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Are humans making toxic algae blooms worse and more frequent? A new study aims to finds out

Researchers will look to sediments for information on past blooms and what they can tell us about today's events.

A new study launching next week aims to answer some frequently asked questions about toxic algae blooms in Florida’s coastal waters: Are they getting worse? And are people the reason why?

Scientists with Eckerd College in St. Petersburg and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will assist their partners from Utrecht University in the Netherlands on the project looking into the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, and other micro-algae.

Red tide blooms can be fatal to manatees, fish and other marine life. Coastal tourism and fishing industries can also come to a crashing halt during events of medium-to-high levels of Karenia brevis being present due to the stench of dead fish washing ashore and the coughing people can experience.

Francesca Sangiorgi, an associate professor in Utrecht's Department of Geosciences, said they will use a pipe to collect sediment samples from the Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor seafloors to document past blooms.

"Layer by layer by layer, they accumulate year after year. And we can, basically by looking and studying the sediment, (read) the history of these harmful algal bloom like we would read a history book," she said.