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Geography Ph.D Student selected for Sea Grant Research Trainee program at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant

Courtney Balling in Cannons Point, St. Simons Island

Seven students from universities across Georgia have been selected to participate in the year-long Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, one of which is the Geography department's very own Ph.D students, Courtney Balling. Balling, also a student in the department of Integrative Conservation at UGA, is researching the environmental drivers of septic system failure. She will work with faculty and professional mentors to conduct marine research and gain new professional skills through the trainee program.

Research conducted by the trainees will address one or more of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s four focus areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, resilient communities and economies, and environmental literacy and workforce development. The trainees will design research projects that build on their dissertations or theses while connecting with extension and education specialists at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant who will help share their work with coastal communities.

Coastal areas are especially at risk of septic system failure in the coming decades due to sea level rise and changes in rainfall patterns. Balling will look at how environmental conditions, like tidal fluctuation and precipitation, impact bacterial concentrations in groundwater near residential septic systems. This research will be shared with officials working in public health, wastewater, and planning to help create sustainable wastewater solutions for the future.

“I would love to be a part of an extension service. I truly enjoy research and community engagement, and extension would allow for both. This traineeship is allowing me to gather more of the skills I’ll need for that kind of work—everything from grant writing and research design to strategic communication and community partnership,” Balling said.

Congratulations to Balling and the other six students who have been selected to participate in the Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee program! For more information on the other students' research interests and projects, please follow the link below to the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant's news article.

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