Pritchards Island is a Pristine Research Site
Amid burgeoning growth and tourism, a pristine barrier island offers the profound
opportunity to conserve, educate, and cherish our imperiled Sea Islands, which hold
significant ecological, cultural, and economic value to the Lowcountry and have defined
the coastal southeast for millennia.
– Pritchards Island Vision Statement
A Generous Gift
Pritchards Island is a pristine example of the Sea Islands that dot the coast of the Lowcountry. Donated to USCB by Philip Rhodes in the 1980s, it is a two and a half mile-long barrier island on the edge of Beaufort County. Rhodes additionally funded the construction of a marine laboratory on the island to assist with research and education efforts.
Philip Rhodes’ vision was to conserve his island, use it to educate the public and provide research scientists the opportunity to better understand barrier islands. He will forever be associated with Pritchards Island. USCB is indebted to Mr. Rhodes for his foresight and intends to continue this vision well into the future.
Long-term Goals for USCB's Science Program on Pritchards Island
- Be effective stewards of Pritchards Island
- Establish an undergraduate research experience focused on barrier island biology, ecology, chemistry and geomorphology
- Characterize the differences between pristine and impacted barrier islands
- Identify the impacts of environmental change on the coastal Lowcountry
- Support the continued monitoring of loggerhead turtle nesting
Recently, the South Carolina Legislature approved $500,000 of state appropriations towards the establishment and maintenance of a Pritchards Island Research Program. Current appropriations will support educational, research and outreach activities on the island. However, additional funds are needed to purchase the following:
- Large research/education vessel
- Small research vessel
- Passenger van to transport students & researchers
- Additional laboratory and field equipment
Current funding will support the following ongoing projects:
- Full-time teaching postdoctoral fellow
- Full-time field/lab technician
- Scholarships for students
- Summer housing for students
- Sea turtle nesting monitoring
- Research supplies
- Travel to and from the island
- Marketing materials
- Salaries for students & researchers
Erosion on Pritchards Island
Shoreline erosion has occurred at a rapid pace on Pritchards Island over the last several decades. Pritchards Island does not receive beach renourishment that is used to battle erosion on Hilton Head Island and some other barrier islands. Pritchards is valuable as a living laboratory where faculty, visiting scientists and students can study natural erosion patterns.
Meet the Pritchards Island Team
USCB faculty involved with Pritchards Island include Dr. Joe Staton, Dr. Kim Ritchie, Dr. Mercer Brugler and Dr. Tye Pettay. These marine biologists’ research interests are wide ranging. They are assisted by undergraduate research assistants.