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Tenth Triennial Open House in Menlo Park, California

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An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 visitors explored more than 85 exhibits on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) campus in Menlo Park, California, during its 10th Triennial Open House on May 19 and 20, 2012. Jeff Keay, Acting Regional Executive for the USGS Southwest Area, toured the Open House on Saturday and later wrote that “the breadth of USGS science displayed, the highly interactive activities, the engagement of all ages of visitors, the support of our partners, and, perhaps most of all, the enthusiasm of our scientists were a testament to a great science organization.”

Peter Triezenberg and Karla Knudson Visitors pan for gold
Above Left: USGS marine scientist Peter Triezenberg and USGS Volunteer for Science Karla Knudson staff a welcome table. Photograph by Mike Diggles, USGS. [larger version]

Above Right: Visitors pan for gold at an exhibit presented by the California Geological Survey (read about gold at http://www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/geologic_resources/gold/Pages/). Photograph by Mike Diggles, USGS. [larger version]

Many exhibits touched on coastal or marine themes:

  • Science Behind Tsunamis: Geophysicist Eric Geist and USGS Volunteer for Science Anne Rosenthal created a Tsunami Scientist Training Center where visitors learned how tsunamis work and how to maximize their safety during a tsunami. Explore USGS tsunami information at http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/tsunami/.

    Visitors study information at the Tsunami Scientist Training Center
    Above: Visitors study information at the Tsunami Scientist Training Center while USGS geophysicist Eric Geist (back left) fields questions. Photograph by Jenna Stanley, USGS Volunteer for Science. [larger version]

  • Fly Over the Seafloor: Using USGS bathymetric data, Pete Dartnell took visitors on virtual flights through the underwater terrain of San Francisco Bay, Lake Tahoe, and Monterey Bay. View these areas and more at http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/pacmaps/.

  • Sea Otter Research: Visitors touched sea otter pelts and skulls, handled tracking equipment, and learned about what sea otters eat at an exhibit hosted by Joe Tomoleoni (University of California, Santa Cruz) and other scientists from Tim Tinker’s lab at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC). Learn more at http://www.werc.usgs.gov/project.aspx?projectid=221.

  • Bald Eagle from the San Francisco Zoo: “Sequoia,” whose damaged tail prevents her from living in the wild, represented Bald Eagles that are recovering from DDT exposure and once again nesting in the Channel Islands off southern California, thanks to efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the USGS, the San Francisco Zoo, and other partners (http://www.montroserestoration.gov/restoration/bald-eagles/). She was accompanied by Kathy Hobson of the zoo’s Avian Conservation Center and zoo volunteer John Flynn.

    Bald Eagle
    Above: Bald Eagle "Sequoia" stretches her wings as her trainer, San Francisco Zoo volunteer John Flynn, fields questions from visitors. Photograph by Jenna Stanley, USGS Volunteer for Science. [larger version]

  • Topo Salad Trays: Ordinary topographic maps of Angel Island (in San Francisco Bay) and Monterey Canyon (beneath Monterey Bay) took three-dimensional shape as visitors stacked transparent plastic trays with one contour line on each. At a do-it-yourself counter, exhibit lead Helen Gibbons (USGS) and others helped kids trace contour lines onto blank trays (see http://online.wr.usgs.gov/outreach/topo_instructions.html).

    Amy Foxgrover helps a young Open House visitor
    Above: USGS marine scientist Amy Foxgrover helps a young Open House visitor trace a contour line onto a blank plastic tray at the Topo Salad Trays display. Photograph by Florence Wong, USGS. [larger version]

  • Dress Like a Scientist: Formerly called “Dress Like a Marine Geologist,” this popular activity, headed by USGS geographer Dario Garcia, invited visitors to put on field attire and pose for a photograph in a field or laboratory setting of their choice. View the results at http://openhouse.wr.usgs.gov/2012/photoIndex.html.

    photo from Dress Like a Scientist exhibi photo from Dress Like a Scientist exhibi photo from Dress Like a Scientist exhibi
    Above: Open House participants find fun and excitement posing before Hollywood-style backdrops at the Dress Like a Scientist exhibit. Photographs by Dario Garcia, USGS. (See more photographs at http://openhouse.wr.usgs.gov/2012/photoIndex.html.)

