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Florida Geological Survey - Coastal Research Projects

  Florida has more than 1260 miles of coastline-more than any other state in the continental United States. This coastline includes world famous beaches as well as 25 percent of the country’s environmentally sensitive wetlands, all of which represents a major economic draw for the state’s tourist industry attracting 35.31 billion dollars in 1999 . Annually, hurricanes and strong winter storms cause substantial erosion to Florida’s coastline resulting in follow-up beach restoration efforts. this picture illustrates beach sand sampling on the southwest Florida coast.To address these concerns, the Florida Geological Survey (FGS) began coastal research studies in 1991 to locate new offshore beach sand sources, evaluate the response of coastal wetlands to sea level changes as well as locate and evaluate offshore springs as a potential source of potable water.

The projects are partially funded through cooperative agreements with various federal agencies including the United States Geological Survey, the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE; formerly the Minerals Management Service), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Follow this link to view outcomes of some of these agreements.


The Florida Geological Survey is located in the Gunter Building on the campus of Florida State University (FSU). Research facilities at the FGS include a geological research library, a sample repository, and laboratories. The library contains an extensive collection of state and federal publications, periodicals, and references. The repository holds cores and well cutting samples from more than 19,000 wells (both onshore and offshore). Click here to view map showing locations where cores have been collected.

Laboratory facilities include:
  • a sedimentology lab containing diamond rock-saws for core processing
  • Meinzer II sieve shakers
  • ovens for drying samples
  • balances and sample preparation equipment for clay mineralogy, organic/carbonate content and micro/nannofossil studies
  • an alpha spectrometer to permit Pb-210 dating of recent sediments and isotopic dating of recent carbonate sediments including cave speleothems and coral reefs

The FGS also has cooperative agreements with several of FSU's departments to use laboratories and analytical equipment. Additionally, the FGS maintains an offshore geophysical data acquisition and processing capability through equipment it possesses, equipment possessed by cooperative research agreements with the United States Geological Survey Coastal Research Division in St. Petersburg, Florida, and data processing programs licensed from various vendors.

The FGS fleet of research vessels includes:
  • the 50’ RV GeoQuest (capable of extended offshore investigations)

  • a 24’ shallow draft Carolina skiff and various other small craft.

The FGS inventory of coastal field equipment includes the following portable and vessel-deployed instruments and equipment:
  • A Marine Sonics Side Scan Sonar sytem operating in 300, 600 or 1200 kHz
  • An Acoustic Doppler Profiler for measuring offshore spring flow
  • A Geopulse 2 to 15 kHz variable frequency subsurface acoustic profiling system
  • A Benthos CHIRP II variable frequency sub-bottom acoustic profiling system
  • A seagoing vibro-core system capable of operating at water depths up to 100'
  • A jet probe for determining sediment thickness above bedrock
  • A number of water quality loggers for on-site measurement of salinity, temperature, depth, pH, conductivity, and turbidity
  • A Sediment Elevation Table (SET) for measuring short-term marsh accretion and response to storm events
  • A cryogenic coring device for measuring marsh accretion rates
  • An In-Situ water level indicator for determining depth to water table in ground water monitoring wells
  • FGS computer graphics equipment (for digital graphics input, as well as publication and presentation output)
  • A Hypack Vessel Navigation and digital data acquisition system
  • Chesapeake Technology digital data processing software for acquisition and processing of side scan sonar and sub-bottom profiler data.
Current Projects

Staff have been involved in the compilation of a statewide atlas of Florida beach sediments. All coastal county beaches have been sampled and analyzed, and a final FGS publication is in preparation. The analysis of high resolution acoustic profiler data in federal waters offshore of northeast and central east coast of Florida is currently planned. this picture illustrates erosion 
        on one of the beaches

The FGS has a long term relationship with the former Minerals Management Service (now Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) which utilizes FGS/ BOEM funds to qualify and quantify reserves of beach sediment restoration quality sand in federal waters on the continental shelf adjacent to the coast of Florida. This has resulted in the extensive analysis of sediments off the northeast, east central and panhandle coast of Florida through the collection of geophysical data, vibracores and grab samples.

Studies in Apalachee Bay, Deadman’s Bay and Old Navy Cove to characterize surface bottom sediments and features have been completed.  In these studies the Coastal Research Program imaged bottom features using high resolution side scan sonar

The Offshore Springs Investigation is an innovative FGS study designed to identify Florida’s offshore freshwater springs, characterize the spring flow and water quality, and model the environmental impact and feasibility of diverting spring water onshore for use by the coastal communities facing severe potable water shortages.

The FGS has also participated in a study to characterize the interaction between two major spring systems within the Woodville Karst Plain (WKP). This includes quantifying the interaction between surface and ground water in the WKP. Collectively, these studies will help in calculating the water budget for the Woodville Karst Plain. In addition to boats, this investigation requires flow meters, water level loggers and automatic water samplers.


The FGS coastal studies staff consists of a licensed Professional Geologist who serves as principal investigator and a Marine Captain/Marine Mechanic to operate the R/V GeoSearch and smaller vessels.  Other full- and part-time staff are available depending on project requirements. The principal investigator has significant experience in Florida geology, coastal processes, continental shelf sedimentation and marine geophysical data acquisition, processing and analysis.

In addition, the coastal staff collaborates with various marine geology departments around the state. This includes the University of Florida, University of South Florida, Florida Institute of Technology and Florida Institute of Oceanography.

This collaboration between the FGS and various university departments provides opportunities for directed graduate research studies funded through employment on the FGS research grants. The FGS is committed to continuing applied research to further our understanding of Florida's coastal ecosystems and processes. This research will provide information that is essential for planning wise development as well as the conservation and protection of Florida's valuable coastal resources.

Last updated: November 10, 2014

  3000 Commonwealth Blvd., Suite 1   Tallahassee, Florida 32303   850-617-0300 (phone)  850-617-0341 (fax)
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