31 Oct Journey to the sea has a rocky start
Eager for a change of scenery, Kris Kaufman left Ohio after high school to study environmental sciences in the Rocky Mountains. Serendipity knocked in her sophomore year at the University of Colorado. A summer abroad diving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef immersed her in a new passion – oceanography. Two years later, Kris departed Boulder to assess seagrasses in Florida’s largest open-water estuary, Tampa Bay.
“I fell in love with the bay, the beauty and the biology of the estuary.”
Seagrasses are an important barometer of the bay’s health because they require clean water to flourish. They’re also nurseries for fish, shrimp, and crabs that hide among the blades and feast on decaying leaves. Kaufman monitors these marine meadows from the sky and in the water for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, coordinating aerial surveys of the bay every two years using remote sensing and GIS mapping. “Imagine sending a fancy digital camera up in a plane and being able to see down to the bottom of the bay from 10,000 feet.”
Did you know? Improving water quality allows sunlight to reach the bay bottom and fosters the natural recovery of seagrasses.