institute on its way

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Alanna Navin

Georgia Southern University will soon be welcoming a new research institute, which will be focusing on coastal plain region.

The new institute will house research that focuses on the natural resources of the coastal plain as well as direct human impact, Dr. Daniel Gleason, professor of biology, said.

The new institute will be looking at the region southeast of the fault line that runs from Augusta through Macon and into Columbus. The fault line represents the ancient Georgia coastline, Gleason said.

The fault line is composed of a mixture of sedimentary rock that developed during the Cretaceous period.

“The geology and the biology above the fault line and below the fault line are very different. Down here we have a very different environment than in north Georgia like you see when you get up around Atlanta,” Gleason said.

The research initiative is pretty important considering GSU is near Savannah and Tybee Island and that many people love the coastal areas, Eli O’Cain, senior biology major said.

O’Cain’s research focuses on the effects of boat docks on salt marsh invertebrates.

“I’m really interested in how humans affect coastal ecosystems and how we can reduce our impact,” O’Cain said.

“There are really no major universities in this region that are really involved in research, really concerned about the natural resources of this region. So we thought we would fill that niche,” Gleason said.

GSU is starting to get some competition from other institutions in the surrounding regions, such as the University of North Florida and Coastal Carolina University’s expanding coastal research branch, Gleason said.

“If there are natural resource issues that are important to this region, we want people to come to us instead of, let’s say, UGA or Georgia Tech,” Gleason said.

“Hopefully it will foster opportunities for students and also faculty,” Gleason said.

Recently, other founders of the institute just developed a memorandum of understanding, known as a MOU, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Atlanta. That MOU will provide internships for students and bring collaborative research opportunities for faculty, possibly some grants, Gleason said.

“It’s great for students because they will be able to go and spend a summer working at the EPA, those that have an interest in the environmental aspects,” Gleason said.

The new research institute will bring together faculty from multiple disciplines here at GSU such as biology, chemistry, geology, geography and public health. Together they will be focusing on the coastal plain geographic area, Gleason said.

“We want it to be a very interdisciplinary group,” Gleason said.

Currently, there is an active search looking for a director for the coastal plain research. One should be in place this coming summer. Once a director is in place the institute will really begin to develop, Gleason said.

Gleason said, “We’ve got good faculty, good students. We have graduate students that do high quality work.”