From Savannah to the wide, blue sea

Seize your change. A swimmer, lifeguard, and qualifier for the Junior Olympics, Kris Drummond ’16 is naturally drawn to water. That’s why he dedicated his four years to soaking up marine science and learning ways to protect and defend Savannah’s coastal waterways. The best place for him to do it? Savannah State University.

Its 201-acre campus backs up to coastal marsh—making it a living water laboratory. In fact, Savannah State is Georgia’s only institution with direct water access and a rapidly growing fleet of its own research vessels (including the Margaret Robinson and the Tiger II).

Raised in the nation’s capital, Kris chose Savannah State because of its national reputation for preparing underrepresented groups to make their presence (and scholarship) known in marine and ocean sciences

That passion won him plenty of opportunities. Like the chance to travel to Hawaii to present his research. Plus, he earned a coveted summer internship through Savannah State’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. There are only 10 internship spots available each year. Competition is fierce. Students apply from all over the country. Kris won his spot by a nose—bottlenose dolphin, that is.

It’s one big lab. Forty percent of all the salt marshes on the East Coast are in the Low Country—from South Carolina to the Georgia-Florida line.

Kris researched bacterial microbiome in the spleens of common bottlenose dolphins along the East Coast—from Virginia to Georgia. He extracted DNA. Cloned it. And then identified it so he could track changes in the ecosystem. Dolphins, like humans, are at the top of their food chain. And when you can identify the source of disease in the environment, you’re one step closer to defeating it.

"In the beginning, I wasn’t the most skilled student. But I was passionate about marine sciences. My professors saw that and helped me grow as a student."
– Kris Drummond

With a National Science Foundation grant, Savannah State launched its REU program in 2009. In the eight-week program, interns dive deep into field and lab work—including an expedition through Georgia and South Carolina waterways on an SSU research vessel. Interns are paired with mentors at Savannah State, the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, or Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

These days, Kris aims to earn his doctorate and travel to Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand. Go for a dive (or two) at the Great Barrier Reefs. And save the planet, one ocean at time. Seriously Impressive.

Savannah State University, 3219 College St., Savannah, GA 31404 • All Rights Reserved © 2019