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"Into the Eye: Hurricanes"—Exhibit at the Pier Aquarium in St. Petersburg, Fla., Features USGS Science

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Michael Henderson, Abby Sallenger, and Shawn Bennett.
Above: Partners in scientific education, USGS and NOAA contributed their latest scientific findings to the hurricane exhibit. Left to right, Michael Henderson, NOAA's regional coordinator for Tampa Bay; contributing USGS scientist Abby Sallenger; and Shawn Bennett, NOAA's meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Tampa Bay. [larger version]

Photo of monitor embedded in display running continuous loop videos.
Above: Three USGS video programs about hurricanes run a continuous loop as part of the "Into the Eye: Hurricanes" exhibit. [larger version]

Terry Edgar, Betsy Boynton, and Laurinda Travers
Above: USGS personnel Terry Edgar, Betsy Boynton, and Laurinda Travers (left to right) discuss the importance of effective illustrations in conveying scientific concepts to the general public. [larger version]

While the 2005 hurricane season continued to set new records, the Pier Aquarium in St. Petersburg, Fla., unveiled a new hurricane exhibit highlighting U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) science. The St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium collaborated with the USGS and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to design and create an educational exhibit that would bring the science of hurricanes to the general public. The USGS took the lead in coordinating the effort of developing the exhibit, titled "Into the Eye: Hurricanes."

USGS hydrologist Ann Tihansky worked with Pier Aquarium project manager Kristy Ultimo and NOAA's Michael Henderson to determine the scope and content of the exhibit. Ultimo wanted an exhibit that would raise public awareness about the science behind understanding hurricanes. "The press does a really good job showing the destruction, but we want to give people an understanding about what actually causes the destruction, how we measure hurricanes as they develop, and the physical changes that take place in our coastlines as they pass," said Ultimo.

Michael Henderson, NOAA's regional coordinator for Tampa Bay, said: "NOAA is glad to be working with the USGS and the Pier Aquarium on this exhibit. We are especially glad to help in educating the public about hurricanes in general, but we're also proud of the collaboration among our partners in the Tampa Bay area."

"Into the Eye: Hurricanes" examines several basic categories of hurricane science:

  • global-climate features that influence hurricane development,
  • the inner workings, or "anatomy," of a hurricane,
  • coastal hazards and responses to hurricanes, and
  • the latest technology used to collect information that enables the forecasting of coastal vulnerability and change.

The exhibit relies primarily on graphics rather than text. Once the group agreed on scientific content, the challenges were to (1) decide which of all the excellent graphic images to use and (2) ensure that the text was both succinct and accurate. A dramatic NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Frances was used for the large (6 by 8 ft) title panel. USGS science support staff Betsy Boynton and Laurinda Travers created colorful, eye-catching graphics that illustrate many complex concepts. The exhibit also runs a loop of three USGS videos highlighting hurricane science and coastal impacts: Hurricane Force, Exploring Storm Surge, and Anatomy of a Hurricane.

Howard Rutherford, executive director of the Pier Aquarium, was pleased to see local science reach the general public. "More than 1.5 million people visit the Pier annually, providing a large audience for our facility. We wanted a hurricane exhibit that would be unique and would highlight science being done in our backyard. Both the USGS and NOAA are located here in the Tampa Bay area, and we wanted to provide an opportunity to highlight their work. We've worked with both groups before and knew they could make hurricane-related science exciting and relevant. The nice thing about this exhibit is that it has been created in such a way that we can update panels and keep it current. While we were working on it, we kept reminiscing about the furor of 2004; then the 2005 season kind of blew that all away. We were also able to complement this exhibit with an educational hurricane poster created in partnership with the Florida Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence [COSEE-FL] and the SouthEast U.S. Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing System [SEACOOS]."

Tucked into the Pier Aquarium among tanks and interactive displays, the hurricane exhibit has been a focus for school field trips and a backdrop for hurricane-related press interviews, and it was visited by USGS scientists attending a Gulf Coast science workshop held at the Pier in January 2006.

Related Web Sites
The Pier Aquarium
City of St. Petersburg, Florida
Hurricane and Extreme Storm Impact Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

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in this issue: Fieldwork
cover story:
Monitoring Hurricane Wilma's Storm Surge

Research Study Suggests Abalones Owe Their Huge Size to Sea Otters

Outreach Hurricane Exhibit Highlights USGS Science

Staff Terry Edgar Retires

Gene Shinn Retires

Taiwanese Scientists Visit the WCMG Team

Andrew Stevens Joins WCMG Team

Publications New Book on Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting

February 2006 Publications List

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