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Open Houses Held in St. Petersburg Celebrate Earth Science Week

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Janet Buckland holds a baby crocodile for students to touch
Baby croc: Janet Buckland from the FCSC holds a baby crocodile for the delight of the fourth grade students.
The USGS Center for Coastal Studies in St. Petersburg, FL, held its third annual two-day Open House on October 10th and 11th with the theme, 2001: A Science Odyssey. The Open House is scheduled to coincide with the American Geological Institute's (AGI's) Earth Science Week, a nationwide celebration of Earth science endeavors.

The scientists worked intensively to prepare a stunning array of 32 exhibits presenting their research to the public. Of particular note was the contribution of investigators from the Florida Caribbean Science Center (FCSC) in Gainesville, FL, who brought live animals and plants to capture the imagination of the students. Our timing was fortunate, for the FCSC had just received a donated baby American crocodile (3 years old) to go along with their baby alligators (2 weeks, and 3 years old). Visitors could touch all.

There were numerous aquaria with native invertebrates to touch, native and non-native fishes and swamp eels (some could be touched, the eels were slimy!), and computer games leading players through different Everglades environments. Students could look at sands from around the world through microscopes.

Georgia De Stoppelaire demonstrates lidar mapping with a toy helicopter and toy ponies
Lidar mapping: Georgia De Stoppelaire shows how laser elevations taken from a helicopter can help map the grazing habitat for ponies at Assateague Island National Seashore.
Chandra Dreher shows students sliced drill cores
Sliced cores: Chandra Dreher explains what we find inside a drill core sample.

Informative exhibits with less of a hands-on approach included African dust and microbes cultured from the dust, a video of dust events in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and extinct-mammal fossils from Florida. Coral cores, samples of different kinds of corals, x-radiographs of coral skeletons, and sponges were available for examination. Working models included a volcano, winds and waves, groundwater flow, and of course Gene Shinn's famous flushable toilet on top of porous limestone from the Florida Keys.

To contain the large number of exhibits, the event took over much of the first floor of the USGS Studebaker building, the courtyard, and the entire parking lot. With 10 tents set up, our backyard looked like a mini state fair.

Gary L. Hill holds an armored catfish
Armored catfish: Gary L. Hill holds an armored catfish—taken from Lake Maggiore that morning—for a brave student visitor.
students view a marsh terrarium
Marsh model: Students view a slice of marsh modeled on the Tampa Bay estuary.
Colette Jacono with tubs of exotic aquatic plants
Exotic plants: Colette Jacono from the FCSC shows off exotic aquatic plants out of place.

More than 500 fourth graders from Pinellas County schools attended the first-day guided-tour segment of the Open House from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. As an experiment, we invited parents to return with their children for the public Open House on the second day. Over 350 parents, children, residents, and interested folks visited on Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., providing a steady stream of questions to the investigators.

Keith Ludwig with the vibracore rig
Vibracore rig: Keith Ludwig shakes up the scene with his demonstration of vibracore drilling.
students pretend to be coralsDr. Peter Betzer and Kim Yates pretend to be corals
Center: Kim Yates has her students pretending to be corals at her Coral Metabolism exhibit. Right: Dr. Peter Betzer, Dean, College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, and Kim Yates imitate growing corals.

Comments on our feedback form were extremely positive. The following week, the St. Petersburg Times ran a feature on the Open House written by a ninth grader in their children's feature section.

To all the contributors who worked so hard to make this a success, thank you, and to the students, teachers, and public, we hope you come back next year.

Related Web Sites
Center for Coastal & Regional Marine Studies
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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Sediment Study on the Columbia River

Outreach cover story:
St. Petersburg Open Houses

Earth Science Week 2001

Woods Hole's First Annual Open House

Shark Festival and Sanctuary Celebration 2001

Meetings Metadata Workshop with Peter Schweitzer

Awards Geochemistry Study Award

Staff & Center News Richie Williams Speaks on Science and Religion

Farewell to Ardis Greatorex

Welcome to Chris Sherwood

USGS Mendenhall Post-doc Fellowship

WHFC Visitors

Publications Passing the Torch for Production of Sound Waves

New South Florida Ecosystem Sourcebook Released

November Publications List U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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