Sharing science with the community was a big activity for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s Florida Integrated Science Center (FISC) during the month of November. The USGS FISC office in St. Petersburg hosted the center's 10th annual Open House and 10th annual Earth Science Day for fourth graders on November 5 and 6, respectively. During the Open House on November 5, the center held a short ceremony recognizing the milestone of 10 years of sharing science with the community (see, "USGS Celebrates 10th Annual Open House in St. Petersburg, Florida," this issue), and scientists and staff talked to more than 400 Tampa Bay residents and community leaders about projects ranging from wetlands and climate to mapping and fish ecology. The next day's event was dedicated to nearly 1,000 fourth-grade students, emphasizing the American Geological Institute's 2008 Earth Science Week theme, "No Child Left Inside."
Students from 14 schools attended Earth Science Day, with 8 schools taking advantage of charter-bus transportation provided through a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The buses made trip logistics easier for everyone and allowed some schools to attend that had been unable to previously. National Honor Students from Seminole High School and Lakewood High School helped with exhibits and as tour guides. After their experiences, several of the volunteer students asked about the possibility of internships and earning community-service hours at the St. Petersburg facility.
Many organizations that partner with the USGS on scientific work and other activities also participated in the Open House and Earth Science Day: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Friends of the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Mote Marine Laboratory, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Nature's Classroom, the Pier Aquarium, Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, Tampa Bay Watch, and Gatorama (which provided a live alligator).
In keeping with the theme "No Child Left Inside," FISC Director Barry Rosen, St. Petersburg Associate Center Director Jack Kindinger, and Southeast Region Program Officer Sonya Jones visited all of the USGS exhibits and selected the three that best represented the idea of getting outdoors and learning more about the world around you. Along with a commemorative plaque custom-made by Dave Wegener, prizes of $1,000 for travel expenses to attend a scientific meeting of their choice were given to the winning teams. The "Get Outdoors" award went to Nancy Dewitt and BJ Reynolds for their hands-on mapping exhibit called "Cool Contours." The "Spirit of Exploring" award recognized Adam Brame, Justin Krebs, and Mark Squitieri for their exhibit called "Fish Going In-Seine," a hands-on fish collection and identification exercise that put young students into the scientist's seat. The "How Does It Do That?" award went to Hilary Stockdon, Dave Thompson, and Katy Serafin for their explanation of how waves work, called "Surf's Up, WAY UP."
The two days—Open House and Earth Science Day—were quite successful and prepared many scientists with ideas for other ways to share their science. The Great American Teach-In was formally held nationwide on November 19, 2008, and FISC scientists and staff spent much of the month sharing science in a wide variety of venues throughout the community.
As a result of visiting the Open House, a member of the Pinellas Geological Society invited Ann Tihansky to talk at the Society's monthly meeting on November 25. She spoke about Florida geology and how it influences the modern landscape and many environmental issues facing Florida.
Tom Smith, a USGS ecologist who studies mangroves and coastal ecosystems, discussed "Mangroves of the World—Why Are They Important?" as part of a lecture on mangroves and eco-art held at Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo on November 18. Smith is working with artist Xavier Cortada and students from Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg on an eco-art project to reforest Tampa Bay. In September, Smith led the students in collecting mangrove propagules (seedlings of red mangroves) from the Weedon Island Preserve. The propagules were installed at the Florida Botanical Gardens in a mangrove eco-art display—an aesthetic array of propagules as they germinate in individual cups. Next year, students will plant the seedlings in areas of Tampa Bay where Smith is recording the success of the seedling harvest and reforestation efforts. The students will then collect a new batch of seedlings to refresh the display. (See Xavier Cortada Paricipatory Art Projects.)
Barbara Poore, a USGS geographer whose current work focuses on social vulnerability to natural hazards, participated in a panel discussion titled "Feel the Heat: Climate Change, Vulnerability, and Environmental Justice," held at Studio@620 in St. Petersburg on November 20. The discussion, moderated by David Hastings, associate professor of marine science and chemistry at Eckerd College, focused on how people may be affected by changing climate, rising sea level, and extreme storms like Hurricane Katrina and how society will respond to those who are most vulnerable to future climate catastrophes. The Studio@620 Round Table on Social Justice is a forum for Tampa Bay community leaders to discuss social-justice issues affecting the community. Monique Hardin, co-director and attorney with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights in New Orleans, brought up some important issues that sparked excellent discussion. Poore remarked that participating in a discussion that put science in a social context was very exciting. This discussion series is cosponsored by Eckerd College, Stetson University College of Law, and the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (see Studio@620 Round Table on Social Justice).
On November 19, several other FISC scientists and staff participated in the actual Great American Teach-In—a 1-day nationwide event that provides scientists and other professionals an opportunity to visit elementary, middle, and high schools and share science with the younger generation.
Representing FISC's Coastal Change Hazards group, Charlene Sullivan and Katy Serafin visited seven classes of 20 third and fourth-graders at Mildred Helms Elementary School in Largo, where they discussed some of the technical tools, such as lidar (light detection and ranging), used to understand and predict the impacts of hurricanes. Sullivan commented that the students were struck most by oblique aerial photographs showing the differences in coastal landscapes before and after hurricanes. Kara Doran also spoke about coastal-change hazards, during visits with students at Northwest Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
Don Hickey discussed sharks with students at Our Savior Lutheran School in St. Petersburg on November 19. Hickey's talk culminated in a virtual field trip to the beach in Venice, Florida, where the kids had a chance to dig for their own shells and shark teeth. The students were thrilled to learn that they could each keep a shark tooth as a souvenir. Hickey said, "We discussed sharks, jellyfish, coral reefs, pollution, and recycling. But the thing they'll remember most is the opportunity to dig in the sand and find their very own treasure."
At Bay Point Elementary in St. Petersburg, Theresa Burress and Jordan Sanford used a large volcano model to illustrate the importance of monitoring natural hazards. Students in first through third grades participated in an activity in which they played scientists, emergency managers, news reporters, and the public. The student scientists observed the volcano and provided data to the emergency managers, who had to decide whether to close the surrounding park area and notify the student reporters. The student reporters then broadcast the volcano-park closings to the public and defended the emergency managers' decisions. Some of the youngest scientists closed the volcano park at the first hint of volcanic activity, whereas others were content to leave the area open to the public until the volcano model began making ominous rumbling sounds and spewing clouds of smoke.
Kathryn Smith visited students at Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg, where she discussed geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping. Other elementary-school speakers included Kristine DeLong, who spoke at Kenly Elementary School in Tampa, and Chris Reich, who spoke at Starkey Elementary School in Largo. John Lisle spoke to students at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Largo, as well as to older students at Palm Harbor Middle School in Palm Harbor. Several FISC scientists spoke with middle and high school students. Terrie Lee and Robert Bradley talked about hydrology and water-related field activities at Pinellas Park Middle School. Rob D'Anjou discussed ecology and wetlands with students at New Port Richey High School in New Port Richey. At East Lake High School in northern Pinellas County, Chris Moses presented some refresher points about plate tectonics to five classes. Moses also talked about SCUBAnauts International (see Scubanauts International), a Tampa Bay area nonprofit organization that aims to engage students ages 12-18 in science education through underwater exploration.
in this issue:
FISC Scientists Out and About Sharing Science