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News stories posted in the last 60 days. For information about a story, contact Betsy Boynton.

USGS scientists publish new study on modeling barrier island response to hurricane storm surge under future sea level rise

SPCMSC researchers Davina Passeri, Nathaniel Plant and Joe Long, along with colleagues from Louisiana State University, have published a journal article entitled "Dynamic modeling of barrier island response to hurricane storm surge under future sea level rise" ( in Climatic Change. The study uses the process-based model XBeach to examine the morphodynamic response of Dauphin Island, Alabama, to storm surge from hurricanes Ivan (2004) and Katrina (2005) under present-day conditions and projections of future sea level rise. Results illustrate the triple-coupled interactions and feedbacks between sea level, storms and morphology, and improve the understanding of longer-term barrier island evolution in the context of storm events.

posted: 2018-08-09

USGS scientist to speak at research workshop

On July 30–31, 2018, Dawn Goldsmith (Molecular Biologist, SPCMSC) participated in a workshop that gathered members of the scientific community who are united by their research on the temperate coral Astrangia poculata. The purpose of the workshop was to report results and to brainstorm ideas for further examining A. poculata as a model system of a coral holobiont. As part of the workshop, Goldsmith gave a talk entitled "Astrangia microbiome: Comparing clone libraries to next-generation microbiome." This research examines the microbiome associated with this facultatively symbiotic species of temperate coral, and compares microbiomes from samples of different symbiont status, collected in different seasons, and sequenced using different platforms.

posted: 2018-08-03

USGS scientists publish a new study that advances the capability to quantitatively reconstruct past ocean temperature from coral geochemistry

The article "Quantifying uncertainty in Sr/Ca-based estimates of SST from the coral Orbicella faveolata"; has been accepted for publication in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology. The strontium to calcium ratio (Sr/Ca) in aragonitic skeletons of massive corals provides a proxy for sea surface temperature (SST) that can be used to reconstruct paleoclimates across decades, centuries, and, potentially, millennia. This study produced a new, regional-scale Sr/Ca-SST calibration for Orbicella faveolata using five modern Orbicella faveolata corals from Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, USA. This study also examined the sources of uncertainty that influence the robustness of the Sr/Ca paleothermometer and discovered that the precision of the O. faveolata paleothermometer is ~2 ℃ for decadal-scale comparisons and ~1 ℃ across multi-decadal timescales.

posted: 2018-07-17

Photo from offshore of Fire Island: nearshore geophysical mapping with sub-bottom sled (foreground), personal watercraft equipped with echosounders (background, water) and beach-based personnel (background, beach).USGS scientists successfully acquire repeat geophysical data at Fire Island National Seashore

USGS personnel Jennifer Miselis (Research Geologist), BJ Reynolds (Engineering Technician), Nancy DeWitt (Geologist), Andy Farmer (CNT), Jake Fredericks (Hydrographic Technician), Mitch Lemon (Field Technician), Chelsea Stalk (CNT), Nesti Stathakopoulos (Oceanographer), and Hunter Wilcox (CNT) traveled to Fire Island National Seashore along the south shore of Long Island, New York, to conduct a geophysical survey in coordination with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The objective of the field effort was to remeasure seafloor elevations and sub-seafloor geology in areas that were surveyed in 2014 in order to quantify change in shoreface sediment availability and flux, some of the first data of its kind. The bathymetry of Wilderness Breach, which has remained open since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, was also remapped to help better understand the post-storm morphological evolution of a natural inlet. Seafloor elevations were mapped using two personal watercraft (PWC) equipped with echosounders. Unlike the 2014 survey, when an amphibious vessel was used to map the shoreface geology, this survey was the first time SPCMSC researchers launched an Edgetech 512i from the beach using a wheeled sled and SPCMSC Research Vessel (R/V) Sallenger. The specialized sled was the result of a collaborative effort of the SPCMSC Marine Operations group and the survey could not have been completed without it. Over approximately 3 weeks and with incredible effort, the PWCs covered 715 km and the sled covered 330 km to successfully complete the field work.

posted: 2018-07-17

USGS scientists host National Science Foundation undergraduate students from Mote Marine Laboratory

