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Dear FGS friends and customers,

Welcome once again to our quarterly newsletter, FGS News and Research.  Our Spring Issue highlights outreach and educational activities, including those related to the Seffner sinkhole tragedy.  Also included are highlights of mapping projects in northeastern Florida, including the STATEMAP USGS cooperative program and an ESRI award to support existing geomorphic mapping in the region.  As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact
me as I would welcome discovering ways we can serve you better.

Best regards,

Jonathan D. Arthur, Ph.D., P.G.
Director and State Geologist
Office of the Florida Geological Survey
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

In This issue Bar

•Interest in Florida Sinkholes Launches Congressional Briefing   More…

•FGS Assists with Public Health Assessments for Contaminated Sites More…

•Education and Outreach Opportunities Offered to Public   More…

•FGS Receives ESRI® and PCI Geomatics Natural Resources Imagery Grant More…

•Seffner Sinkhole Incident Incites National Media Attention More…

STATEMAP Program Receives Near-Record Federal Funding for Geologic Mapping More…

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FGS Director Jon Arthur speaks about geological hazards before staff of the Committee on Natural Resources in Washington, D.C
The sinkhole incident in late February launched interest at a Federal level regarding this particular geologic hazard. Thanks to planning coordination from the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), a briefing on sinkholes was held on April 15, 2013 before staff of the House Natural Resources Committee in Washington, D.C. The briefing also received organizational support from Representative Steve Southerland from Florida’s Second District. Sponsors of the event included the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI), Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG), American Geosciences Institute (AGI), and the Association of American State Geologists (AASG).
Jon Arthur was among the speakers on the panel, representing Florida as State Geologist, as well as the AASG. Other speakers included David Weary and Dan Doctor (U.S. Geological Survey), Mike Knight (AEG), and Gannett Fleming, Inc. With assistance from Florida’s Executive Office of the Governor staff in Washington, D.C., Dr. Arthur also had the opportunity to meet with Senator Bill Nelson, who showed an interest in sinkholes and groundwater issues in the State of Florida.

Contact person/info: Jonathan Arthur

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Florida Department of health logo

Contaminated sites are areas in which hazardous substances occur at concentrations that are likely to pose an immediate or long-term hazard to human health or the environment.  Specific to human health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has funded a Florida Department of Health (DOH) program since 1987 to assess the public health risk from exposure to chemicals at hazardous waste sites.  The DOH periodically issues Public Health Assessments and other reports to keep the general public informed.  The DOH reports are not in-depth health studies of individuals or groups of people, nor do they set standards or cleanup levels for a site; however, they do focus on site-related issues and reviews of environmental data to characterize the site as a whole.  

At the request of DOH, the FGS is providing a geological overview of up to ten of these sites per year, in the hopes of deconvoluting site specific data and interpretations submitted to DOH. These geological overviews are based on data that the FGS has in various data sets, and are incorporated into the Public Health Assessment reports for the site under review to provide a consistent geological framework. This helps place detailed technical reports in context.

Contact person/info: Harley Means 

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FGS’ Traci Billingsley greets local teachers and students with a smile at the Capitol’s recent Earth Day celebration.At the Capitol Building in Tallahassee on April 19, the FGS participated in the celebration of Earth Day. Several DEP offices and more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers and community members also participated in various interactive displays tailored to the Department's 2013 Earth Day Event theme, Greening STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math): Taking Technology Outdoors. Frank Rupert and Traci Billingsley were present at the FGS booth, answering questions from students and educators, and sharing information and resources about the geology of Florida.

FGS’ involvement in Education and Outreach activities has certainly not been limited to Earth Day since the release of FGS News’ Winter Edition in February 2013. Assistant State Geologist Harley Means led a team from Florida State University (FSU) to see outcrops that will be part of a student’s thesis. He also led a field trip to Alum Bluff for a paleontology class from the University of South Florida.

University students’ opportunities to learn about the geology behind environmental protection are frequent, in part due to the FGS’ dedicated staff.  Director Jon Arthur, for example, gave presentations at FSU on "Hydrogeology of Florida" and "Geology and Land Use" in the Departments of Geosciences and Urban and Regional Planning.

In late February, 38 students from the FSU Environmental Science “capstone” class toured the FGS sample repository.  During the facility tour, students learned about applied geoscience related to drilling, geophysical applications and laboratory experiments in support of natural resource conservation and water resource protection.  Professional Geologists David Paul, Harley Means, Clint Kromhout, and Christopher Williams ran different “learning stations” that were set up at the facility. The tour and stations included a drill rig, borehole geophysical logging tools, ground penetrating radar, geologic sample processing, description and archiving, geochemistry lab, and a scanning electron microscope lab.

FGS Professional Geologist Dan Phelps aided an FSU geology class with preparation for a field trip to collect cores during the spring semester, and then shared his expertise by showing the students how to split the cores so that members of the class could analyze them. Of course, education provided by FGS geologists is not just limited to students. Harley Means recently visited St. Johns River and Suwannee River Water Management District staff members, as well as local citizens in Bradford County, in order to see one of the state’s most impressive cover-collapse sinkholes.  Mr. Means provided a geologic overview of the strata exposed in the sinkhole and led a discussion on the hydrology of the area.

