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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012–1131

Fluorescent Tracer Experiment on Holiday Beach near Mugu Canyon, Southern California

By Nicole Kinsman, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and J.P. Xu, U.S. Geological Survey

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3 MB)Abstract

After revisiting sand tracer techniques originally developed in the 1960s, a range of fluorescent coating formulations were tested in the laboratory. Explicit steps are presented for the preparation of the formulation evaluated to have superior attributes, a thermoplastic pigment/dye in a colloidal mixture with a vinyl chloride/vinyl acetate copolymer. In September 2010, 0.59 cubic meters of fluorescent tracer material was injected into the littoral zone about 4 kilometers upcoast of Mugu submarine canyon in California. The movement of tracer was monitored in three dimensions over the course of 4 days using manual and automated techniques. Detailed observations of the tracer’s behavior in the coastal zone indicate that this tracer successfully mimicked the native beach sand and similar methods could be used to validate models of tracer movement in this type of environment. Recommendations including how to time successful tracer studies and how to scale the field of view of automated camera systems are presented along with the advantages and disadvantages of the described tracer methodology.

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For additional information:
Contact Information, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Science Center
400 Natural Bridges Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

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Suggested citation:

Kinsman, N., and Xu, J.P., 2012, Fluorescent tracer experiment on Holiday Beach near Mugu Canyon: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012–1131. (Available at




Field Experiment

Summary and Recommendations


References Cited

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