FGS News and Research Spring 2017

Spring 2017 FGS Newsletter banner

Greetings, and welcome to the Spring 2017 edition of FGS News and Research. In this issue, we're taking a look at Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and its important uses statewide. In addition, we're highlighting our library of geologic information located at FGS headquarters in Tallahassee, along with our digital List of Publications and web catalog. I also invite you to learn more about lithostratigraphy and how geologists define formations in this newsletter’s GEOFACT.

There are many reasons I continue to be proud to lead such an effective organization. During the past few months, hundreds of Florida citizens have benefited from our robust outreach program through lectures, field trips and our mobile laboratory of rocks and minerals. Our dedicated staff take part in these events, along with managing multiple projects to meet the DEP and FGS’s goals and mission. Our annual FGS Awards ceremony held at Maclay Gardens recently allowed me to express my gratitude to a few of these individuals.


Jon Arthur

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


Lithostratigraphy: Not Just Greek for Geologists

Saying the word “lithostratigraphy” may be cumbersome, but it describes a fascinating study of geologic materials. Stratigraphy is the branch of geology that deals with the study of strata, or the layers of sedimentary rock that have accumulated over geologic time. There are different focus areas of stratigraphy; for example, the study of fossils contained within the layers is called biostratigraphy (“bio” is Greek for “life,” and fossils are proof of life). The study of ages of these layers is called chronostratigraphy (“chrono is Greek for “time”), and the focus on the rock and sediment composition is called lithostratigraphy (“lithos” is Greek for “rock”).

Formations are the basic rock units that are used in stratigraphy and are defined by the geologic materials, or lithology, that comprise a rock layer. Geologists follow rules when defining a formation. These rules are laid out in the North American Stratigraphic Code, which was developed to ensure that geologists are consistent in how they define stratigraphic units.

A formation must be mappable and easily recognized over a broad area. Additionally, to properly define a lithostratigraphic unit, a geologist must define and describe the lithology of the unit and show that it is different enough from adjacent rock layers that it can be recognized by other geologists. If the formation is exposed at the surface, a "type section" is designated for reference, while if a formation occurs below the ground, a type core taken using a drill rig may be used instead.

An example of a lithostratigraphic unit is the Anastasia Formation on Florida's East Coast. This formation is primarily comprised of quartz sand and seashells that have been cemented together to form coquina. The lithology is recognizable, and occurs over a large enough area that it can be depicted on maps at various scales. The Anastasia Formation is a formal lithostratigraphic unit because its lithologic character has been described and the extent of where this formation occurs, both laterally and vertically, has been mapped and defined. 

Torreya Formation

Let’s look at an example of lithostratigraphy in action. The Miocene Torreya Formation was first described and named by geologists Joe Banks and Muriel Hunter in 1973. The Torreya Formation’s lithology is a clayey, quartz sandy, phosphatic carbonate that contains Early Miocene marine fossils. Almost 100 feet of the formation is exposed along the east bank of the Apalachicola River at Rock Bluff in Liberty County. This is the designated type section for this formation. The Torreya Formation can be traced from its type section across Northeast Florida and into Madison County. 

Being able to distinguish and map lithostratigraphic units gives geologists the ability to see how geology changes over an area and over time. It also allows geologists to construct geologic maps and two-dimensional slices of the earth’s crust, called cross sections (pictured below). Important resources, like minerals and groundwater, are contained within geologic formations. Knowing how formations are distributed across an area in three dimensions, including how they are related to adjacent rock layers and what they are comprised of, allows geologists to more accurately identify mineral or groundwater resources.

If you are still thinking about Greek words and water comes to mind, it should be no surprise that the study of the relationship between groundwater and subsurface layers is called hydrostratigraphy, which will be explored in a later issue of FGS News and Research.

Cross sections representing slices through part of Florida

Contact:  Harley Means, P.G. Administrator

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FGS Continues Outreach Efforts Statewide


The mission of the FGS is to collect, interpret and provide objective, quality information about Florida to its customers. One way FGS accomplishes its mission is through various education and outreach events. The mission has continued to drive FGS professionals to engage in as many outreach efforts as possible since the new year. During 2017, FGS staff have taken part in a variety of events around the state.

January got off to an exciting start when Harley Means, P.G. Administrator, was interviewed for WFSU’s Local Routes program. The film segment, “A Geologist’s View of the Apalachicola River,” aired on February 9. This was the second of two educational videos he took part in for Local Routes, the first of which discussed fossils and archaeology. In addition to Local Routes, Harley worked with WFSU on a video about the Old Vero Man archaeological site for an upcoming Florida public television production.

