GSSM and SC Sea Grant Consortium Win Prestigious NCSSS Innovative Partnership Award

November 13, 2023

PHOENIX – The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics (GSSM) was awarded the Innovative Partnership Award at the National Consortium for Secondary STEM Schools (NCSSS) Professional Conference in Phoenix, Arizona for its work with the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium. 

The NCSSS Innovative Partnership Award recognizes inventiveness in partnerships between member schools, local businesses, corporations and post-secondary institutions. In the From Seeds to Shoreline program, Dr. Jennifer Brown’s marine biology students gathered tens of thousands of Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass) seedlings in Charleston, South Carolina and then her botany students replanted them at Huntington Beach State Park located in Murrells Inlet.

“Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Brown, her students and the team at the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium,” GSSM President Danny Dorsel said. “Anytime we can connect course work with real life, it is a win. The South Carolina shores represent a precious resource for our state. To have our students and faculty be a part of the efforts to maintain and restore them makes the GSSM family proud.”

The From Seeds to Shoreline project spanned across an entire school year. In December 2022, GSSM marine biology students traveled to the College of Charleston Grice Marine Laboratory, located at Fort Johnson on James Island, to collect Spartina alterniflora seedlings. Students suited up in waders and jumped into Charleston Harbor’s cold water to collect more than 20,000 specimens.

“I would like to thank the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and their marine education specialists for allowing GSSM to participate in this fun, impactful initiative,” Dr. Brown said. “Our students have experienced an active restoration project and now understand how their actions can contribute to big changes within our South Carolina communities.” 

When students returned from their holiday break, Dr. Brown and her class placed the seeds into a 70° incubator based in a classroom on GSSM’s campus in Hartsville. The process tricked the seedlings into spring time, which sped up the development timeline. Students planted the tiny plants into pots and eventually into a small temperature-controlled greenhouse.

In April 2023, GSSM students loaded onto the bus and traveled to Huntington Beach State Park, where they dug into the pluff mud to replant the Spartina alterniflora seedlings. The salt marsh restoration project will help protect the Murrells Inlet shoreline from high tides, hurricanes and other environmental threats.

“The South Carolina Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics’ participation in the From Seeds to Shoreline program allowed them to take the concepts that they learned in the classroom with their excellent instruction and apply it out here in the field,” said E.V. Bell, Sea Grant Consortium Marine Education Specialist. “They were able to conduct transects, looking at different species abundance, and diversity. They were also able to study concepts like climate change and other issues that are impacting our saltmarsh.” 

Dr. Brown has been teaching at GSSM since 2013. Her classes are known to be challenging and engaging. She often provides real examples in the classroom so that students can visually and practically experience the theory taught in class. Her students have opportunities to obtain real world experience while out in the world among nature.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Brown has a B.S. in Biology from the College of Mount Saint Joseph, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Botany from Miami University. Dr. Brown teaches AP Biology and three above-AP advanced elective courses: Botany, Marine Biology, and Molecular Biology of the Cell.