FGCU gets state grant to study harmful algae blooms

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne
Published: Updated:
FILE Photo from summer 2018 in Southwest Florida. Blue-green algae within a residential canal that leads to the Caloosahatchee River. Credit: WINK News.

Florida Gulf Coast University is one of four colleges getting more money from the state of Florida to study harmful algal blooms. The grant is significant for our water quality and another step toward finding out how being around algae can affect our health.

Anthony, a Cape Coral resident, is no stranger to harmful algal blooms. In 2018, his canal had an awful smell and was unsightly. The blue-green algae in his canal caught the attention of FGCU researchers.

“He [FGCU’s Dr. Mike Parsons] came,” Anthony said. “He installed an air sampler that had some mesh filters. I watched him put it together. It seemed like there was ten filters.”

The algae raised health concerns for many. Anthony said many people in his neighborhood were having respiratory problems. Now, the Florida Dept. of Health is taking notice, too, with a grant of around $60,000.

“I’m glad DOH is paying attention,” said Dr. Barry Rosen, a professor of the Water School at FGCU. “They’ve been involved in harmful algal blooms for a number of years, but this is the first time, I think, they’ve awarded money to actually doing research on it.”

Rosen will take part in that research. He said it would give them the first step toward understanding BMAA, which is a type of amino acid found in cyanobacteria or blue-green algae.

Part of the goal is to figure out what danger BMAA presents to people. You cannot put a price tag on bettering the quality of our water, but that does not mean it does not come without a cost.

“We need to do something about it,” Anthony said.

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