Florida Integrated Science Centers' Open House in GainesvilleThe U.S. Geological Survey Works for All Ages
Tiny frogs, a giant blimp, mobile labs, touch tanks, demonstrations, and lots of enthusiastic scientists greeted visitors to a recent Open House at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s office in Gainesville, FL. Previously known as the Florida Caribbean Science Center, the Gainesville office is now the headquarters of the new Florida Integrated Science Centers (FISC)'s Center for Aquatic Resource Studies.
The center's second annual USGS Open House was a 2-day event, held on May 16 and 17. On May 16, a Friday, nearly 400 4th-graders from Alachua County elementary schools received guided tours, some of them led by volunteers from local high-school service groups.
On the next day, a Saturday, the event was open to the public. The Open House gave the Gainesville community a glimpse of current USGS studies, including research on manatees, nonindigenous species, and the effects of African dust on the environment. Students had a hands-on scientific opportunity to experience environmental science in Florida, which included handling crayfish, apple snails, tadpoles, and leopard frogs in the large aquarium touch tank.
Scientists from the four USGS disciplines of geology, hydrology, biology, and geography participated in the event, coming from Gainesville and from many of the USGS' other FISC offices, including those in Altamonte Springs, Miami, Ocala, St. Petersburg, and Tallahassee.
Mike Orr, a hydrologic technician from Altamonte Springs, brought equipment that demonstrated water-quality sampling and measurement of the flow and amount of water carried by Florida's rivers.
Dennis Krohn, a geologist from St. Petersburg, showed how a volcano works with a model that was rigged to make sound effects as it erupted.
Jon Wiebe, a fisheries biologist from Gainesville, explained that USGS researchers working with alligators and crocodiles have placed about 30 'gators on a special diet; female alligators are being monitored to see whether the chemicals in pesticides they ingest by eating contaminated prey are passed on to their eggs.
"The scientists conduct research that people really care about, such as preserving wildlife and endangered species like manatees, American crocodiles, gulf sturgeon, and fresh-water mussels," said Russ Hall, center director. "We are doing work that affects everybody's lives."
Hannah Hamilton, public-affairs specialist, added, "It is important for the public to see where its tax money is going. The community deserves to see what research is being done and the studies its money is funding. The Open House is a casual way for the public to learn about the large-scale, long-term, and complex things the USGS does."
in this issue:
Florida Open House