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Pinellas County Beach Study: Measuring the "Health" of Florida Beaches

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September 15th marked the beginning of a year-long study to describe the "health" of Florida beaches on the Pinellas County peninsula (Tampa Bay area). This study, which I designed as part of my Mendenhall Fellowship, is a collaboration between the USGS Center for Coastal Geology in St. Petersburg and the water-quality group at the University of South Florida.

The study involves taking monthly water and sediment samples at 10 beach sites, ranging from Clearwater to the lower tip of St. Petersburg, including eight on the Gulf of Mexico, one on Tampa Bay, and one on Boca Ciega Bay (intracoastal water). Data collected include tidal and rainfall information, sediment grain size, and counts of four indicator organisms (indicative of sewage impact): fecal coliforms, enterococci, Clostridium perfringens, and Aeromonas hydrophila. These bacteria are used as proxies for a range of human pathogens, and the levels detected are used to determine if the water is safe for recreational use. Some of the sites were specifically chosen to overlap sites where the Pinellas County Health Department does routine monitoring of water samples (to regulate beach safety), so that the additional water and sediment data we collect during this study will augment their information.

The objectives of this study are:

  • To document the seasonal fluctuations of indicator microbes in the water column and sediment

  • To test Aeromonas as a new indicator—it has been previously used in freshwater and brackish environments but has never been tried in a marine environment

  • To collect microbiological information from both water and sediment for use in sediment resuspension models to address the issue of whether pathogens are being stored in the sediments and then resuspended to the water column during storm events.

The year's worth of microbiological data will also be combined with recent LIDAR maps of Pinellas County (made by Bob Morton), detailing development density and erosion features. The idea is to create a product that looks at beach "health" from both a geological and biological perspective.

Related Web Sites
Florida Healthy Beaches Program
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USGS Mendenhall Fellowship Program
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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Sea-Level Rise in Nat'l Parks

Collecting Caribbean Dust

Florida Beach Health

Lake Michigan Trout

Outreach Watershed Initiative

Meetings Blacks in Gov't 2001

Coastal Change Issues

Awards Pacific Congress Service Award—Mike Field

Staff & Center News WHFC Employees in 10K

Publications Educating the Public About Coastal Hazards

Author of Organic Geochemistry Novel Visits

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