Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

A team of researchers, including Dr. Christopher G. Smith of the U.S. Geological Survey St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center, received a $2.3M NSF grant to advance understanding of the sources and fluxes of various nutrients to the West Florida Shelf – important factors for algae growth, including species known for large blooms.

a scientist sits on the edge of a boat on the ocean with an instrument submerged in a sample tube of water
Dr. Christopher G. Smith pumps water from a submarine groundwater well on the seafloor through tubing to the R/V Halimeda and uses an instrument called a YSI to measure salinity and ensure the wells are working properly and producing groundwater. These types of wells allow scientists to monitor submarine groundwater through time and quantify the flux of groundwater from Florida’s aquifer into the coastal waters of the west Florida Shelf. The groundwater could carry nutrients that could potentially influence algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 

Submarine groundwater discharge is a hydrological process characterized by the flow of fresh and brackish groundwater from land into the sea. It plays an important role in moving nutrients, trace elements, and gases that are often used by phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants that serve as the base of the food web) throughout ocean waters. The West Florida Shelf is considered nutrient-depleted, but some forms of phytoplankton are thriving despite this. This work will enhance understanding of nutrient fluxes from submarine groundwater and other boundary sources into the Gulf of Mexico and how these nutrient sources may be available to phytoplankton blooms.  

Principal Investigators from Florida State University, University of South Florida, Old Dominion University, Oregon State University, and the USGS SPCMSC met at the USF College of Marine Sciences last week to discuss the objective of the project with newly recruited students, to refine the research cruise schedule, and to compare sampling methods.  A small team met to discuss sampling methods at a site along the Hillsborough River and at offshore marine wells used to sample submarine groundwater discharge.

 

 

Read the press release from Florida State University partners about this work.

 

 

A team from the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center heads out into the Gulf of Mexico to check on a set of recently installed groundwater wells. These types of wells allow scientists to monitor submarine groundwater through time and quantify the flux of groundwater from Florida’s aquifer into the coastal waters of the west Florida Shelf. The groundwater could carry nutrients that could potentially influence algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Christopher G. Smith pumps water from the well through tubing to the R/V Halimeda to ensure the wells are working properly and producing groundwater. USGS Summer Intern Sam Randall from Eckerd College is on board to assist. Divers splash in to check the second set of wells closer to shore. Water from the well has lower salinity than the overlying surface water, confirming that groundwater is pumping through the wells. The team is one step closer to sampling the groundwater from this system to answer important questions about submarine groundwater flow out of Florida’s coastal aquifers to the west Florida Shelf. Listen to the audio-described version. Watch video in full screen

Related Content