|Home||Archived February 20, 2019||(i)|
USGS Florida Integrated Science Center in St. Petersburg Hosts Public for Community Forum on Red Tide
The past several years have seen persistent outbreaks of harmful algal blooms along Florida's west coast. Related fish kills and respiratory ailments affect tourism along the beaches, creating public concern regarding the cause of these events. The Red Tide Forum, a scientific workshop held July 17-July 20, 2006, was designed to bring together scientists from across a wide array of disciplines to discuss the future research needs surrounding blooms of the dinoflagellate species Karenia brevis in the Gulf of Mexico. The workshopsponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Mote Marine Laboratory, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI)convened nearly 70 scientists hailing from many different organizations, including NOAA, FWRI, the University of South Florida, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW), and Mote Marine Laboratory.
Because of intense public interest, a public forum was held on the evening of July 20, 2006, immediately after the Red Tide Forum. Scientists from the workshop spoke with the public and addressed questions from audience members. Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., hosted the public forum, setting up links with two satellite locations so that citizens throughout west-central Florida could participate and interact with the panel of researchers. The first satellite location was at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)'s Florida Integrated Science Center office in St. Petersburg, an important Federal partner in a vibrant community of marine-science research institutions concentrated in the city's downtown; and the second was at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
"The goal was to get as many involved as we could," said Nadine Slimak, public information officer at Mote. "The public has a lot of questions," she added. The algae that cause red tide, Karenia brevis, are responsible for widespread fish kills, respiratory distress in humans, and neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, which can harm those who consume shellfish. In 2005 alone, 89 manatee deaths were attributed to red tide. "This [forum] is an opportunity for researchers to identify where the research questions lie," Slimak said.
Technology at Mote Marine Laboratory and the two satellite locations enabled all those in attendance to see PowerPoint presentations and to be seen and heard by the panelist researchers. Don Anderson of WHOI opened the public forum with an overview of key facts about red tide and its impacts and a summary of results from the scientific workshop. He pointed out that although scientists know a great deal about red tidethey have a clear picture of what red tide is, research and technology have allowed mapping and prediction of red-tide blooms, and detailed data have been compiled regarding how red tide can adversely affect marine and terrestrial lifescientists have yet to pinpoint the direct cause of red tide or develop a sound means of mitigation. "We don't have the critical knowledge at this point to understand how red tide blooms," said panelist and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center researcher Mario Sengco.
The USGS office in St. Petersburg hosted 21 audience memberscitizens of all ages seeking answers about red tide. "We're very concerned," said Andrea Antaya, who moved to the west coast of Florida from Cape Cod, Mass. She regards seafood and sailing as essential parts of life that are threatened by harmful red-tide blooms. Antaya recalled her first experience with a red-tide bloom in Florida; she was on the beach and had a "terribly allergic reaction," but the "doctors didn't have an answer." Antaya wanted to know if red-tide blooms are triggered by human activity. Forum participants asked questions that ranged in subject matter from protecting manatees to the downside of certain mitigation techniques currently being studied, such as clay flocculation (in which tiny particles of clay are sprayed onto the water: the clay sticks to the algal cells, and the resulting clumps sink to the bottom; see URL http://www.serc.si.edu/labs/protistan_ecology/flocculation.jsp). Many who asked questions were residents of beach communities seeking a definitive answer as to whether or not pollution is the direct cause of a perceived increase in red-tide blooms, and what can be done about it.
For more information about the Red Tide Forum, please visit About the Red Tide Forum. (This link can also be found by entering the keywords "red tide forum, mote" into an Internet search engine.)
in this issue:
Community Forum on Red Tide
|Home||Archived February 20, 2019|