  • South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project: Visitors heard the latest about this multiagency project—the largest tidal-wetland-restoration effort on the U.S. west coast—from lead scientist Laura Valoppi (USGS) and others. Wetlands provide important habitat and can help protect against rising sea levels associated with climate change; learn more at http://www.southbayrestoration.org/.

  • Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Led by Doug Cordell of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, staff and volunteers from this 30,000-acre wildlife habitat along the southern reaches of San Francisco Bay told visitors about recreational opportunities, environmental education, and cutting-edge scientific research at the refuge (http://www.fws.gov/desfbay/).

  • Extreme Microbes!: Scientists led by Shelley Hoeft and Jodi Blum (both USGS) taught visitors about the extreme environment of Mono Lake—which is too salty and alkaline for fish to survive—and the adaptations that microorganisms must make to live there. Learn more at http://microbiology.usgs.gov/geomicrobiology.html.

  • How Clean Is Clean?: This hands-on activity headed by Jim Kuwabara (USGS) demonstrated the link between electrical conductivity and water quality. Learn more at http://wwwrcamnl.wr.usgs.gov/solutetransport/.

  • The Community Living in a Drop of Water from San Francisco Bay: Scientists headed by Tara Shraga (USGS) invited visitors to view the microscopic plants and animals that inhabit San Francisco Bay. Learn more about San Francisco Bay water quality at http://sfbay.wr.usgs.gov/access/wqdata/.

  • Jon Boat: Visitors climbed into a flat-bottomed Jon boat, put on life vests, and pretended they were USGS scientists mapping the seafloor in very shallow water. See an example of such work at http://sofia.usgs.gov/publications/ofr/02-325/methods.html.

  • LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging): Visitors were scanned by a terrestrial lidar instrument, which uses laser light to create high-resolution, three-dimensional images. Presented by Skye Corbett (USGS) and Diane Minasian (USGS Volunteer for Science), the exhibit explained some of the many uses of lidar, including documenting landscape change. Read about examples at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2006/3111/.

    visitors pose for scanning by a terrestrial light detection and ranging (lidar) instrument satellite imagery from May 24, 2010, showing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
    Above: Young visitors pose (left; larger version) for scanning by a terrestrial light detection and ranging (lidar) instrument, which uses laser light reflected from surfaces to create high-resolution, three-dimensional images (right; slightly different pose; larger version). Lidar data are particularly useful for documenting landscape change, such as hurricane damage and coastal-cliff erosion. (The scanner uses a Class 1 laser, which poses no threat to the naked eye.) Photographs by Mike Diggles, USGS.

  • What Can Deep Sediment Cores Tell Us About Mercury Pollution?: Mark Marvin-DiPasquale (USGS) and others showed visitors samples from a sediment-coring project designed to estimate how much toxic mercury is in Alviso Slough in south San Francisco Bay (see http://microbiology.usgs.gov/geomicrobiology_mercury.html#san_fran_restoration).

  • What’s the USGS Doing in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta?: Headed by Dan Ponti (USGS), this exhibit acquainted visitors with California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and a collaborative geologic study of the Delta recently begun by the USGS and the California Department of Water Resources.

  • Live Music: Performances by amateur musicians from the USGS and other groups added to the fun.

Many thanks to the exhibitors named above and to the additional contributors—too numerous to name—who helped with preparation, setup, teardown, and staffing. Visitors loved the Open House and were impressed with the knowledge, professionalism, and enthusiasm of all the scientists, volunteers, and support staff. Organizer Christy Ryan reported such feedback as “What an awesome and fun public event … great for people of all ages!” and “You should hold these events every year!”

For more information about the Open House, including a full list of exhibits and a photo gallery, visit http://openhouse.wr.usgs.gov/.


Related Sound Waves Stories
Hot Ticket—USGS Open House in Menlo Park, California
June / July 2009

Related Web Sites
U.S. Geological Survey 10th Triennial Open House
USGS Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center

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cover story:
Oil-Spill-Mitigation Sand Berm in the Chandeleur Islands

Ocean-Circulation and Sediment-Transport Data Offshore of Fire Island

Open House in Menlo Park, California

Workshop on Probability of Landslide-Generated Tsunamis

Key Drivers of Central California Coastal Change and Inundation Due to Climate Change

James V. Gardner, 2012 Shepard Medalist for Excellence in Marine Geology

Staff Team MarFac Completes Century Bicycle Ride

Publications July / August 2012 Publications

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