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USGS GIS Specialist Shares Tools and Technology with Local Community

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Kristine Martella and Mike Holmes
Above: Kristine Martella (right) and Mike Holmes showcase USGS science at GIS Day. [larger version]

Fourth graders concentrate on mapping their own geographic information system coverages.
Above: Fourth graders concentrate on mapping their own GIS coverages.

Kristine helps a young geographer orient her coverage.
Above: Kristine helps a young geographer orient her coverage.

Kristine Martella, a geographic-information-system (GIS) specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) office in St. Petersburg, Fla., has been busy participating in numerous outreach efforts, spreading the word about GIS tools and technology. As a contractor with IAP World Services, Inc., Kristine is affiliated with the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, La., but is now stationed in St. Petersburg. Here, she not only contributes GIS expertise to USGS studies in Tampa Bay (see the Tampa Bay Study), but also manages to share her knowledge throughout the Tampa Bay area. She participated in GIS Day on November 16, 2005, a day set aside internationally to engage people in learning and caring about geography. She has presented her GIS lessons at the USGS Open House in St. Petersburg, at nearby middle and elementary schools, and at a recent LEEF (League of Environmental Educators in Florida) conference. She also has plans to teach educators at upcoming WETMAAP (Wetland Education Through Maps And Aerial Photography) workshops.

Kristine has introduced GIS concepts to fourth through eighth graders at such events as the USGS St. Petersburg Open House, a science festival at St. Paul’s Catholic Church School in St. Petersburg, and an ongoing mentoring program between the USGS and Stewart Middle School in Tampa, Fla. Lynn McDaniel, the science coordinator at Stewart Middle School, was excited to have USGS participation in her school’s classrooms: "The USGS has many resources for educators, and there are many exciting fields in science. When USGS scientists visit the classroom, it really helps the students understand how and why their science classes are important." Interaction with scientists can expand students' visions of their futures, too, as McDaniel pointed out: "A visiting scientist is a real-world example of how science can lead to an exciting career that many students may not have considered before."

As part of the wetland education program with Stewart Middle School, Kristine started out explaining the basics behind GIS. Students created their own landcover GIS layers in the Tampa Bay region, using USGS topographic maps, transparencies, and markers. When each of the students had interpreted a different piece of information, such as roads, vegetation (including wetlands), and hydrology, they overlaid the transparencies and saw how geographic elements can be interrelated. Kristine now has the students using a Web-based mapping tool called an interactive mapping system (IMS), which can be accessed from the Gulf of Mexico Integrated Science Web site. This Web site contains four IMSes, two digital libraries, and an array of information and links for the Gulf of Mexico region that can be used by anyone with Internet access. Specifically, the students are using the Tampa Bay IMS, which is helping them gain a greater appreciation for wetlands in the Tampa Bay region. As the wetland education program continues through the semester, other USGS scientists will share their expertise with the students.

For GIS Day (November 16, 2005), Kristine and Mike Holmes created an exhibit showcasing USGS research that relies on GIS applications. Their booth was part of a GIS Day celebration at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where more than 160 visitors, including high-school students, were exposed to the latest in GIS applications. Kristine and Mike displayed USGS products that demonstrate the power of GIS for interpreting many types of data in both time and space; examples included maps of hurricane effects in the Gulf of Mexico, real-time water-resources data from across the Nation (URL, and a Hydrologic Data Web Portal focusing on water-resources data from southwest Florida (URL Examples of mapping efforts based on lidar (light detection and ranging, a technology that uses lasers for precise elevation information) are available online at URL, part of the Gulf of Mexico Integrated Science Web site.

Kristine has enjoyed these opportunities to share her knowledge: “Working with the kids is great...once they get the initial concepts, they’re eager to apply their knowledge to things that interest them, such as fishing spots and locating their favorite parks. Engaging the public in geographic concepts gives them a broader appreciation and understanding of science and policy, and the cause and effect that policy can have on our natural resources."

Related Web Sites
Gulf of Mexico Integrated Science
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Tampa Bay Study
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
NWISWeb Data for the Nation
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)

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in this issue: Fieldwork
cover story:
Surf-Zone Hydrodynamics at Ocean Beach

Research Scientists Recreate Shaking from 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Outreach Science Workshops for Girls

GIS Specialist Shares Expertise with Local Community

Spoonbill Bowl

Awards David Scholl Selected as AGU Fellow

Staff USGS Visits Deer Island Sewage Treatment Plant

Geomorphologist Joins the WCMG Team

Publications April 2006 Publications List U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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