The FGS was thrilled to be invited to Woodville K-8’s “STEAM Night” (celebrating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) at the beginning of February. Sarah Erb, Sarah Lovins, and Harley Means staffed the “FGS Rocks and Minerals Mobile Lab” booth. Children, educators, and even some interested parents asked questions related to fossil specimens, types of rocks, and watched demonstrations on how sediment settles and examples of limestone porosity. Children expressed awe at the size of the dugong rib fossil on display, discovered the beauty of a sea biscuit and the sharpness of shark teeth, while others enjoyed the hands-on aspect of fossil examination. A couple of students expressed an interest in becoming geologists and adults were just as inquisitive. It was clear the night was a success when all three FGS staff stayed busy answering questions from more than 50 booth visitors.  

On February 28, 18 students and four adults from the Cornerstone Learning Community came to the FGS Museum to hear professional geologist Christopher Williams discuss rocks and minerals and tour various specimens at the museum, such as a dugong skeleton and an extinct mako shark jaw. A similar opportunity was also provided during April to local Cub Scouts (Webelos) and their parents to help the scouts earn geology badges.

February also included talks about springs and sinkholes at the FSU Marine Lab and the Waterworks Science Salon. Director and State Geologist Jon Arthur also provided a lecture to 88 FSU students about the FGS, Florida’s hydrogeology and the geoscience profession.

FGS staff, including Laboratory Technician Jesse Hurd led a field trip to Alum Bluff along the Apalachicola River for a University of Florida Paleontology class. Another field trip to Alum Bluff was conducted for students of University of South Florida to view the area’s unique geological features.

The FGS shows no sign of slowing down during 2017 with its outreach efforts. Thanks to the hard work of Scott Barrett Dyer, Environmental Specialist, and Laboratory Technician Jesse Hurd, over 200 students at Roberts Elementary School learned about water transport with a new physical model developed at FGS, exhibiting how surface water and groundwater is transported in North Florida. Members of the Free Masons of the Jackson Lodge learned about sinkholes from FGS’s Clint Kromhout. 

These outreach events are just the beginning of what promises to be a productive year for public geoscience education. Most recently, FGS staff provided a “hands-on geology” booth for more than 200 people on Earth Day at Cascades Park in Tallahassee as part of the annual Healthy Communities Festival. We enjoyed one-on-one or one-on-many time with hundreds of visitors, and plans are already being made for Earth Science Week this Fall. The benefits of these outreach efforts have a positive and incalculable effect on our environment!

Contact: Sarah Erb, OMC Manager

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FGS Employee Accomplishments Highlighted for 2016


Top performers of 2016 were recognized at the recent FGS Awards Ceremony held at Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee. 

Sarah Erb, OMC Manager, was honored as the Employee of the Year for 2016. Sarah joined the FGS in 2011 as a part-time Secretary Specialist and part-time OPS working for the STATEMAP program. The following year, she became a full-time FTE as the Administrative Assistant to the FGS Director. In December of 2015, she was promoted as the section head for the FGS’ Administration Section, and was able to serve in this role for the first full year during 2016. Sarah is dedicated, hard-working and gets along with everyone.  

Traci Billingsley, Government Operations Consultant III, was honored with the Sustained Exemplary Performance Award for her continued excellence in service as FGS budget and grant coordinator, building and contract management, property custodian and multiple other duties. Her practical efficiency, insight, reliability and experience make her an invaluable asset to the FGS. Her work affects nearly every person at FGS, and her strong work ethic and willingness to go above and beyond for over 10 years at FGS make her deserving of this recognition.

An Individual Extra Effort Award was presented to Mary Esposito, Administrative Assistant III, due to her helpful, productive and cheerful willingness to do whatever it takes to help the FGS, even if it is not one of her core duties. Mary is always busy helping customers and FGS employees, serves as the HR and Training liaison, assists the FGS Director, and steps in whenever help is needed. When she joined the FGS in 2015, she instantly became an irreplaceable member of the FGS family.

Brianne Apolinar, Environmental Specialist III, was also presented with an award for Individual Extra Effort. Brianne was promoted from OPS to a grant-funded FTE during 2016, and stepped in during a critical time for the STATEMAP program. Her expertise, willingness to train others and hard work were crucial to help complete this important project. Brianne is a pleasure to work with and her coworkers admire her dedication.

A Team Extra Effort Award was presented to the Mosaic Geologist Monitoring Team, which was composed of Jon Arthur, Harley Means, David Paul, Alan Baker, Cindy Fischler, Dan Phelps, Tom Greenhalgh and Jim Cichon. The team spent more than 600 hours monitoring multiple drill crews at Mosaic’s New Wales Facility to provide strategic support to DEP to further ensure public health and safeguard natural resources. The team volunteered blocks of their time during the final weeks of December, fielded phones calls, met with public officials and provided critical updates on drilling progress in a tireless effort to meet the goals of the DEP and the FGS.

