Phytoplankton Monitoring Project

On Friday, March 29, 13 citizen scientists, traveled to Sapelo Island for Phytoplankton Monitoring training. Phytoplankton, commonly called Algae, are the base of the estuarine food chain and are an essential part of the estuarine ecology.  However, there is good algae and toxic algae and when toxic algae reproduce in large numbers it is called a “Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB).” The goal for the newly trained scientists is to identify the toxic algae types and monitor their growth.  Sounds easy, right!  

 First part of the morning was spent in the classroom, identifying the equipment and the techniques for collecting the algae. Then it was on to the dock where volunteers took turns collecting water and recording the salinity of the water. The afternoon was dedicated to learning how to identify the different types of algae under the microscope. 

As you can see from the expressions on the faces of the group, as they peered into their microscopes, finding and identifying the different organisms was somewhat overwhelming. 

 The good news, on this day, the water in Post Office creek was not showing any sign of a HAB. The volunteers will return to Sapelo twice a month for the next year, to collect and record their findings in the national Phytoplankton Monitoring Network database. 

 If you are interested in coming in joining the ranks of Citizen Scientists, watch this site for future opportunities or contact Dr. Rachel Guy, SINERR Research Coordinator, at

Thank you FOS Volunteers

The Spring Meeting was held on Sapelo Island and everyone arrived ready to work.  The weather was perfect for working outside and the volunteers were eager to divide and conquer the tasks. Volunteers cut up and stacked wood behind the Education Building. Other pulled weeds around Long Tabby. Some hopped in a truck and headed to the Lighthouse road to trim back the brush and others marched down the Nature trail so repair the walkway to the beach. 

The meeting included a pot luck lunch and very short business meeting, introducing new members and highlighting upcoming activities. Adam MacKinnon introduced Suzanne VanParreren, Stewardship Coordinator who will be replacing Adam AS the FOS liaison to SINERR. As with all meetings on Sapelo, the day ended with a walk down the beach. IT IS GREAT TO BE A FOS VOLUNTEER!

Holiday Tours Big Success

The Holiday Tours of the Reynolds Mansion were a sellout success again this year.  Although the number of tours werereduced from 20 to 9, overall the change resulted in a win-win for everyone.  The tours sold out in the first two week with advertising limited to social media and flyers, demonstrating how popular this holiday event is. Special thanks to Blue Heron Inn and the Darien Waterfront, local B&B’s for their advertising and offering package deals for overnight stays for visitors from out of town.  The Mansion increased their revenue by booking 2 groups during the month, kitchen costs were reduced and gift shop sales increased.

Visitors came from far and near. Church Groups, Red Hat Societies, Homeowner Associations, Garden Clubs and families took the opportunity to learn more about the south end of the island and enjoy brunch in the Mansion.  For some it was their first time to visit Sapelo Island. For others it was a holiday tradition. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, and helped make lasting memories.  To sum up the month, the docents said, “Everyone just had fun!”

 The Mansion, the Island Manager and the FOS Holiday tour team are already discussing options for next year tours.Check back in September to see the 2019 tour schedule and make your reservations early.


On October 6, people from across the coast converged on Mary Ross Park for the annual Coast Fest event, sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.  Friends of Sapelo members were invited to come along and join the fun at the Sapelo Island National Research Reserve booth.  Adam MacKinnon, SINERR educational coordinator brought all of his toys to share with event participants.  The kids were the most fun as they discovered what things looked liked under the microscope.  A favorite comment when FOS member OC Lam asked a young man, “What color is your mom’s hair?” Before he could put the microscope to her red head he replied, “Gray!” Parents had just as much fun using the 3D kaleidoscope.  If you did not get out to Coastfest this year, mark your calendar for September 7, 2019.   


For the last 10 years Friends of Sapelo have been monitoring of the slope of Nanny Goat beach. This quarterly activity provides valuable information on a national level of the effects of shifting sands and shoreline.  

 Unfortunately, thanks to Hurricane Irma the beachfront change dramatically. The sand dunes washed out to sea creating a whole new perspective from the high tide line to the water.  Unfortunately, along with the dunes, the slope monitoring points were also lost. 

 On October 4, FOS members Ben and Claire Cannon and Cecil Clonz joined Dr. C.J. Jackson, Jr. Professor at Georgia Southern in the Department of Geology and Geography on the beach to re-establish the reference points. Using information from the past collection and a real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning satellite navigation technique, Dr. Jackson was able to derive the original point and reestablish the markers for future collections. 

 It is noted that this barrier island has been moving southwesterly direction on an average of 1 1/2 – 2 feet per year.  Watch the calendar for future beach slope monitoring events.

Estuary Day

This year marked the 30th anniversary for Estuary Week, an event celebrated by estuary groups across the country. The purpose of the event is to increase public awareness on how important estuaries are to the environment food source and local economies. The Sapelo Island Estuarine Research Reserve invited the general public to join Friends of Sapelo members in the annual clean up the beach event on Sapelo Island. It turned out not only to be a productive day in the collection of trash but also a lesson in understanding coastal weather.   

The eager participants boarded the ferry under bright blue skies and traveled by van to Nanny Goat beach. The group divided up at the pavilion, half walked north and half waked south. About 7 minutes into the walk the sky to the south darkened and the rain came. Everyone ran for cover. The rain did not last long and the beach sweepers returned to their task.  As for the people that traveled to the north, the sky remained blue and the beach walkers stayed dry.   It was a productive day; the beach was debris free, at least until the next tide and everyone had a good time. 

