Putting the ‘T’ in ‘STEAM’: using technology to share USGS research with the next generation of scientists

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The St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center and the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center shared U.S. Geological Survey science via live, virtual sessions and pre-recorded video presentations at the annual St. Petersburg Science Festival.

Screenshot of St. Pete Science Festival website showing two videos from the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center

The Wetland and Aquatic Research Center shared USGS science at the annual St. Petersburg Science Festival.

(Courtesy: Alison Barlow, SPSF)

This article is part of the September-October 2021 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter.


For more than 10 years, the St. Petersburg Science Festival (Florida) has showcased STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) activities with elementary school children and the public over a two-day event. Normally, the event is held in-person at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus at the heart of St. Pete’s Innovation District. However, circumstances like tropical storms and global pandemics have pushed the event to go virtual three years in a row.

The festival steering committee, comprised of local leaders of STEAM organizations (including representation from USGS) made the best of the situation and established an online platform to showcase the festival. The virtual nature of the event allowed for classes and virtual learners from across the U.S. to join our community to celebrate STEAM.

WARC contributed six pre-recorded videos, including five videos on wetland science and a video highlighting Cuban treefrogs, which was created with help from WARC scientists Cayla Morningstar (CNSS) and Bones Glorioso.





Screenshot of St. Pete Science Festival website showing five videos from the USGS St. Pete office

The St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center shared U.S. Geological Survey science at the annual St. Petersburg Science Festival. 

(Courtesy: Alison Barlow, SPSF)

The St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) submitted three pre-recorded videos. The first was a virtual walk-through tour of the USGS St. Pete office, led by Deputy Director Chris Reich. The tour includes a glimpse into the Coral Microbial Ecology lab, a look at our research vessels, and a quick peek at how we split, study, and archive cores. Details of core collection from barrier islands and how we study sediment movement are revealed in the video, “Secrets of the Sand on Barrier Islands,” in which scientists Daniel Ciarletta, Julie Bernier, and Emily Wei describe why cores are important for understanding how islands change over time. Another video, “What is Bathymetry?” directed by Meaghan Emory and Chelsea Stalk, explains how SPCMSC staff measure the depth of the seafloor and why this work is important.

SPCMSC scientists Meg Palmsten and Michael Itzkin also conducted a live presentation during the festival’s “School Day” session about how water shapes our beaches and how USGS studies and predicts storm impacts. Their presentation featured an explanation of the Total Water Level and Coastal Change Forecast viewer, and featured some of the scientific tools used to predict coastal change. During the presentation, kids also got to see underwater footage from our divers deploying scientific instruments off Madeira Beach, Florida – right near St. Pete!

USGS SPCMSC and WARC are proud to be a continued supporter of STEAM education in our local community and look forward to participating in future festivals, whether in-person or online.

Learn more about the festival at www.stpetescifest.org.




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