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Mote scientist awarded grant to study how iron influences harmful algal blooms

Dr. Jordon Beckler, Ocean Technology Research Program manager at Mote Marine Laboratory, was recently awarded an Early-Career Research Fellowship from the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study how the presence of iron may affect harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Gulf of Mexico.

A harmful algal bloom is the uncontrolled growth of naturally occurring algae in freshwater or the marine environment, including the toxin-producing algae Karenia brevis that causes near-annual occurrences of Florida red tide. Florida red tide blooms normally begin in low-nutrient waters offshore, and sometimes they are carried to the coast. They can result in fish kills, manatee deaths and human health effects.

The Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowships recognize professionals at early stages of their careers for exceptional leadership, past performance and potential for future contributions to improving human health and well-being or environmental protection.

“This year’s fellows reflect the wide range of expertise and experience that the Gulf and other coastal regions’ complex, interdisciplinary challenges call for," said Maggie Walser, fellowships director for the Gulf Research Program. “Through these fellowships, the Gulf Research Program is strengthening the long-term scientific and technical capacities that are needed in coastal regions while also supporting an exemplary set of young researchers and professionals.”

The two-year, $76,000 grant will allow Beckler to continue his research on ocean chemistry — particularly iron chemistry — to better understand HAB formation and behavior, explore the potential for iron in the environment to indirectly fuel HABs, and to unravel how iron may affect ecosystem dynamics, economics and human health.