NOAA Team Visits Sapelo

On Tuesday, August 21, 2017, FOS hosted a dinner for members of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) evaluation team on the grounds at the Sapelo Visitor’s Center. The dinner was followed by an open meeting, which the public was invited to participate and share their comments about the reserve.

NOAA conducts periodic evaluations of state programs participating in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. In addition the Coastal Zone Management Act requires a periodic review of all federally approved estuarine reserves. The evaluation assess the operation and management of the reserve as well as how the reserve is addressing issues identified in the reserve’s management plan, NOAA regulations governing the reserve system and the terms of federal financial assistance awards.  This year’s the team was particularly interested in the areas of:

  • Program Administration
  • Coastal Resilience
  • Community Engagement

A report of the evaluation findings will be made available in early 2019.  A copy of the last report can be found at

Work on the New Educational Garden Continues


In January, Green Thumbers Linda Lam, Cathy Nix, Janet Yeager, Rhoda Stacher, and Tonya Lam wrestled the weeds, clipped vines and dug those offending smilax roots to uncover the tabby once part of the original Sugar Mill.  Under the direction of Dick Delhaie, Thumb Smashers, Paul Nix, and Jerry Meyers  installed the fence that will protect the new area.

Mother nature was not our friend with all the rain during the spring and summer. The work to finish the fence, including the priming and painting had to be put off until August.  With just a little more work to be done, the Thumb Smashers expect the new fence will be up and painted by the fall meeting. There will be signs added to thank the "Savannah Trustee's Garden Club" for their contribution in the way of a grant, that made the work on this area possible.

On the positive side the spring and summer rains proved to be very beneficial for the native gardens in front of the education building and Long Tabby.  

When the work is done, the new entrance for the Long Tabby, Education, Sugar Mill complex will provide visitors a little history and a view of the natural landscape.


2017 Fall Meeting - Record Turnout of Members

Thanks to the unexpected visit from Hurricane Irma the Fall Friends of Sapelo Meeting was postponed from September to October.  It is traditional during the Fall meeting for people to sign up for all upcoming events.  From the number of people who showed up to the meeting it was obvious that everyone wanted to be sure to get their name on the list of their favorite activity.

In addition to sign up sheets, and there were many,  the highlight of the meeting was a presentation by Rachel Guy, the Sapelo Island Research Coordinator.  Rachel, with the assistance of intern Eric ?? and Adam McKinnon, Sapelo Island Education Coordinator, mounted a time lapse camera to the flag pole at Long Tabby and recorded the arrival and departure of Hurricane Irma. In addition to the live feed, Rachel added still images of the Reserve before and after. For most of the members this was their first time to see the huge impact the storm had on the island. (See the video below.)

President Jerry Meyer welcomed new members and Volunteer Coordinator, Linda Daniel gave updates on the work that has been done on the island and what needs to be done in the coming months, Tonya Lam reported on a new project, "Sugar Mill Native Garden Entry", that will be funded by a grant from the Trustees' Garden Club of Savannah.  David Humphries told about his find of a message in a bottle during the October beach sweep. (See News, October 18, 2017 for the story).

Kaye Trayer talked about the plans for decorating RJ Reynolds Mansion in November and she asked members to assist her in recruiting 4 strong young people to come to the island on Sunday to haulthe trees out of the basement and set up them up before the Friends arrive to decorate.  Jeanne Leonard, Docent Coordinator, explained changes to how docents will conduct tours this year and encouraged everyone to consider signing up.  With the changes more docents will be needed each day; the Holiday tours run 6 days a week, December 1-23.

Minutes of the Fall 2017.

The following video. "Irma Extended", was created by Rachel K. Guy, Research Coordinator, Marine Biologist III, Sapelo Island National Research Reserve, Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Message in a Bottle found During a Beach Sweep

You never know what you will find when you are doing a beach sweep on Nanny Goat beach.  On October 14, David Humphries found something special.  

Once a month, on low tide,  Friends of Sapelo members hop on the 9:00 ferry and travel to Sapelo Island for the purpose of picking up trash that has washed ashore on Nanny Goat Beach on the south end of Sapelo Island.  October was the first sweep after Hurricane Irma came to visit on September 11, 2017.  The storm brought in a lot of trash but on the way out, the storm took away the sand dunes.

As is typical with a beach sweep, members drag their find back to the car park area to sort out items that can be recycled.  David was sifting through the trash when he discovered a plastic bottle that appeared to have something in it.  He unscrewed the top and pulled out a folded piece of paper.  It turned out to be a note from a young girl.   

In 1988, a little girl was visiting Edisto Beach, SC for the weekend with her family. She decided to put a note in a bottle with hope that it would be found and returned by a stranger far away..  The note said, "Hello, my name is Miranda Dawn Moss.  I am 8 years old. I am in third grade at Foster Park Union, SC.  My home address is .........."

So David decided to honor Miranda's request and return the note written 29 years ago. Attempts to locate Miranda by conventional methods, looking up her home address, contacting her school, and reaching out to local news outlets were not successful.  So he turned the task over to his wife, Linda. She put the story on Facebook, and the power of social media took over. Since that post, the story has gone viral around the country and internationally.  And yes, it also found Miranda Dawn Moss Chavez.

When Linda contacted her, Miranda said that she remembered putting the note in the bottle and throwing it into the ocean on September 26,  but after her family left the beach she forgot about it.  The letter has been returned and with it Linda extended an invitation for Miranda and her family to visit and join us on a Friends of Sapelo Beach Sweep. You never know what you might find!