Campus News

Skidaway Institute completes ‘historic’ merger with UGA

Faculty and students have new opportunities for teaching, research, outreach and collaboration related to coastal and marine resources now that the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography has become part of UGA.

The merger, effective July 1, was initiated by the board of regents as part of Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s efforts to streamline University System of Georgia operations and was approved by the board in January.

“This historic merger creates new opportunities in research, instruction and outreach while facilitating collaboration among University System of Georgia institutions,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I appreciate the vision and leadership of Chancellor Huckaby and the board of regents as well as the dedication of Dr. Libby Morris, Dr. Jim Sanders and the many other university officials who have worked to bring these institutions together.”

The Skidaway Institute is an internationally recognized research institution located on a 700-acre campus on Skidaway Island, 16 miles southeast of Savannah. It was created in 1967 by the Georgia General Assembly and operated as a stand-alone institution for four years before coming under the responsibility of the university system. Now with the merger, the institute’s executive director, Jim Sanders, reports to the Office of the Provost.

“Combining the intellectual and physical resources of the Skidaway Institute with those of the University of Georgia will strengthen an area of research whose impact extends far beyond the coast,” said Libby Morris, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Our students and the state we serve will undoubtedly benefit from the synergies that this merger has created.”

In addition to strengthening pre-existing collaborations with UGA researchers, the merger creates new opportunities for cross-disciplinary research with faculty in units such as the College of Engineering, according to Sanders.

He said,”With size comes ­opportunities. Being part of the same institution makes creating those connections much easier and more straightforward.”

The Skidaway Institute has 11 tenured and tenure-track faculty members and three emeritus professors who conduct research along Georgia’s coast and internationally. Skidaway researchers also work with faculty from Georgia Tech, Savannah State University and other institutions, and Sanders emphasized that those collaborations will continue. The alignment of the Skidaway Institute with UGA complements the university’s programs in coastal and marine science. The marine sciences department, part of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, has 16 full-time faculty members engaged in research and instruction. The UGA Marine Institute on Georgia’s Sapelo Island provides a 1,500-acre site for teaching and is a recognized center for salt marsh research.

UGA also engages in extensive service and outreach on the coast. UGA Marine Extension Service, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, provides objective, research-based information to economically important coastal industries. The UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium, which sits on the Skidaway campus, provides an educational resource for students, teachers and the public.

In the short term, the merger will give researchers at Skidaway access to resources such as the university’s Office of Sponsored Programs while making it easier for faculty and students in Athens to draw on the expertise of the faculty on Skidaway. In the long term, Morris envisions the creation of a consortium of USG institutions with expertise and programs in coastal and marine science.