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Third USGS Tour for Congressional Staff in South Florida

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Staffers sighted numerous manatees while snorkeling through the springs
Above: Staffers sighted numerous manatees while snorkeling through the springs.

eter Swarzenski fielded questions about ground-water geochemistry and pollutants in Tampa Bay
Above: Peter Swarzenski (in green hat) fielded questions about ground-water geochemistry and pollutants in Tampa Bay.

Staffers take a sediment core
Above: Staffers take a sediment core in Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve that will be used to interpret the history of Tampa Bay.

airboats at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge whisked the group into the Everglades
Above: Several airboats at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge whisked the group into the Everglades for a memorable ride and picnic lunch.

Group photograph was taken in Biscayne Bay at the end of the last day.
Above: Group photograph was taken in Biscayne Bay at the end of the last day.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hosted its third annual tour for Congressional staff in south Florida during the week of January 4-9. The tour highlighted USGS science and partnerships in Tampa Bay, the Everglades, Biscayne National Park, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)'s Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge complex on Crystal River. Congressional staffers who participated were well educated in environmental issues. Topics addressed were manatee research, aquatic vegetation, mangrove environments, water quality, dynamics of ground- and surface-water interaction, saltwater intrusion, Everglades' restoration, coral-reef ecosystems, and effects of urbanization.

Seven staffers participated: Aloysius Hogan, Legislative Director, Office of Senator James M. Inhofe; Dan Bresette, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; Amy Carroll and Susannah Foster, House Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards; David Zacher, House Resources Committee; and Nicole Carter and Pervaze Sheikh from the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. The staffers commented that they were impressed with the breadth of USGS science and have since attended other USGS-sponsored briefings in Washington, DC. Jane Lyder, Legislative Counsel in the Department of the Interior's Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, also attended.

En route to the Chassahowitzka Refuge on January 5, Bonnie McGregor (USGS Eastern Regional Director) welcomed guests and discussed science partnerships in Florida. Two pontoon boats, refuge managers, and Bob Bonde (USGS, Gainesville) greeted staffers at the refuge docks, eager to introduce their springs and manatees. The "slipping" into wetsuits became a "team-building" activity in the ladies' room. Bob discussed manatee research and how manatees are tagged to track life cycles, migratory habits, and populations. After visiting two freshwater springs, the group picnicked at the refuge as project leader Jim Kraus, Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, helped answer questions, discussed demands on the refuge, and stressed the refuge's importance.

The following day began at Weedon Island Preserve. Kim Yates, of the USGS St. Petersburg Science Center Studies (CCWS) in St. Petersburg, presented an overview of the day's activities and explained what and how USGS scientists and cooperators are studying in Tampa Bay. The walking tour of the mangrove environment at Weedon Island Preserve included presentations by CCWS scientists on estuary vegetation (Tom Smith), sea-level rise and archeology (Terry Edgar), and estuary fishes (Carole McIvor, Justin Krebs, and Adam Brame). The group next boarded a boat. Kim, Mark Hansen, Ellen Raabe, and Kathryn Smith (CCWS) and Mike Crane (USGS, South Dakota) pointed out areas of interest during the ride to Bishop Harbor in Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve and adjoining Buffer Preserve. The staffers were able to see the difference between a pristine and a disturbed coastal habitat. Seagrass habitats, island mangrove environments, and prehistoric Indian archeological sites were discussed. Terry and Ellen taught staffers how to take a core in Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve. Peter Swarzenski spoke on ground water in Tampa Bay.

The next morning, the group saw the effects of urbanization in the Everglades while en route by car to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Dave Krabbenhoft (USGS, Middleton, WI) discussed water quality, mercury, and other geochemical issues in the Everglades. At the refuge, the staffers boarded an airboat and saw rare species of wildlife, including roseate spoonbills and alligators. The cooperative work between the USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strives to understand the natural and anthropogenic processes that affect the health and future of the Everglades.

On the final day, USGS scientists and National Park Service rangers explained the importance of the delicate and complex ecosystem in Biscayne Bay. Lynn Wingard (USGS, Reston, VA), Caroline Rogers (USGS, St. John, VI), and Chris Reich (USGS, St. Petersburg) showed the staffers soft- and hard-bottom areas, coral-reef nurseries, seagrass, and sponge habitats. Aquifers were discussed, and a freshwater spring was observed. Lunch was eaten under palm trees at the Biscayne National Park visitors center at Convoy Point. By the end of the week, the staffers had a better appreciation of how delicate and threatened are the numerous components of the south Florida ecosystem.

Related Web Sites
St. Petersburg Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), St. Petersburg, FL
Tampa Bay Study
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Chasshowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Biscayne National Park
National Park Service

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in this issue: Fieldwork
cover story:
Marianas Submarine Hydrothermal Systems

Phosphorus Plume Study

Sea-Otter Numbers at Record High

Research West-Central Florida Project Concludes

Outreach South Florida Congressional Staff Tour

Florida Oceans Day

USF Hydrogeology Field Camp

ASLO Keynote Address

Oceanography Camp for Girls

Water Conservation Festival

Meetings Basics of the Basin Research Symposium

Swarm Modeling Workshop

Awards USGS Recognized for ArcIMS Data

Staff & Center News Halley Interviewed for Local Television

Publications July Publications List

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