An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Can citizen scientists turn the tide against America’s toxic algal blooms?

‘Red tides’ are an annual hazard in Florida and other coastal areas but a monitoring project can help limit harm to humans

Nearly every day, Florida resident Pradeepa Siva goes paddleboarding through Doctors Pass in Naples. The thin passageway between Moorings Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is home to a couple of friendly dolphins, which Siva often sees on her outings.

But the journey is about more than exercise and wildlife sightings, because when Siva paddleboards she is also participating in a government-funded science project aimed at protecting public health. As climate change brings warming ocean waters, predictions of a dangerous phenomenon known as “red tide” are on the rise.

Red tides occur when warming waters and other factors spur the growth of a type of rust-colored alga known as Karenia brevis. The alga produces toxic compounds that are harmful to humans as well as dolphins, manatees, shellfish and other sea life. Exposure to the organism can cause respiratory illnesses and other problems for people who are exposed, and, in rare occasions, be debilitating or even fatal.