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USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program

News Archive

News Archive - stories from July 2013.

For information about a story, contact Ann Tihansky (202) 208-3342.

Map of Florida Middle GroundUSGS Geologist responds to Reporter Query on Offshore Ledges

On July 26, the USGS (St. Petersburg) received a query from a reporter about the nature of the offshore ledges near Ft. Myers, Fl. Kevin Lollar, who works for the News-Press was inquiring about the origin of ledges divers commonly encounter offshore. Chris Reich (Geologist) spoke with Mr. Lollar and suggested that most ledges encountered by casual divers were likely natural limestone exposures that were eroded at the shoreline when sea level was lower, rather than formed by coral reefs. There are many of these ledges and rock outcrops along the west Florida shelf, some in water too deep to fully understand their genesis, but a new discovery by the USGS working on the geology of the Florida Middle Ground showed that a marine gastropod helped preserve the structures that are used by many divers and fisherman today.

For more about the Florida Middle Ground, see the Journal of Coastal Research article: The Role of Vermetid Gastropods in the Development of the Florida Middle Ground, Northeast Gulf of Mexico

posted: 2013-08-01

Florida Trend MagazineUSGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center part of Sept., 2013 "Marine High Tech Corridor" Article

On July 31, Amy Keller of Florida Trend Magazine inquired about the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Center for a forthcoming article on the "Marine High Tech Corridor" in the Tampa area. While the print version of the magazine will publish all the articles at once, the online version releases articles sporadically, so the article may not be immediately available online.

posted: 2013-08-01

Oblique aerial photograph of a location in the Chandeleur IslandsAerial Survey of Gulf Coast Islands

On July 13, 2013, USGS conducted an oblique aerial photography survey as part of the Barrier Island Evolution Research (BIER) project. A goal of BIER is to study the evolution of the sand berm constructed in the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana, in the wake of the Deep Water Horizon accident in 2010. Karen Westphal (contractor for the USGS) collected 1248 oblique images beginning at Breton Islands, Louisiana, The flight continued north through the Chandeleur Islands to Cat Island, Mississippi and then eastward to the Alabama/Florida border. Westphal flew in a Cessna 172, taking geo-located pictures out the left side of the aircraft through an open window.

posted: 2013-07-24

A number of ocean front homes were destroyed or severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy on Fire Island, NY. The photo shows what remains of houses in the community of Davis Park. Photo by Cheryl Hapke, USGS.USGS Continues Response to Hurricane Sandy

The USGS continues to work across a broad range of scientific topics that improve our understanding of Hurricane Sandy impacts. Much of this science also supports and informs local, state and Federal recovery efforts and adaptive strategies that will prepare our Nation for future events.

Visit the Sandy Response Page to read about how scientists forecast, measure and map coastal changes and vulnerability, look at flooding, storm-surge, water-quality impacts and other aspects of this extreme storm event. The page serves up multiple links to Sandy-related topics: science features, storm impact studies, photography, data, publications and news releases.

posted: 2013-07-19

Hurricane Sandy resulted in this breach in Fire Island, a barrier island of the Long Island coast in New York.USGS Geologist on National Science Radio Program

On July 12, 2013 for the 3 pm EDT segment, Cheryl Hapke was featured on the National Public Radio (NPR) show Science Friday. The two-hour show, hosted by Ira Flatow, is a live weekly science interview on science topics that are in the news. Cheryl was discussing the breach on Fire Island, NY from Hurricane Sandy. Among the issues brought up were when the breach might close, should it be closed manually, and what the benefits versus risks may be if it is left to close naturally. The discussion also focused on whether there is enough sand available to continue to replenish the nation's beaches after severe storms.

