As we pause to reflect on the history of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) at the national level, it also provides us a time to reflect on the history of our own state: Georgia.  This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of fisheries professionals in Georgia coming together to meet as an organization.  Our most recent meeting, the 2020 Georgia Chapter AFS (GAAFS) annual meeting in Augusta, GA, was the 34th time fisheries professionals have gathered together to meet as a Chapter of the AFS.  Like many of the annual meetings that proceeded it, the 2020 GAAFS meeting was once again a tremendous success.  Held January 28-30, the 2020 annual meeting was attended by 134 fisheries professionals and students from Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Virginia.  The meeting program included 51 oral presentations and 7 poster presentations, of which 17 were provided by students.    A highlight of the program was a symposium on Georgia Public Fishing Areas.  This symposium, which included 14 presentations, provided attendees with an opportunity to learn about a few of the many wonderful public facilities available in Georgia that offer excellent fishing opportunities.  In addition to the symposium, there were a plethora of diverse talks provided by fisheries professionals.  Topics varied but included the role of law enforcement in fisheries; the benefits of being a member of the Society; improving post-release survival of hook-caught Red Snapper and Red Drum; estimating the impact of recreational crabbing in coastal Georgia; robotic acoustics; interstate fishery management and American Shad; the influence of connectivity on native and invasive fish populations; the surrendering of the licenses for two Georgia Power hydroelectric projects on the Chattahoochee River; and multiple talks on black bass research in the upper Chattahoochee River basin.  The complete program with abstracts can be found on the Chapter website: www.gaafs.org.

During the business meeting, Chapter President Jim Page thanked the Chapter’s sponsors for their continued support and contributions to the Chapter.   Our sponsors are critical to the success of not only the Chapter’s annual meeting but also support the Chapter’s efforts to promote fisheries science in Georgia by making it possible for the Chapter to drastically reduce the annual meeting registration fees for students as well as supporting fisheries education community outreach programs.  The Georgia Chapter 2020 sponsors are Georgia Power, Georgia Museum of Natural History, University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Lake Specialist, Georgia Southern University, UGA Student Subunit, and Kleinschmidt.

Additionally, during the business meeting highlights of 2019 were shared with all attendees.  Several accomplishments were achieved during the year, including but not limited to: updating of the Chapter website to include resources for oral and poster presentations and a new page added to include job postings; completion of a Summer 2019 workshop on fish disease and biosecurity that was very well attended and was sponsored by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) ; review and updating of the Chapter’s by-laws for the first time since 2000, an effort accomplished by a team of Chapter volunteers whose goal was to make changes necessary for efficient management of the Chapter and to ensure we were following the Constitution of the American Fisheries Society; and educational/outreach efforts pursued by GAAFS members during the year, including participating in CoastFest 2019.

In that realm, the GAAFS continues to seek avenues for ways to reach members of the public and educate them about AFS and the Georgia Chapter.  To pursue this goal, the Georgia Chapter set up a booth during CoastFest 2019, a popular annual event hosted by the GADNR Coastal Resources Division in Brunswick, GA.  With over 10,000 attendees each year, GAAFS members felt this may be a great outreach avenue for our Chapter, and, based on the hundreds of parents and children who visited the GAAFS booth at the event, this effort was certainly worthwhile.    The booth was manned by Chapter member and UGA Student Subunit President Gina Alvarez and GA Chapter Executive Sec-Treasurer Rebecca Brown.  A significant portion of the GAAFS booth included using the “Fish Box”, a wonderful educational tool graciously provided by the Georgia Museum of Natural History that allowed our booth staff to share their knowledge about how and why fisheries professionals age fish and the benefits of different physiologic characteristics fish have and humans do not.  In addition to the “Fish Box”, Ms. Alvarez brought some different fish sampling equipment to demonstrate how fisheries scientists capture fish for research and management.

