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SPCMSC Scientists to Investigate Geology of Pinellas County, Florida Barrier Islands

SPCMSC geologists Daniel Ciarletta, Julie Bernier, and Nancy DeWitt will be collecting field data from the barrier islands of Pinellas County, Florida, to learn about their past evolution beginning in mid to late February.

USGS geologists surveying the beach at Caladesi Island, FL
Mendenhall postdoctoral fellow Daniel Ciarletta and geologist Julie Bernier perform field reconnaissance at Caladesi Island, along the Gulf coast of central Florida. The scientists are refining a plan to sample and survey the island using sediment vibracores and ground-penetrating radar. (Credit: Hunter Wilcox, USGS. Public domain.)

The barrier islands of the Pinellas County coast are among the most dynamic in the world, providing an ideal natural laboratory to study how changes in sediment availability and sea-level rise impact island morphology on the scale of decades to centuries. As part of his Mendenhall fellowship, SPCMSC Research Geologist Daniel Ciarletta, in conjunction with scientists working on the Coastal Sediment Availability and Flux project, will investigate the past evolution of the Pinellas barrier islands using computer models informed by real-world geology. Research will take place at Anclote Key Preserve State Park, Honeymoon and Caladesi Island State Parks, and Fort De Soto Park. The primary objective of the work is to quantify rates of coastal change that occurred prior to the 20th century, which will provide a baseline to predict future island evolution. To inform model simulations of the Pinellas barriers, field data to be acquired include ground-penetrating radar profiles to determine the structure of the subsurface, and sediment cores to analyze stratigraphy and sedimentology. Select sediment samples will be sent to the Luminescence Dating Laboratory at the Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center in Denver, CO, to provide estimates of age. 

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