Research Geologist Christopher G. Smith to be featured in episode of Changing Seas titled, "Florida's Blue Holes: Oases in the Sea"

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PBS’s Changing Seas docuseries will be airing an original episode on blue holes, featuring research being conducted by USGS and partners on the West Florida Shelf.  Blue holes are submerged sinkholes off the coast of Florida that are considered ecological hotspots for marine biodiversity. 

Research geologist Christopher G. Smith of the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center (SPCMSC) was interviewed and will be featured in the episode. His role in this collaborative project is to study the influence of ocean-aquifer exchange in these environments and expand our understanding of blue hole geochemistry.

This research is part of a collaborative project funded by the Ocean Exploration Federal Funding Opportunity that includes Mote Marine Laboratory, University of Georgia, and Florida Atlantic University, with collaboration by USGS SPCMSC. Offshore submerged sinkhole and spring features have received limited scientific study, as they frequently exceed normal scuba limits, reaching depths of greater than 130 meters, and exhibit openings too small for access with many submersibles. These blue holes host several commercially important fish species and can be considered ecological hotspots with respect to species composition and diversity. Because of groundwater discharge, the organic matter deposition, and circulation regimes, parameters such as temperature, salinity, light, turbidity, circulation, dissolved oxygen, pH, redox, trace metal and carbonate chemistry, and sediment types are heterogeneous and satisfy various biological niches. The principal objectives of this work were to: 1) repurpose and repackage existing high-tech marine biogeochemical instrumentation for the purpose of creating a benthic lander appropriate for efficient exploration of these difficult-to-access environments; 2) show proof-of-concept by deploying the platform in conjunction with more frequent macrofauna surveys, genomics, and geochemical sampling of two known blue holes at depths greater than 100 meters; and 3) disseminate exciting data and images through innovative means that will immediately captivate the minds of the public and garner future interest from scientists. This project is aligned with programmatic goals of the USGS Coastal and Marine Hazards and Resources Program focused on ocean-aquifer exchange as captured in past (Coastal Aquifer Project – P. Swarzenski, K. Kroeger, C. Smith) and current projects (Biogeochemical Drivers of Wetland Persistence and Feedbacks on Coastal Hazards – K. Kroeger).

It will be shown on South Florida PBS WPBT2 on Wednesday, June 24th at 8 PM, and on WXEL Sunday, June 28th at 9 PM. It will also be available on the same day and time live on Facebook and YouTube.

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