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USGS Science and Graphics Raise Awareness at Educational Geopark in Florida

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Ann Tihansky stands next to the Geopark sign
Above: Ann Tihansky stands next to the Geopark sign describing sinkholes, which was created using graphics from her USGS publication. [larger version]

boulder-size geologic sample of the Ocala Limestone is referenced in the Geopark sign
Above: A boulder-size geologic sample of the Ocala Limestone (upper left) is referenced in the Geopark sign that describes the rock and aquifer units in Florida. The rock was donated by a quarry in Ocala, FL. [larger version]

person reading one of the Geopark's sign
Above: The Geopark is designed to educate geoscience majors as well as the general public about various aspects of Florida's hydrogeology. [larger version]

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was a key player in an educational partnership that raises awareness about Florida's hydrogeologic resources. The effort, led by University of South Florida (USF) geology professor Len Vacher, teamed students from USF's Geology Department and Environmental Science and Policy Department with local environmental professionals to create an outdoor educational park known as the "Geopark" on the USF Tampa campus.

Three large limestone boulders placed in the Geopark serve as the focus for furthering public awareness about the geology and environmental issues affecting the State of Florida. Although the rocks draw considerable interest, the area serves an as outdoor learning laboratory for hydrology students. Students use monitoring wells installed in the park for class activities focused on understanding hydrogeologic principles. The area contains a sinkhole, which has been studied by previous students. Not only has the hydrogeology of the Geopark area been well described, it also generally represents the geologic framework throughout the State of Florida.

The Geology and Environmental Science and Policy Departments wanted to share this information with the rest of the campus community, whether geology students, political science students, or people simply interested in knowing what's beneath their feet. Faculty members Vacher, Mark Stewart, and Mark Rains requested educational-grant money from the Southwest Florida Water Management District to create five educational signs. They formed a committee consisting of themselves, students, and representatives of the USGS, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The committee shared ideas, developed concepts, and designed the final graphics that were selected for the five signs. The major topics include:

  • the geologic units and hydrology of Florida,
  • the Floridan Aquifer,
  • ground-water contamination,
  • sinkhole formation, and
  • land use within the entire Hillsborough River basin.

The sinkhole sign includes information and graphics from a publication about sinkholes by USGS hydrologist Ann Tihansky (available online at URL Beth Fratesi, a USF graduate student and accomplished graphic artist, worked with Vacher and Tihansky to finalize the graphics before they were converted to the highly durable signs. The team hopes that these signs are the beginning of a long-term effort to increase awareness about the importance of geosciences to our society.

Related Web Sites
Sinkholes in West-Central Florida, in Circular 1182
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USF Geology Alumni Society GeoPark
University of South Florida
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

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in this issue: Fieldwork
cover story:
Measuring Hurricane Impacts

Sonar Survey of Sea-Floor Habitats

Drilling for Submarine Ground Water

Outreach Educational Geopark in Florida

USGS and Elementary School Receive Mayor's Top Apple Award

Meetings Workshop on DART Network for Tsunami Forecasting

Chinese Delegation Visits USGS to Discuss Gas-Hydrate Studies

Staff & Center News New Hires for the Western Coastal and Marine Geology Team

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Updated May 06, 2014 @ 02:12 PM (JSS)