The Marine Extension's oldest and most well-known research vessel is the R/V Georgia Bulldog. It is based at the Brunswick Station. The BULLDOG', as she is more commonly referred to, was originally named the 'Lady Marilyn', and was built in 1977 in St. Augustine, Florida, by the Diesel Engine Sales Company (DESCO'). Having a DESCO style hull gives her the classic lines of a true shrimp trawler. The University of Georgia purchased the boat in 1980, renamed her, and she and her crew have been steadily conducting research on the high seas from Virginia to Texas ever since.
Research projects in which the BULLDOG has been involved include a wide array of traditional fishing techniques as well as new methodologies. While the Bulldog's work includes fishery development, bottom mapping and marine species characterization, the majority of work has been done with a heavy emphasis on specialized gear. The gear ranges from gear types that have been in use literally for thousands of years to prototype gear for which the ink is barely dry on the first diagram.
Some of the earliest research conducted using the Bulldog includes trawling, trapping, jigging and longlining. Later efforts expanded into geological sampling, acoustical surveys, new fisheries, a platform for a submersible ROV (remote operated vehicle) and filming gear and marine organism behavior with a real-time underwater video system.
The most significant work so far aboard the Bulldog has been the numerous and ongoing endeavors to protect sea turtles. In 1986, many experimental TEDs (turtle excluder devices) were tested in trials at Cape Canaveral, Florida. During these trials, several TEDs designed by shrimp fishermen were evaluated as 97% effective at releasing turtles. Meeting this criteria, many of the devices were certified as legal for use in the shrimp fishery. In fact, it remains that all TED types in use today were certified aboard the Georgia Bulldog during these trials. Another critical result of the work was that it opened the door to the acceptance of TEDs by the shrimp industry.
Today the Bulldog's fieldwork is primarily to conduct sea turtle research and to improve trawl gear technology. The Bulldog's can-do' reputation in research at sea is a result of both the hard work of the crew as well as the versatility of the vessel. The cooperative nature of most interagency projects involving the Bulldog attests to the usefulness of such a multifaceted tool with a wide geographic range.
Of course, beyond her use as a research platform, the Bulldog has always been used as a mobile marine classroom. The vessel provides the University the perfect stage for educational activities of all sorts. Instructional exercises and training demonstrations include 'open-boat' tours at various coastal festivals and Blessing of the Fleet Festivities, law enforcement boardings, fishing vessel safety training and use as the staging area for video productions and news announcements to name a few.
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