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SMART REEF SYSTEM to be installed off S.C. coast

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, OCT. 6, 2020

Partnership between S.C. Floodwater Commission and Coastal Carolina University to generate offshore and marine information in real time

LITTLE RIVER INLET, S.C. – The initial blocks of a sensor-laden “Smart Reef” system capable of gathering critical marine and weather information will be installed with the aid of boats and SCUBA divers off the S.C. coast near Little River Inlet, Oct. 16. The high-tech undersea information-collection system was developed by Coastal Carolina University’s (CCU) Burroughs and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies in partnership with the gubernatorially established S.C. Floodwater Commission.

The system – a series of sizable concrete blocks housing environmental sensors – will be lowered onto and installed on the much larger Ron McManus Memorial Reef system, approximately five nautical miles from the south jetty at Little River inlet. The surface-to-reef installation will be the first of three phases which will enable scientists and researchers at CCU to collect wave, storm, and other data in real-time in order to facilitate better modeling as regards storm impacts, flooding, surge measurement, and various threats to the coast and the economies impacted by all.

“Ultimately, the data will continue to aid the development and increase the resolution of the CCU interactively coupled Ocean, Wave, Atmosphere and Flood model system leading to improved predictive capability related to environmental quality, habitat change and storm effects within the artificial reef system and broader coastal zone of northern South Carolina,” said Paul T. Gayes, director of CCU’s Burroughs and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies.

Tom Mullikin, chair of the S.C. Floodwater Commission, agrees. “This partnership is but another means by which we advance the objectives of the Floodwater Commission and all of those involved in terms of gathering information in order that our state’s engineers and environmental experts develop new and better ways of protecting the lives and property of all South Carolinians,” said Mullikin.

Data generated by the Smart Reef system will become publicly available as a part of the South East Atlantic (SEA) Econet; a system of 100 weather stations across the Southeastern U.S. which feeds the National Weather Service’s modeling system. The block-lowering project will be directed from CCU’s research vessel along with assisting boats powered by Yamaha outboards. Additional partners include Global Eco Adventures, Yamaha Rightwaters™, and McAlister Communications.

The reef site is one of 43 artificial reef sites managed by the S.C. Dept. of Natural Resources’ Artificial Reef Program.

For more information, contact Gettys Brannon at 864-490-7864, Thomas Smith at 803-414-8665, Cam Mullikin at 803-427-2000, or Martha Hunn at mhunn@coastal.edu.

– Limited on-water media availability will be available on a first come, first serve basis


Coastal Carolina shark expert co-authors popular book for academics and shark enthusiasts

Conway, S.C. — Daniel Abel and Dean Grubbs are still able to boast ten fingers each, no small feat for two of the country’s renowned shark experts. Abel, professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina University’s School of the Coastal Environment, and Grubbs, associate director of research at Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory, can now add another item to their list of achievements: a recently published and highly anticipated book on sharks.

Shark Biology and Conservation: Essentials for Educators, Students, and Enthusiasts is currently trending as a top pick on Amazon’s new releases in fish biology. Its nascent popularity is encouraging, Abel said, since the book was written for a wide audience, from researchers to the average Discovery Channel “Shark Week” enthusiast.

“The idea was to find the sweet spot between a coffee table book and a sophisticated, scientific book that anyone can digest,” Abel explained. “It’s a college level textbook, but it’s also something that anyone with a passion for sharks can enjoy.”

The book provides an in-depth look at shark biology, ecology, anatomy, behavior and conservation efforts, paired with 250 color illustrations. In addition to the breadth and accessibility of the book, another distinct component is Abel and Grubbs’ accounts of their experiences with sharks in the field. With a combined total of over four decades of research, the two have collected a healthy number of stories and close calls.

“I have had a number of close calls with big sharks, but I have never been attacked by one. I have, however, been bitten by a number of small sharks during the course of my research, not in the water but while tagging them,” Abel continued. “I don’t worry too much about shark bites or attacks. The statistic that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than bitten by a shark is true, so whenever there is a storm and we’re on the water I head right in. I can just see those headlines if we were struck.”

Much of Abel’s research takes place in South Carolina and he has spent 20 years building the School of the Coastal Environment’s shark research program. What began as an undergraduate program, driven to understand the ecology of sharks in local waters, is now an extensive undergraduate and graduate program that studies deep-sea sharks to those living in local estuaries and everything in between. A key facet of the program has always been to provide undergraduates with field experience that prepares them for the job market or graduate school.

“We train our students how to comport themselves at sea, which is essential if you’re going to make a career out of marine research,” Abel said.

Abel and Grubbs’ book is widely available in local bookstores and will be on Amazon by Sept. 1. The book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. The text makes a major contribution to existing academic literature while also offering a deep dive into the world of sharks for those hoping to casually learn more about the animals. Ultimately, Abel said, he hopes the accessibility of this book will drive public interest in sharks, increasing awareness and appreciation while decreasing dangerous perceptions and fear.

“Sharks are bellwethers for ocean health. It’s actually a good sign when there is an abundant shark population,” Abel explained. “People are drawn to them because of the mystery and because they’ve been sensationalized. It’s fear of the unknown that, in part, drives people to watch documentaries and read about sharks. We like our monsters, but we also like to be in control of them.”

For more information, please contact Daniel Abel at dabel@coastal.edu.