Mote researcher trying to discover what causes red tide to bloom

Dr. Jordon Beckler believes local rivers could be to blame

red tied

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials say a large red tide bloom formed within the past week, covering hundreds of miles from Pinellas County to South Florida.

Red Tide can stain the water, kill fish and cause respiratory problems in humans. The cause of the algae is still a mystery, but a Mote Marine Laboratory scientist is starting a research project to try and crack the code.

“It’s incredibly complex,” Dr. Jordon Beckler said.

But Beckler believes local rivers could be contributing to this mess. He said the rivers and estuaries are dumping iron into the Gulf of Mexico, and iron stimulates the creation of red tide.

“The best thing that we can aim to do is to really try and understand the system, provide better prediction,” Beckler said.

Beckler said it’s possible humans could be contributing to this iron spike in the water, however, it’s too early to know for sure.

He just received a two-year, $76,000 federal grant to study the problem. Starting next month, he’ll conduct longterm experiments, taking soil samples in local rivers and studying the iron that seeps into the water. If he’s successful, scientists will be able to predict when blooms will form and find ways to stop it.

“Eventually we’re gonna get it,” Beckler said with a smile. “It’s absolutely imperative to fully characterize and fully understand the system before we can prescribe any sort of recommendation.”

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