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Science as Art—USGS Display in Florida Library

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Cabinet displaying items discovered during U.S. Geological Survey fieldwork in rivers and ecosystems of southeastern Florida.
Above: Cabinet displaying items discovered during USGS fieldwork in rivers and ecosystems of southeastern Florida. [larger version]

During May and June 2006, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Florida Integrated Science Center office in Gainesville, Fla., put science on display at the main branch of the Alachua County Public Library. For 2 months, the USGS display was listed in the weekly Scene Magazine of the Gainesville Sun under local alternative artspaces. Scene Magazine identifies the cultural, entertainment, and community events happening in and around Gainesville and Alachua County each week.

Titled "Southeastern Rivers and Ecosystems," the display showed a small sample of what researchers have found during fieldwork on southeastern rivers over the years. Some of the finds were expected, such as the animals under study; others were relatively unexpected, such as Native American pottery, large (4 in. long) three-pronged "treble" hooks for catching very large fish, invasive species in new areas, bowling balls, and children's toys.

The exhibit garnered a great deal of attention; library patrons were mesmerized by an up-close look at a cottonmouth snake, a common river frog tadpole the size of a large orange, and a diamond-backed terrapin shell that was about a foot long, next to a yellow-bellied pond slider (turtle) more than a foot long. Additional surprises for visitors were freshwater mussel shells ranging from 1 to 9 inches in length, depending on the species, and barnacle-covered radio transmitters for tracking Gulf sturgeon. Also displayed were artifacts of former Native American populations discovered during fieldwork, such as pottery shards, skin scrapers, and hammer stones.

To illustrate how some types of fish sampling are done, the display included rivermap books of the Suwannee River, used for marking the locations of Gulf sturgeon populations and manmade features along the river, as well as photographs of scientists doing fieldwork. The photographs showed scientists establishing sampling grids and seining to collect fish and invertebrates. These were accompanied by an image of an Okaloosa darter (the fish being sought) and a specimen of bannerfin shiner (an example of other species collected by using the same methods).

Other attention grabbers included a small endangered Gulf sturgeon from the Suwannee River and a realistic model of the invasive sailfin armored catfish, a native of South America that is now spreading throughout Florida. According to librarian Cindy Dorfeld Bruckman, who manages the space, the librarians were kept busy restocking books on the Southeast, southeastern ecology, Florida history, and Native Americans associated with the USGS display. Another librarian stated that they were also kept busy cleaning noseprints and fingerprints off the case from children and adults leaning in to inspect every detail of the exhibit. USGS intern Kristin Lee, a graphic arts student at Santa Fe Community College, created and staged the exhibit. USGS scientists who contributed items included Ann Foster, Jim Williams, Margaret Gunzburger, and Howard Jelks.

Related Web Sites
Florida Integrated Science Center - Gainesville
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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cover story:
Measuring Hurricane Impact Along the Louisiana Coastline

Submarine Ground-Water Discharge in Santa Barbara and Hood Canal

California Sea-Otter Numbers Dip in 2006, Overall Population Trent Positive

Research Lake Whitefish Returning to the Detroit River

Parasites, the Thread of Food Webs?

Outreach USGS Display in Florida Library

Meetings Genomic Aerobiology Workshop

Staff Barry Rosen to Lead USGS in Florida

Publications usSEABED: Pacific Coast Offshore Surficial Sediment Data Release

August 2006 Publications List

FirstGov.gov U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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