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USGS Managers Tour the Tampa Bay Estuary in Florida

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aboard the tour boat
Tour boat: Managers and scientists ride a 54-ft catamaran to the Bishop Harbor area along Tampa Bay's south shore.
On January 30, 50 managers and scientists attending the USGS Geologic Discipline (GD) managers meeting in St. Petersburg, FL, set out on a field trip to observe the Gulf of Mexico Estuaries Integrated Science Pilot Study in action. Holly Greening, Senior Scientist of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (a partnership of agencies and local governments), gave introductory remarks. Holly and her team of more than 150 scientists have worked with elected officials to establish long-term restoration and protection goals for natural resources in Tampa Bay. Holly spoke about the importance of the USGS' role as a long-term partner to fill tactical gaps in bay research.

The managers then boarded a 54-ft catamaran and cruised to the Bishop Harbor area along the bay's south shore. During the transit, Mike Crane of the EROS Data Center in Sioux Falls, ND, briefly spoke about urban growth and significant changes in land cover and land-use practices over the past 50 years. He described the USGS' highly advanced computer technology in the predictive modeling of future population growth in the Tampa Bay watershed.

wading at Mariposa Key
Managers wade to scientific exhibits at Mariposa Key. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which spans the mouth of Tampa Bay, is visible in the distance.
The first stop was Mariposa Key, a relatively undisturbed stretch of shoreline in southeastern Tampa Bay where important studies are underway. Scientists had set up exhibits in shallow water along the mangroves to describe their activities. Separated into groups, the managers were escorted through knee-deep water to each of the five stations, where they heard lectures and saw equipment demonstrations.

Peter Swarzenski (GD, St. Petersburg) and Dan Yobbi (USGS, Water Resources, Tampa) presented their understanding of physical processes at the sediment-water interface. They demonstrated the use of piezometers in sampling ground water.

Terry Edgar (GD, St. Petersburg) and Greg Brooks (Eckerd College, St. Petersburg) discussed their analysis of the geologic record of Tampa Bay. They showed how a vibracorer was an essential tool for obtaining sediment cores in shallow parts of the estuary; they displayed cores and led discussions of their interpretations of the strata.

Wendy Weaver (University of Georgia, Athens), an archeologist, discussed her analysis of Indian middens (shell mounds) located throughout the Mariposa Key area and showed several shell artifacts to the group. Understanding the prehistoric deposits is an important aspect in defining the history of sea-level change in the bay area.

Carole McIvor displays estuarine forage fishes
Carole McIvor displays estuarine forage fishes and discusses how conditions in their ponds might change when mosquito ditches are filled.
Kim Yates (GD, St. Petersburg) demonstrated her submersible habitat for analyzing reef quality (SHARQ). The clear tent traps water over a reef (or seagrass bed in this instance) but allows sunlight to reach the bay floor. Use of submersible probes and sophisticated data loggers permits measurement and recording of photosynthesis and carbon fixation. Through successive deployments, Kim is assessing the relative quality of different marine habitats in Tampa Bay.

Before the group left Mariposa Key, Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserve manager Randy Runnels outlined the long-term commitment of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to preserve and restore upland and aquatic habitats throughout the bay. Next, participants took a short catamaran trip into Cockroach Bay, after which they were bussed to the Terra Ceia Aquatic and Buffer Preserve.

This part of the field trip showcased research on wetland ecology. Carole McIvor (USGS, Biological Resources, St. Petersburg) discussed how the composition of fish faunas of selected mangrove-lined karst ponds could be directly linked to hydrologic modifications made by mosquito ditching 40 years previously. She exhibited several species of estuarine forage fishes captured from one such pond and discussed how pond conditions might change when mosquito ditches are filled, which is part of the restoration plan.

Tom Smith gives an overview of his vegetation analysis
Tom Smith gives an overview of his vegetation analysis.
Tom Smith (USGS, Biological Resources, St. Petersburg), a mangrove ecologist, gave an overview of his vegetation analysis. He explained the use of permanent vegetation plots as a tool for collecting data on biomass, mortality rate, and growth rate for mangrove trees.

Sarah Kruse (University of South Florida, Tampa) illustrated how resistivity measurements have been used at Terra Ceia to assess ground conductivity and to infer the salinity of underlying ground water.

At the trip's end, scientists and managers boarded buses for a short ride back home. Their brief tour of Tampa Bay could showcase only a small part of the extensive research that is being performed and that is planned. Understanding the processes within one of the largest estuaries on the Gulf of Mexico is an enormous undertaking that requires the collaboration of numerous disciplines, research agencies, and academia. The managers were shown a glimpse of the diverse scientific elements that have been integrated as a resource for restoration and management of the Tampa Bay estuary.

Related Web Sites
Tampa Bay Estuary Program
inter-agency government partnership
Tampa Bay Pilot Study
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Center for Coastal & Regional Marine Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), St. Petersburg, FL

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Gas-Hydrate Research Wells Completed

Moloka'i Coral Reef Sediment

Research Role of Parasites in Ecosystems

Outreach Public Art Project

Prairie Restoration

Marine Science Day

Marine Environmental Careers Symposium

Students Visit Woods Hole

Congressional Briefing on Wetlands

Woods Hole Science Fairs

Talks—DOE and College of William and Mary

Meetings Netherlands Sediment-Transport Collaboration

Sediment-Transport Modeling

Tampa Bay Estuary Tour

Awards Monterey Bay Research Award

Staff & Center News Japanese Land-Management Team Visits St. Pete

Western Region Retirements

Woods Hole Visitor

Publications April Publications List

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