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Research site may expand

Published Oct. 9, 2005

A dozen movers and shakers plan to meet today to discuss plans to expand _ perhaps double _ the federal Center for Coastal Geology in St. Petersburg.

The discussions are part of a two-year effort to add to the 47 U.S. Geological Survey employees at the coastal geology center, near the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus. The center is part of a growing oceanographic research complex that includes five state and federal agencies and 500 employees.

"There's an interest by USGS in exploring the possibilities for further expansion," said Abby Sallenger, chief of the coastal geology center.

Gary Hill, chief of the USGS office of energy and marine geology, is traveling from Reston, Va., to attend the meeting. Others who will attend include representatives of the University of South Florida, local civic and business leaders and politicians.

Paul Getting, executive director of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said many who will attend today's meeting are the people who jump-started the research complex in 1988. At the time, people from different agencies worked together to renovate the old Studebaker Building at 600 Fourth St. S for the USGS.

The Studebaker Building was built in 1925 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovation of the building was financed through a cooperative arrangement among the University of South Florida, USGS and St. Petersburg Progress Inc.

However, if the coastal geology center were to expand, USGS would need another building, Getting said. Getting said USF has set aside some land next to the Studebaker building for expansion.

"It's an opportunity for us to continue our relationship and see if we can get another building built," he said.

Getting said St. Petersburg is becoming "one of the pre-eminent marine science centers in the country." He said that with continued development, it could become as widely known nationally as Woods Hole, the marine research center in Massachusetts.

Sallenger, chief of the coastal geology center, said that national geological organizations already are looking to hold conferences in St. Petersburg. In 1995, the Society for Sedimentary Geology will hold a symposium that is expected to draw 700 scientists.

Sallenger said St. Petersburg's low cost of living and the success of the cooperative effort so far will continue to draw such of conferences _ and the continued commitment of the USGS.

"It's been very attractive since we've been here," Sallenger said. "Everybody's very pleased with the way things have been going."