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From marshes to marine labs: SC State students explore coastal ecosystem of South Carolina, Georgia

Author: Sam Watson, Director of University Relations|Published: April 18, 2024|All News, Student News

ORANGEBURG, S.C. – South Carolina State University’s Institute for Business, Environment, Communications and Transportation (BECT) recently provided nine students with a unique expedition diving into the ecosystems of South Carolina and Georgia's shores.

The four-day coastal expedition offered the SC State students an exclusive chance to engage in ongoing research efforts, educational programs and environmental stewardship initiatives.

This one-of-a-kind program was led by BECT team leaders Dr. Renu Singh from SC State, Dr. Mona Behl from the University of Georgia, and Dr. Susan Lovelace from SC Sea Grant.

Baruch Marine Field Laboratory

The journey began on April 1 with a warm program welcome and lunch at the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory. Students were inspired by the impactful work at the North Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The afternoon was filled by a hands-on “Life in the Salt Marsh” experience, where students explored a midden trail and observed the vibrant plant and animal life that thrives in this unique environment. They even had the opportunity to set pitfall traps to sample marsh crabs along an elevation gradient.

Isle of Palms & Charleston

On day two, April 2nd, students journeyed to the Isle of Palms Research Facility for a site visit focused on Isle Beach and Dune Research led by Dr. Jean Ellis of the University of South Carolina.

The afternoon took them to Charleston, where they toured the Grice Marine Lab with Dr. Jack DiTullio of the College of Charleston and explored the world of marine resources at the SC DNR Marine Resources Research Institute with the Dr. Tanya Darden of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The day concluded with a tour of the Hollings Marine Laboratory. This world-class facility houses multiple research programs with the mission to provide science and technology applications to sustain, protect, and restore coastal ecosystems.

Sailing on Day 3

On day three, students sailed to Sapelo Island for tours of the UGA Marine Institute and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, gaining insights into coastal research and education efforts. They participated in a trawl, a fishing technique that captures a variety of marine life, followed by a tour of the largest clam-producing facility in the southern region.

This enriching experience concluded with a visit to Savannah State University, where they engaged in a student-alumni panel discussion.

An insightful experience

“The coastal expedition was an insightful experience into the modern marine sciences in our low country,” said Pennelope Fennell, a senior agribusiness major. “It provided different possibilities and opportunities that are in reach for students to explore.”

This sentiment was echoed by all participating students, which included both graduate and undergraduate students.

Shadyma White, a student in SC State’s Master of Business Management concentration in health management, said the expedition enhanced her understanding of marine life and the impact on human health and various fields.

The expedition fulfilled an objective of the BECT Institute in environment by providing students an unparalleled opportunity to connect with coastal ecosystems, learn about career pathways, meet leading researchers, and gain a deeper appreciation for these environments' vital role in the world.

For more information about the BECT Institute, contact Dr. Barbara Adams, executive director, at or 803-516-4864.