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St. Pete Center for Coastal Geology Holds Two Events to Celebrate Earth Science Week

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Bob Halley talks about corals
Bob Halley (SPFC, left foreground) talks to elementary school children about corals and the different types of corals in a reef. Gene Shinn (SPFC, background under 3-D globe) demonstrates to a captivated audience how ground water flows through the porous limestone of South Florida and the Florida Keys.
Approximately 300 people attended an open house held for the public on October 12. The theme was "Advances in Earth Science."

Scientists had set up ~30 displays and stations to explain research conducted by the USGS. Topics included coastal erosion, water properties and interactions, measuring stream flow and salinity, stream gauges, geology of the Florida Keys, corals, sand, computer map making, Tampa Bay from space, cyber Earth (how shapes of geologic structures are used to identify and understand geologic processes), wildlife, marshes, wetlands, volcanoes, hurricanes, sediment cores, marine vibracoring, research vessels, sea floor, groundwater pollutants, and CO2 cycling.

Scientists were available to talk with and answer questions from members of the community. A variety of printed outreach materials was also available. We received many positive comments from members of the community and a few thank-you notes.

Paul Boetcher explains rainwater effects
Paul Boetcher (WRD-Tampa) explains some of the components that can be present in rainwater and how salinity of shallow-marine water bodies, such as Tampa Bay, can be changed by the addition of large amounts of rainwater.
In a first-time event, the St. Pete Center also hosted the open house for 800 (yes, 800!) Pinellas County 4th- and 5th-grade students (plus teachers/chaperones) from 11 schools on October 14. The goal—to excite the children about science—was a resounding success! Captivated students eagerly listened to scientists and participated in the interactive displays. They watched a model volcano eruption, sampled sediment cores, examined sand through a microscope, tested acidity of water, listened to recordings of sea creatures from reefs and grass beds, explored a research boat, and hefted sand bags used by divers to contain an underwater CO2-cycling tent. Yep, they also watched water from the "famous flushing toilet" percolate through limestone from the Florida Keys and observed in a model how pollutants (dye) are drawn through the Florida Aquifer when wells far away from the pollutant source are pumped for drinking water.

Several types of scientific equipment were on display in the courtyard, including coring and drilling devices. Children beneath an adjacent awning used wooden tongue depressors to scrape sediment samples from split cores and carefully place their treasures in small ziplock bags marked "Official Sediment Sample." Jim Flocks (SPFC) explained why there are layers of different kinds of sediment in the cores, where each layer came from, and what we can learn from the texture of the sediment and the fossil shells inside.

Keith Ludwig explains coring and drilling devices
Keith Ludwig (SPFC, foreground) explains usage of the different kinds of coring and drilling devices. The students were fascinated by the fact that real diamonds form the cutting surface of the drill bit.
Questions asked of the students by the scientists were in most cases answered correctly, indicating that Earth science is getting good coverage in the Pinellas County schools. Despite the potential for pandemonium (by the USGS staff! as well as the students), the open house was an exciting event enjoyed by everyone. After the tour, students were provided with goodie bags filled with scientific outreach material. The SPFC is already looking forward to next year's Earth Science Week.

Outside participants on both days were Ann Tihansky, Paul Boetcher, Yvonne Stoker, and Arturo Torres (WRD-Tampa); Bill (Dusty) McDevitt and David Dale (WRD-Altamonte Springs); Scott Willis and Jessica Smith (Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission); and Ben McPherson (Chief, National Assessment Water Quality Association). Behind-the-scene volunteers were Bill Lewelling, Victor Levesque, and John Byrnes (WRD-Tampa). John Harsh (head of WRD-Tampa) encouraged folks from his office to visit. Thanks to all for two very prosperous days of celebrating Earth Science Week. An enormous amount of work went into making the effort as successful as it was. Everyone from the St. Pete office, and representatives from WRD-Tampa and Altamonte Springs, and Florida Fish and Wildlife, pulled together and worked as a team, and it really showed to the public.

Related Web Sites
Center for Coastal & Regional Marine Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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