GCA Conservation Study Conference Explores Georgia’s Golden Coast

Georgia’s Golden Coast’s is a unique location at the lowest point in Georgia and the westernmost coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. It is at the center of the bend known as the Georgia Bight. This area experiences six to ten-foot tidal changes, and is the third-highest tidal range on the east coast, after Canada’s Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine.  It spans just over 100 miles, and includes 14 barrier islands, nine major estuaries, dune systems, marine forests, river systems, and one-third of all remaining salt marshes in the eastern United States, which are part of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.  It includes the Altamaha River Delta, the largest intact and most robust estuary system on the Atlantic coast.  

Many of the guides and lecturers described this area as “nature’s grocery store” for wildlife, including sea turtles, whales, and shorebirds. The Golden Coast provides nesting habitat for thousands of threatened and endangered sea turtles every year (https://www.jekyllisland.com/activities/georgia-sea-turtle-center).  The coastal waters of Georgia and Northern Florida are the only calving grounds in the world for the endangered North Atlantic right whales (https://georgiawildlife.com/conservation/rightwhales).  The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network designated Georgia’s barrier islands a landscape of hemispheric importance for shorebirds that fly between North and South America (https://whsrn.org/whsrn_sites/georgia-barrier-islands/).  

The featured speakers included Stacia Hendricks, Naturalist Manager/Director of Special Projects, Little St. Simons Island; Dr. Paul Pressly, historian, author, and Director Emeritus of the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance; Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Direcctor NOAA Sponsored Programs at Savannah State University and Chair of Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission; Philip Juras, landscape painter and author; Megan Desrosiers, President and CEO One Hundred Miles; Jason Lee, Program Manager at Georgia Department of Natural Resources; and Paul Bolster, author and historian.   

Thank you again for sending me to this conference.  It was my first trip to the Georgia coast south of Savannah, and I will never forget it.  I can’t wait to go back and watch the baby turtles leave the nest!  

–by Lynn D