Read more and listen to the program.

posted: 2013-07-18

Photograph of Jon Warrick.Radio Interview on Southern California Beach Sand

USGS geologist Jonathan Warrick was interviewed on Friday, June 21, 2013, by Molly Peterson of Southern California Public Radio, KPCC 89.3 FM, for a story about beach nourishment and why sand feels different on different beaches. Peterson is working on a series of summer pieces focused on the southern California coast. Warrick explained how natural erosion of the southern California mountains makes sand for the region's beaches, and how humans have altered the flow of sediment. The interview will be incorporated into a piece expected to air in July. For more information, contact Jon Warrick,, 831-460-7569.posted: 2013-07-15

Oil and gas seeps web site graphic.Scientists Study Sediment Dynamics and Search for Gas and Oil Seeps Offshore Northern California

USGS scientists are collaborating with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) scientists to look for geologic evidence of recurring sediment-laden density flows, as well as for any record of gas and oil seeps, during fieldwork off the northern California coastline, July 27-Aug. 7. The USGS scientists will join the chief MBARI scientist, and additional participants from MBARI and Stanford University, on MBARI's research vessel Western Flyer to use a remotely operated vehicle in Eel Canyon offshore near Eureka, CA. The scientists will take photographs and videos and retrieve sediment samples to investigate modern depositional and erosional processes, better understand seafloor gas venting, and study seafloor petroleum discharge. For more information, contact Brian Edwards at or 650-329-5488.posted: 2013-07-15

Chapters in New Book on the Gulf of Mexico

USGS scientists John Barras (USGS Baton Rouge) and Richard Day (NWRC-Lafayette) have contributed to two chapters in the newly released fourth volume of Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota, a series sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and published by the Texas A&M University Press. Volume 4, Ecosystem-Based Management, edited by John Day and Alendro Yáñez-Arancibia, provides a comprehensive study of ecosystem-based management, analyzing key coastal ecosystems in eleven Gulf Coast states from Florida to Quintana Roo and presenting case studies in which this integrated approach was tested in both the United States and in Mexico. John Barras is a co-author on Chapter 5, "Integrated Coastal Management in the Mississippi Delta: System Functioning as the Basis of Sustainable Management." Richard Day co-authored Chapter 14, "Global Climate Change Impacts on Coastal Ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico: Considerations for Integrated Coastal Management."

posted: 2013-07-12

State and Federal Agencies Partner for a Second Year of Seafloor Sampling off Massachusetts—Results Will Refine Maps Used in Research and Resource Management

In August 2012, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researchers rejoined scientists and staff from their partner agencies for a second year of collecting seafloor photographs, bottom video, and sediment samples off Massachusetts. These data are being used to identify bottom types—such as bedrock, gravel, sand, or mud—and organisms living on the seafloor and in the sediment.

Read more in Sound Waves

posted: 2013-07-11

New Approach to Measuring Coral Growth Offers Valuable Tool for Reef Managers

A new more sensitive weight-based approach for monitoring coral growth in the wild has been developed by U.S. Geological Survey researchers leading to more definitive answers about the status of coral reefs.

Using the weight-based approach, scientists discovered that colonies of the Massive Starlet coral calcified about 50 percent faster in the remote Dry Tortugas National Park compared to three sites along the rest of the island chain from Miami to Marathon, Fla. The reasons behind this surprising pattern are not clear, leaving a mystery sure to pique the interest of many reef managers.

To learn more about the new more sensitive weight-based approach for monitoring coral growth, read the USGS press release.

To learn more about the Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies Project, please visit the website.

posted: 2013-07-10

USGS Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

On July 1, USGS released the Science Plan, "Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy - A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan in Support of Restoration and Recovery." This science plan was developed immediately following Hurricane Sandy to coordinate continuing USGS activities with other agencies and to guide continued data collection and analysis to ensure support for recovery and restoration efforts. The data, information, and tools that are produced by implementing this plan will: (1) further characterize impacts and changes, (2) guide mitigation and restoration of impacted communities and ecosystems, (3) inform a redevelopment strategy aimed at developing resilient coastal communities and ecosystems, (4) improve preparedness and responsiveness to the next hurricane or similar coastal disaster, and (5) enable improved hazard assessment, response, and recovery for future storms along the hurricane prone shoreline of the United States.

posted: 2013-07-09

Disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy

The Department of the Interior recently announced the release of $475.25 million in emergency disaster relief funding to repair, rebuild, and restore impacted areas in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This will also provide investments in scientific data and studies to support recovery in the region. USGS science will help identify coastal areas that have been made more vulnerable to storm damage and provide communities with critical information needed for recovery that will also help prepare for future storm events.

