Red tide research gets a $840K funding boost from FWC

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

From Tampa to the Florida keys, red tide research is getting a boost. It comes from $840,000 in grants to two Florida universities and Mote Marine.

Researchers hope to learn to better prepare for, forecast and respond to harmful algal blooms.

Red tide map, November 22.

Above is the red tide map from last Tuesday.

Red tide map, November 29.

And this is the one from Thursday. Clearly, a week has made a big difference. So have the winds and current.

Holly Milbrandt knows the blooms both personally and professionally as the City of Sanibel’s director of natural resources.

“It’s devastating. I mean, we’ve been experiencing red tides for many years. And if you look at the records, while 2018 was certainly notable, we’ve had some former red tide in the Gulf of Mexico every year for nearly the last 50,” said Milbrandt.

It’s hard on our environment, health, and economy.

“The questions that we always get are, what can we do about it? Why can’t we stop it?” Milbrandt said.

The state’s harmful algal bloom task force works to get those answers, and it’s why the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission awarded three grants to groups studying karenia brevis, or red tide.

Recipient Younggang Liu, an associate research professor with the University of South Florida, models and observes ocean currents.

“Physical oceanography is so important because the ocean circulation pretty much determine, effect, everything in the water offshore and in, you know, seawater column,” said Liu.

Those currents determine where a bloom goes and how long it stays.

Water current models

“We can simulate and provide forecasts over time,” said Liu.

University of Florida researchers are creating an index to better understand coastal communities’ vulnerability to red tide.

Mote Marine Laboratory focuses on shellfish, creating protocols and strategies to protect sea life after bloom exposure.

“There are a lot of people working on this and trying to think about, you know, how we can understand red tide better, and what the options are maybe to reduce its severity and limited limit its impact on our coastal communities,” Milbrandt said.

The more we know, the more we can prepare for, forecast, and control the smelly, harmful blooms and protect our paradise.

The grants cover projects for 18 months. Liu says it could take longer for a completely accurate forecast model to be implemented.

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