Savanna Barry, a Ph.D. candidate in the fisheries and aquatic sciences program at the University of Florida, has been named the Florida Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension for Florida’s Nature Coast area.
As a regional specialized extension agent, Barry will implement programs that promote the sustainable use of natural resources across a broad stretch of the state’s Gulf Coast from Wakulla County to Hernando County.
Barry’s position is also associated with the new Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key, a UF/IFAS initiative to help conserve and improve management of natural resources along the Gulf Coast. As part of the initiative, Barry will offer programs and outreach initiatives focusing on ecotourism, coastal water quality, aquaculture, community resiliency, and fish and wildlife resources.
In her doctoral research, Barry extensively studied the diverse coastal habitats and marine organisms found in the Nature Coast area, particularly focusing on the valuable contributions that seagrass meadows in the southern portion of the region provide to residents and communities. She will graduate from UF in May. Barry also holds a master’s degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences from the University of Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Virginia.
Her master’s research also focused on seagrasses, but the Caribbean region, where she served as the scientist in residence at the Little Cayman Research Centre. While there, Barry also completed additional collaborative projects on juvenile Nassau groupers and the impacts of lionfish on reef fish. She worked with island residents to develop a community-based lionfish removal program aimed at protecting the valuable natural resources that drive Little Cayman’s economy.
“Interacting with the public in these ways was extremely rewarding because I discovered that science-based messages delivered in a straightforward, non-judgmental way can change a person’s outlook,” Barry said. “I found this to be especially true when the link between environmental preservation and long-term economic benefit was made explicit.”
In 2015, her film “Seagrass Savanna” was named Best Student Film at the Beneath the Waves film festival.
“Savanna brings the skills that will allow Florida Sea Grant and IFAS Extension to expand existing programs as well as create new ones that will make lasting contributions to residents along the Nature Coast,” said Martin Main, associate director of education and extension for Florida Sea Grant.
The Nature Coast region along the Big Bend of Florida contains one of North America’s most pristine coastlines, with extensive seagrass meadows, valuable recreational fisheries, and large populations of marine wildlife such as manatees, dolphins, birds and sea turtles. The region also supports highly valuable shrimp and oyster fisheries, and a productive hard clam aquaculture industry.