What better way to celebrate the wonders of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) than hosting a virtual Science Festival?
A Virtual Celebration of Science
This article is part of the October-November 2020 issue of the Sound Waves newsletter.
Like many other events across the world in 2020, this year’s St. Petersburg Science Festival was held online. This annual event, now in its tenth year, invites local schools and the science-interested public to come explore topics in STEAM fields. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been an official sponsor and exhibitor since the festival’s creation and continued supporting the event in its virtual setting. Despite this new format, the festival was still a success!
Virtual festival success
The festival’s School Day Sneak Peak occurred on Friday, October 16, when students from around the country followed along in 20 different live sessions of scientists leading STEAM demonstrations and activities - from the comfort of their home or classroom! The virtual festival, held on October 17, was open to the public and included pre-recorded videos from science organizations and institutions around the Nation to discuss STEAM topics such as technology, art, marine science, and life science. The online format provided an opportunity to reach more students than previous years; forty-seven schools advanced registered 3,345 students while many home school and virtual learning students were also able to jump in on the fun!
Using jet skis to map the ocean
The USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center took students on a virtual adventure in the field during the virtual 2020 St. Petersburg Science Festival to show students how we collect bathymetry data, which tells us the depth of the ocean floor. During the St. Petersburg Science Festival School Day, the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center took students on a virtual adventure in the field. Our team of scientists climbed on board personal watercrafts (commonly called jet skis) to show students how we collect bathymetry data, which tells us the depth of the ocean floor. In this trip, our scientists ventured out into Tampa Bay near the new St. Petersburg Pier to map the channel depth leading into Bayboro Harbor – home to institutions such as the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Port of St. Petersburg, and U.S. Coast Guard St. Petersburg. Students learned how the speed of sound is used to calculate water depth and used this knowledge to calculate depths in their own bathymetry map through our interactive worksheet.
Studying how the beach changes
For the public virtual festival, USGS created three exciting videos for everyone to enjoy from two different science centers. The USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center discussed their research about coastal change and the hazards they pose in a video taking place at the beach. USGS oceanographer Kara Doran explained the various tools and techniques our scientists use to study and predict how our beaches change over time, especially during storms. Our scientists use these data to create models that help predict how high water levels can get along our coasts – forecasts that are available in the Total Water Level and Coastal Change Hazards forecast viewer. These studies are important for protecting people and animals that live along our nation’s coastlines.
Our diverse world – from invasive pythons to deep sea corals
Scientists from the USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center (WARC) showcased their research on invasive species like the Burmese python and Indo-Pacific lionfish. They explained how students can submit non-native and invasive plant and animal sightings to the Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database to help them track these nonnative species! They also discussed their deep-sea research, conducted with underwater robots and submersibles. These amazing tools allow our scientists to study the unique animals and habitats that can be found at the very bottom of the ocean. This science conducted by WARC helps natural resource managers develop and implement effective strategies to better manage and conserve our Nation’s important aquatic and wetland ecosystems.
The USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center is proud to support the St. Petersburg Science Festival, an event that helps inspire younger generations to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, art, and math to encourage interest and future advancements in these fields.
Special thanks to the team at the Wetland and Aquatic Research Center: Kaitlin Kovacs (WARC), Cayla Morningstar (Cherokee Nation System Solutions (CNSS); Nonindigenous Aquatic Species team), and Jonathan Quigley (CNSS; WARC Benthic Ecology Lab); and the team at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center: Justin Birchler, Kara Doran, Nancy DeWitt, Andy Farmer, Jennifer Miselis, BJ Reynolds, Chelsea Stalk, and Emily Wei for assisting in planning, production of these virtual outreach activities.