In the wake of the tragic sinkhole event in Seffner Florida in early March, the FGS has also had numerous opportunities to educate the public on subsidence incidents (see “Seffner Sinkhole Incident” and “Congressional Briefing” articles). FGS staff never forgets its mission to provide objective, quality geologic information about Florida to the public.

Contact person/info: Sarah Allen 

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FGS Receives ESRI® and PCI Geomatics Natural Resources Imagery Grant
Imagery study area.
The Florida Geological Survey has recently been awarded a grant to perform enhanced geomorphic and geologic mapping in Northeast Florida. The grant provides ESRI® software, PCI Geomatics imaging tools, and approximately 1,000 square kilometers of recent satellite imagery of the study area (left). The grant complements a project, already in progress, to map a much larger area for the National Park Service along the northeast coast of Florida.  The study area is outlined on the map.

To date, the FGS has received imagery in the form of RapidEye multispectral images at five-meter resolution for the study area. This can be used to extract natural and manmade features by filtering the different wavelengths of light reflected from surfaces. RadarSat-2 imagery, which uses Synthetic Aperture Radar with multiple polarization modes, has three-meter resolution and should be helpful in extruding features or using a set of images of the same area over time to detect changes. The FGS envisages the RadarSat-2 imagery, paired with the image classification software, to have a role in future STATEMAP projects. This software also has potential to detect past subsidence events in previously unmapped areas.

Contact person/info: Alan Baker 

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Seffner Sinkhole Incident Prompts National Media Attention
The occurrence in Seffner led to unprecedented public interest in subsidence incidents.On February 28, 2013, a tragedy occurred in Seffner, Florida that led to loss of a life. As with previous incidents involving sinkhole deaths (there have been four in Florida), the DEP/FGS was ready to respond, but certainly didn’t anticipate the worldwide media attention that arose from the event.

In the month and a half following the Seffner tragedy, five subsidence incidents were reported within two miles. Meanwhile, across the nation, other sinkholes occurred, including one in Waterloo, Illinois in which an individual on a golf course was swallowed and injured by a sinkhole.

The Florida DEP fielded more than 32 interviews in response to the Seffner incident, most of which were addressed by the FGS.  Florida State Geologist Jon Arthur was interviewed for a variety of live broadcasts, ranging from Fox News to New Zealand.

Compared to web traffic in the prior months, hits to the FGS website increased fourfold in the first few days of March, exceeding more than 750,000 hits within a week of the incident. The massive increase in media attention led to an opportunity for geosciences education at a national level (see “Congressional Briefing” article).

International interest continues, with Assistant State Geologist Harley Means being interviewed by film crews from Belgian Public Television and, more recently, Dr. Arthur appearing on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.  Interviews with BBC are currently in progress.

Contact person/info: Jonathan Arthur 

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Florida DEP Banner


CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, 


~Grant will increase knowledge of geology, which helps improve land-use planning in northeastern area of Florida~

TALLAHASSEE – The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Geological Survey has been awarded $193,183 by the U.S Geological Survey to produce a detailed geologic map of a portion of northeast Florida. The STATEMAP grant is the fourth-highest award amount distributed nationwide this year for work that will begin in September and is expected to be publicly available for digital download by December 2014.

“The funding provided by the USGS allows us to produce a geologic map in support of the societal, economic and scientific welfare needs of Florida,” said STATEMAP Project Manager Rick Green. “Our goal is to make these findings readily available and accessible to the public.”

The benefits of this type of mapping include a more comprehensive understanding of the distribution of rock, mineral and groundwater resources, including vulnerability of aquifers to contamination. These maps are also important in providing shallow subsurface geological information that can be used in understanding sinkholes and other geologic hazards.

The mapping effort involves extensive field work over a 12 month period, including visits to accessible rock and sediment exposures in mines and other excavated areas, as well as natural exposures in rivers, streams, sinkholes and springs. To better understand the underlying geologic units, project staff inspect rock and sediment samples from hundreds of wells, including new wells drilled in support of the project to fill data gaps. Extensive data management and map making in a geographic information system platform is also involved.    

This work is conducted under the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which serves to create a national geologic database that is accessible to the public. The STATEMAP Advisory Council, which is comprised of geologists and engineers in Florida, prioritized the St. Augustine quadrangle as the primary focus for this year’s work.

The approximately 2,000 square mile area was approved due to its location adjacent to current project mapping underway in the Daytona Beach area, as well as an additional project being conducted along the northeast coast of Florida funded by the National Park Service and Florida Geological Survey. This will allow the Florida Geological Survey to maximize its resources and expand upon existing data. 

Since its inception in 1994, this component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program has funded more than $4.6 million in support of mapping to benefit Florida’s residents and environment, covering an area of more than 13,000 square miles.

Data gathered by the STATEMAP program is also used by other agencies in Florida. The Florida Department of Transportation used information from mapped STATEMAP projects for an assessment of strategic aggregate reserves in the state and to develop a better understanding of the geology in support of projects, such as the Florida Future Corridors program.

The maps are published annually and released in segments online. To learn more about mapping projects in your area, visit

Contact person/info: Rick Green 

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FDEP Office of the Florida Geological Survey | 903 W. Tennessee Street. MS 720 | Tallahassee | FL | 32304 | 850-617-0300 |