During the Chapter’s Awards Banquet several members were recognized for their service to the Chapter and the profession.  Several of the Chapter’s members who retired recently were recognized for their lifetime of commitment and service to the betterment of our fish and aquatic resources.  Retired honorees included: Vernon Baldwin of GADNR, Ed Bettross of GADNR, Matt Thomas of GADNR, Spud Woodward of GADNR, and Rebecca Brown, a retired educator.  Brett Albanese of GADNR was presented with a Distinguished Service Award for his 6 years of dedicated service to the Chapter as the Awards Committee Chair.  Aaron Gray and Leon Brotherton, both from GADNR, were recognized as co-Fisheries Professionals of the Year recipients.  Both men have shown a tremendous commitment to the protection and conservation of fish and aquatic resources within the state of Georgia.  Marion Baker of GADNR was presented with the Fisheries Conservationist of the Year Award for her hard work and dedication to advance aquatic resource conservation in Georgia through programs she has helped to create and lead at the Go Fish Education Center in Perry, Georgia.  The Chapter President’s Award was given to Brent Hess for his dedicated service to the Chapter over the past several years as a committee member for local arrangements, registration/help desk volunteer, past Chapter President, moderator during annual meetings, and the emcee during the Chapter Awards Banquet and Raffle/Silent Auction.  Gina Alvarez, Camm Swift, and Ana Popp were given a Certificate of Appreciation for their contributions to the success of the Chapter.  The Chapter introduced a new award this year, the Unsung Hero Award, to recognize the contributions of a person who may not be directly employed as a typical fisheries professional (e.g. biologist, technician, etc.), but provides exceptional work that is essential to the mission of promoting the conservation, development, and wise use utilization of fisheries resources.  This award is designed to celebrate the contributions of people often completing responsibilities “behind the scenes.”  The first recipient of this award went to Carletha Bryant, an administrative assistant with Georgia DNR in Waycross, Georgia for her 35 years of dedicated service to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems.

The Georgia Chapter also gave out several student awards as academic scholarships and travel stipend scholarships.

  • Travel Stipend Awardees
    • Rachel Byrne (UGA)
    • Brandon Filaski (UGA)
    • Bryson Hilburn (UGA)
    • Nicholas Troyer (UGA)
    • Daniel Gragson (UGA)
    • Cameron Atkinson (College of Coastal Georgia)
  • Ronnie J. Gilbert Scholarship
    • Michael Baker (UGA)
  • Georgia Chapter AFS Scholarship
    • Cameron Atkinson (College of Coastal Georgia)

The Georgia Chapter also recognized students for outstanding research and presentations at the annual meeting.  All of the students did a great job with their presentations.

  • Best Student Oral Presentations
    • First Place: Michael Baker (UGA) Comparing recruitment estimation methods for age-1 Atlantic Sturgeon in the Altamaha River, GA from 2008-2019
    • Second Place: Brendan Dula (UGA) Changes to Gulf Sturgeon recruitment, mortality, and behavior following Hurricane Michael in the Apalachicola River, Florida
    • Third Place: Victoria Montgomery (Georgia Gwinnett College) Comparison of diet habits of invasive Blue Catfish from the Altamaha and Satilla rivers, GA
  • Best Student Poster Presentations
    • First Place: Cameron Atkinson (College of Coastal Georgia) A pilot model to prioritize sites for eastern oyster reef restoration with an emphasis on red drum habitat suitability
    • Second Place: Elizabeth Howell (Young Harris College) Connecting volunteerism, science, and community engagement to protect water quality in a southern Appalachian watershed
    • Richard Johnson (Augusta University) Artificial cuts may affect shark population diversity and population density in the Satilla River estuary

The 2019 -2020 Executive Committee members are:

  • President – Jamie Roberts
  • President-Elect – Robert Bringolf
  • Recording Secretary-Treasurer – Dawn Franco
  • Executive Secretary-Treasurer – Rebecca Brown
  • Past President – Jim Page
  • Ex Officio – Cecil Jennings

Moving forward from the successes of the past year, the Georgia Chapter is excited about what the year 2020 will bring for its members and our state.  The new Executive Committee (EXCOMM) is continuing the development and implementation of our current goals and strategies for the upcoming year, which includes plans to push for more public outreach projects; expansion of the Chapter’s social media presence; continuation of updating the Chapter website; and offering of a summer workshop for Chapter members.  These goals, and others forthcoming, will not be achievable however without the continued support and participation of our members, and thus we strongly encourage each of our members to actively participate in Chapter activities in order for us to collectively fully realize our potential as a Chapter.

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