Finally, the FGS Interns that put in many hours during 2016 were recognized. They include Thomas Biamonte, Elena Brooks, Kyle Compare, Parisa Haghgou, Alexander Lamarche, Sarah Lindeman, Kendrick Nelson and Jared Raff.

Contact: Mary Esposito, Administrative Assistant III


What Can the FGS Librarian Do for You?


FGS has an incredible library of geologic information available to Florida’s citizens, but did you know that the Survey also has a dedicated Librarian Specialist, Doug Calman, that can help you find what you are looking for? Throughout the day, he answers reference queries which come in by phone, fax, email or via forms on the FGS website. He often refers customers to the appropriate staff who specialize in sinkhole questions.

Need to create PDFs of FGS library materials for research purposes? Some FGS library materials are not under copyright restrictions but, if they are, Fair Use provisions of the U.S. copyright law often allow making single copies of certain documents. For ease of use, the librarian can use a map scanner and a large format plotter for scanning or making plots of oversize materials.

Of course, if you are not sure what materials you need, the librarian can run a geological literature search for you using the GeoRef database, which is administered by the American Geosciences Institute. Additional databases can be searched, such as the Cambridge Scientific Abstracts or Google Scholar, which also show articles cited by a relevant reference.

Once a few good references on a specific topic are compiled, this dedicated librarian can run a cited author search on the Web of Science database, an often-overlooked method of locating relevant research materials.

The State Library provides state employees with Inter-Library Loan (ILL) forms to assist in obtaining research materials not owned by the FGS Library. Likewise, ILL forms come to the FGS Library daily to share the FGS collection with other libraries across the country.

Not sure where to start? The FGS Library is open at the FGS headquarters in Tallahassee from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. FGS publications can be recommended to you that may be best for answering your research needs, and Doug Calman will assist with obtaining the full text.

FGS publications are all online as PDFs for free downloading, and publications which are still in print may be purchased in paper from the library. See our List of Publications for available publications with prices for printed copies. FGS helps users navigate the website and use the FGS Library’s Web Catalog.

Of course, reference materials are just the start! Are you an educator? If so, the FGS librarian will mail out free posters to K-12 teachers.

Please contact Doug Calman to make use of the vast information and services available at FGS.

Contact: Doug Calman, Librarian Specialist

LiDAR Continues to Shed Light in Florida

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), or 3D scanning of the Earth’s surface, is a method in which pulsed laser light is used to measure elevations. This important data is used by geologists, engineers, archaeologists, farmers and many other professions. The FGS has used LiDAR for various projects that help to increase understanding of Florida’s geology.



One of FGS' many uses of LiDAR over the past year has been documenting sinkholes in areas across Florida. Field geologists used existing and publicly available LiDAR data as a base layer to identify possible sinkholes prior to beginning field work and the data proved to be very useful in helping direct field crews to potential sinkholes. The data also served as a navigation aid in areas where the terrain made it difficult to access possible sinkhole features, and it was useful for locating sinkholes where the visibility was obscured by vegetation. In addition to locating potential sinkholes and areas prone to sinkhole activity, field geologists could determine slope, depth and diameter of the preexisting features using the LiDAR-derived terrain models and avoid potentially dangerous situations while working in hazardous landscapes.

The STATEMAP program, a cooperatively-funded surficial geologic mapping initiative within the FGS Geological Investigations Section, also uses LiDAR to improve surficial geologic mapping and to search for geologic contacts within a study area. Prior to beginning field work, STATEMAP staff locate, gather and stitch together sections of LiDAR data to create a topographic base map. It can be difficult to manage many of the data sets they accumulate since some are of different resolutions and quality levels, and in many instances, a portion of the study area does not have any data. STATEMAP geologists also use LiDAR prior to scheduling field work to optimize their time in the field. They use the data to map potential geological contacts and geomorphic features by noting consistent and apparent elevation changes. 

LiDAR also has important implications for learning more about springs. The FGS’ Applied Geoscience Services (AGS) Section has been using terrestrial LiDAR near the Florida Big Bend coastline to locate and document several small springs. In this low-lying area, staff geologists use the LiDAR-derived terrain models to locate small streams that originate as springs. The models help the geologists navigate the thick brush and swamps and avoid marshy areas. In addition, the AGS uses LiDAR to organize and plan dye-trace studies for select springs and swallets. The LiDAR is used to identify sample points during attempts to trace the flow of surface water as it descends underground through swallets and eventually emerges at a spring vent further down stream.

LiDAR data currently used by the FGS was acquired at different places, over many years and at various resolutions. A joint goal of state and federal partners across the nation is to acquire consistent, statewide LiDAR coverage. An assessment is currently being conducted to determine whether uniform and simultaneous LiDAR data collection would facilitate a variety of applications across government agencies and spur innovations not possible today.

Contact: Alan Baker, P.G. Administrator


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