Several undergraduate students who were awarded internships at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida, through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) Program will visit the Saint Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC). Since their internship research is often focused on topics in biological oceanography, in addition to touring the facility, the students will learn about USGS research in coastal geology and the tools used to do that research. SPCMSC scientist Jennifer Miselis (Research Geologist) will host the students and provide an overview of coastal geological research. The SPCMSC Marine Operations group will stage equipment and vessels so the students can learn how geophysical data are acquired. Noreen Buster (Geologist) will provide an overview of sediment sampling and coring capabilities in the core laboratory. Finally, a panel comprised of Xan Fredericks (Cartographer/Lidar Coordinator), RC Mickey (Oceanographer), and Caitlin Reynolds (Geologist) will answer questions from the students regarding their career paths, USGS research, and what it's like to be a career scientist.

posted: 2018-07-17

USGS Researcher interviewed on Public Radio's Science Friday

SPCMSC research marine biologist Ilsa B. Kuffner was interviewed live by Ira Flatow on Public Radio’s Science Friday last week. The recording is available here. She was asked to explain the findings of a paper she co-authored that was published last week in the Journal of Applied Ecology on the subject of coral-reef “oases”, and to speculate how the results of the paper can help resource managers. She said the results of the study offer hope by demonstrating that pockets of reef still exist that are doing better than expected, likely because of the complex patchwork of environmental conditions in the nearshore oceans and the breadth of coral diversity on many levels. The paper is a product of a USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis working group focused on understanding local-scale coral reef resilience amid global-scale ocean change.

posted: 2018-06-29

USGS Scientists collect new coral-core archives from the reefs off southeast Florida

Dr. Lauren Toth (Research Oceanographer, SPCMSC) will be leading an expedition to the nearshore coral reefs of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties in Florida to collect new coral-core archives for paleoclimate studies. The skeletons of the long-lived, reef-building coral, Orbicella faveolata can provide valuable archives of both long-term changes in coral growth and past climate variability; however, obtaining records from this coral on modern reefs has been complicated by declines in its population. Recently, researchers at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) discovered more than 100 large O. favolata colonies living in the nearshore environments off Broward and Miami-Dade Counties and researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) have documented numerous large, 3000-yr old O. faveolata colonies in northern Broward County. Toth and Anastasios Stathakopoulos (SPCMSC Oceanographer) have developed a collaboration with the researchers at NSU and FAU to use the newly-discovered corals to better understand the environmental history of southeast Florida. In mid-July, Toth, Stathakopoulos, Nathan Smiley (South-Eastern Region Dive Safety Officer), Hunter Wilcox (CNT contractor at SPCMSC), and Alex Modys (Ph.D. student at FAU) will carry-out a research expedition to collect new coral cores from O. faveolata colonies throughout the region. These cores will be analyzed by researchers at SPCMSC to reconstruct long-term history of coral growth and environmental variability in southeast Florida.

posted: 2018-06-29

New article resulting from Powell Center working group reports on coral-reef 'oases'

Three USGS research scientists contribute to study that finds glimmers of hope for some coral reefs. SPCMSC researchers Ilsa B. Kuffner and Lauren T. Toth, and WARC researcher Caroline S. Rogers, contributed to a study published this week in the Journal of Applied Ecology titled “A framework for identifying and characterizing coral-reef ‘oases’ against a backdrop of degradation.” The paper is a product of a USGS John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis working group focused on understanding local-scale coral reef resilience amid global-scale ocean change. Oases are defined as sites that have exhibited consistently higher coral cover compared to sites within a defined region. Thirty-eight sites out of 123 in Hawaii, Florida, French Polynesia, and the US Virgin Islands were characterized as oases. The international team of 18 scientists hopes their new findings will encourage further study into why coral cover at these locations is increasing or remaining stable while it is decreasing at so many surrounding areas, and inspire efforts to identify similar “oases” in other places and in other ecosystems. The collaborative effort of scientists from twelve institutions across the world was made possible by a grant from the Powell Center, which offers competitive opportunities for collaborative synthesis and analysis in Earth systems science.

posted: 2018-06-29

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