Thursday, November 10, 2016

How to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout Series
Part 1: Why monitor archaeological sites

HMS Florida is a public engagement program and systematic reporting system initiated by the Florida Public Archaeology Network that includes a growing number of partnering institutions, professional archaeologists as Mentoring Scouts, and now more than 50 Heritage Monitoring Scout volunteers. Over the next few months, Scout Mentors will be posting as part of this how-to series resources to encourage you to get out there. Part 1 will focus on why we monitor. Images post-Matthew do more to express the need to monitor and why the need is so urgent. The images document changes seen at the site over time, the goal of site monitoring.

Shell Bluff Landing at the GTM-NERR (blue the week before Matthew, orange the week after):

Shell Bluff Landing at GTM-NERR, open and interpreted for the public.

Minorcan well, just one of the many components of the Shell Bluff Landing site.

Top view of Minorcan well pre and post Matthew. 

Sarah points to intact midden and failing (then failed) stabilization webbing at Shell Bluff Landing.

Emily Jane as a scale to show damage of uprooted tree, note eroded soil from roots post Matthew.

Rebar was installed decades ago to help track erosion at Shell Bluff Landing. Can see what was lost in the storm.

A Citizen Science photo station installed by the GTM-NERR, note land mass to the west of the stand now eroded.

Erosion of Shell Bluff Landing results in accretion on this beach, note fallen trees.

Monitoring archaeological sites is a form of service to our community, the environment, and past cultures. It honors all three to be able to say you've been to these places, and with a purpose. And it can be very simple. Outside of archaeology, think of where you see monitoring taking place. In the restroom at Publix the other day, I noticed a checklist mounted on the wall with basic sanitation criteria, check boxes, and line for signature by the hour. That log is kept to make sure that room is sanitary, safe, and checked regularly. And that log is posted so customers know it's happening and can appreciate the attention given to keeping that space maintained. It's a simple systematic record used to describe changes during the day, note what needs maintenance, and provide information to the person on the next shift.
Site monitoring of a different sort.

Translated to cultural resources, the database built by the Heritage Monitoring Scouts will help provide basic information to document change over time in light of the rapidly changing climate of our planet. Monitoring takes place currently in many places across Florida--however--there are significant gaps, storage of monitoring data falls through the cracks, and few offer opportunities to Florida's greatest resource--motivated citizens who want to get out there and make a difference. 

Sea levels are rising in Florida 20 percent faster than the global rate. Local governments are already planning for major changes to the infrastructure, including elevating roads and shifting development, to prepare for a future only 50 years from now. Cultural resources will be left behind. Fifty years from now many will be eroded out, flooded, or destroyed by future development. Some disappeared in a single day October 8th. 

A new inlet formed from the Atlantic to the Matanzas (NPR: USGS)

Coastal erosion of Vilano Beach, Florida (NPR: USGS)

Monitoring a shipwreck post Matthew.

So let's look at the positive. Let's enjoy these places while they are still here. Let's raise our own quality of life; get out there on the water, or on a hiking trail, or out with friends or your favorite civic group. Site monitoring is good for you and good for the sites. Besides, you never know which site you may be the last to see before a site is damaged or destroyed. It could be your record and your images land managers use next to make decisions and describe changes to the landscape.

If you have not yet registered to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout, the application form can be found at We also encourage you to join the conversation of heritage at risk on the #EnvArch Facebook group. Check back as add resources and instructions to this series in the coming weeks.

How to be a Heritage Monitoring Scout Series #HMSflorida

Text: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff 
Images: Emily Jane Murray, Robbie Boggs, Sara Ayers-Rigsby and Sarah Miller
NPR: USGS images from this article: 
Bathroom cleaning template:

Many thanks to the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuary Research Reserve staff and volunteers who helped monitor Shell Bluff Landing last month but also every other month. Shell Bluff Landing is open an interpreted for the public, hence this post does not give out any sensitive site information not already made public. 

And much thanks to HMS volunteers and mentors who came out post Matthew to help document and train others. 

One Response so far.

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