Read more at:

posted: 2013-07-09

USGS is ready for Hurricane season

Hurricanes unleash dangerous waves and powerful currents capable of moving large amounts of sand, destroying buildings and infrastructure, and reshaping our nation's coastline. USGS research focuses on understanding the magnitude and variability of the impacts of hurricanes and extreme storms on the sandy beaches of the United States. The overall objective is to improve the capability to predict coastal change that results from severe storms. Such a capability will support management of coastal infrastructure, resources, and safety. Understanding the impacts of coastal change is just one way science keeps our Nation prepared.

Learn more:

posted: 2013-07-09

Major Reports on Predicting Hurricane-Induced Coastal Change Released

On July 1, the USGS released two reports assessing the probability of hurricane-induced coastal change on sandy beaches from Florida to New York. The reports—one assessing the coastline from Florida to North Carolina, the second from Virginia to New York—can function as a reference for community planners and emergency managers along the Eastern Seaboard. SPCMSC staff participating in the reports include Hilary Stockdon, Kara Doran, Nathaniel Plant, Kristy Sopkin, and Dave Thompson. The reports were released with an online component,, which can act as a "virtual tookit" for emergency planners to help make decisions on how to best address coastal vulnerabilities.

posted: 2013-07-03

USF Oceanography Camp Students visit USGS St. Petersburg Center

On June 26 and 27, thirty 8th grade students attending University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science's (CMS) Oceanography Camp for Girls visited the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) to learn about how hurricanes and other extreme storms impact our coastline. Kara Doran used the Center's 16-foot wave tank to demonstrate how waves form, travel, and deposit sand on beaches giving the students the opportunity to make their own waves. Theresa Burress simulated a hurricane using the Center's coastal erosion model, which illustrates how wind and waves transport sediment from a barrier island during storms. Thirteen students also had the opportunity to interview Center scientists one-on-one about their work. Participating SPCMSC scientists included Kara Doran, Jennifer Flannery, Sophia Liu, Jennifer Miselis, Karen Morgan, Lisa Osterman, Nathaniel Plant, Julie Richey, and Tom Smith.

posted: 2013-07-03

USGS Staff Interviewed for Documentary on Ocean Acidification (OA)

On July 2, USGS research oceanographer Dr. Lisa Robbins (USGS-St Petersburg) and graduate students Paul Knorr and Kira Barrera met with Jacob Courant and a film crew from the Savannah College of Art and Design at the US Geological Survey in St. Petersburg, Florida. Mr. Courant is directing and co-producing a short documentary film about ocean acidification (OA) and its socioeconomic effects in the Florida Keys. To collect information for the film, Mr. Courant interviewed Robbins on ongoing OA projects and Knorr on his dissertation research about tropical benthic foraminifera, Archaias and Amphistigina, and techniques used in the laboratory. Additionally, Robbins' group is currently conducting experiments on a prolific tropical/subtropical sediment producer, the green alga, Halimeda, found throughout the Florida Keys and near Tampa Bay.

posted: 2013-07-03

Maine Legislature unanimously passes Ocean Acidification Legislation

On June 18, 2013, the Maine legislature sent out notification of a Joint Resolution "Recognizing Ocean Acidification as a Threat to Maine's Coastal Economy, Communities and Way of Life" (SP0599). The legislation was sent to the members of the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification (IWG-OA), of which SPCMSC Oceanographer Lisa Robbins is a member. For text of the legislation, please see:

posted: 2013-07-03

Understanding and Predicting Change in the Coastal Ecosystems of the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

Special Issue, 63, of the Journal of Coastal Research, Understanding and Predicting Change in the Coastal Ecosystems of the Northern Gulf of Mexico was just published.

Read the full range of articles online at Journal of Coastal Research

posted: 2013-07-02

USGS staff name retrofitted research vessel R/V Sallenger

On June 28, the recently acquired 2530 Extended Cabin Parker, retrofitted as a research vessel, was named the R/V Sallenger. The name was placed on the vessel before her first field work in Biloxi, MS. The committee responsible for the retrofit, including Keith Ludwig (chair), Mark Hansen, Jack Kindinger, Jennifer Miselis, and Dave Zawada, unanimously recommended the name to SPCMSC director Richard Poore, who approved it June 19. By convention, boat names are two or three syllables, so they can be easily understood on the radio. There is also a tradition that names carry a meaning special to the boat. Hopefully, the R/V Sallenger will carry on Abby's legacy to the Center proudly.

posted: 2013-07-01

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