GSU professor helps preserve National Marine Sanctuary

GSU professor helps preserve National Marine Sanctuary

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Gray’s Reef has been federally protected since 1981 when President Jimmy Carter declared it a national marine sanctuary.

Despite being protected, some scientists are concerned about the potential impacts global climate change could have on the reef.

But a Georgia Southern professor has been working on conserving the reef for nearly 20 years.

Gray’s Reef is a 22 square mile section in the Atlantic Ocean just 19 miles off the coast of Sapelo Island.

Gray’s reef is a 22 square mile section in the Atlantic Ocean just 19 miles off the coast of Sapelo Island.
Gray’s reef is a 22 square mile section in the Atlantic Ocean just 19 miles off the coast of Sapelo Island. (Source: NOAA)

This sanctuary is home to hundreds of species of fish and aquatic plants that scientists want to make sure are around for future generations.

“One of the things we are worried about with global climate change, is we are worried about species advancing north as oceans get warmer,” said Dr. Daniel Gleason.

Dr. Gleason has been studying Gray's Reef since 2002.
Dr. Gleason has been studying Gray's Reef since 2002. (Source: Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary)

Scientists elsewhere in the world have found that warmer water and higher sea levels can lead to coral bleaching and an overall decline in marine life.

Both of which are important for divers and fishermen who visit the reef.

Although the Gray’s Reef sanctuary is just a small sample in relation to how big the ocean is, it serves an important role to monitor what is happening here off the Georgia coast.

“I think the sanctuaries, what they allow us to do is they allow us to determine if any actions we are taking are actually having an impact. They provide you with an area that’s protected and managed so that you feel like you have more of a baseline of what the system looks like. The global impacts are so, so big. We have been putting out warning signs for so long,” said Dr. Gleason.

These are signs that Gleason hopes the public will take notice of.

“I always feel like marine sanctuaries are not values in the way that, say national parks are, or other preserved lands are valued,” said Dr. Gleason.

If you would like to learn more about Gray’s Reef, you can visit their website by clicking here.

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