The red tide bloom remains offshore of Florida’s Gulf Coast, and no impacts have been detected alongshore this week as of Wednesday, Aug. 13, according to a team of scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Mote Marine Laboratory and the University of South Florida (USF) who continue to monitor the bloom.
According to the last clear satellite images taken on Aug. 8, the bloom was reported to be patchy, up to 60 miles wide and 90 miles long, and at least 20 miles offshore between Dixie and northern Pinellas counties. The next update, including coastal water sampling results from this week, will be available on Aug. 15 at myfwc.com/redtidestatus. Recent forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show slow south-southeast movement of the surface bloom parallel to the coastline, and slow southeast movement of bloom on bottom waters.
Waldo the robot comes home to Mote
Mote Marine Laboratory’s underwater robot “Waldo” returned home today, Aug. 13, to Mote’s main campus on City Island, Sarasota, following its successful mission to monitor conditions along the eastern edge of the bloom. Waldo, an autonomous underwater vehicle, was recovered by Mote staff on a boat about 15 miles off Pinellas County after the robot finished zig-zagging south over 140 miles from the central part of the bloom to beyond the southern edge last shown by satellite images.
Waldo monitored conditions such as water temperature, salinity, depth and the presence of Karenia brevis using a red tide detector called an optical phytoplankton discriminator, also known as the BreveBuster, which was developed at Mote to support short-term red tide forecasting by USF and FWC.
Waldo sends basic data to Mote during each mission via satellite transmitter; now that the robot is back at the Lab, scientists will be able to look at all the data it collected to develop a more detailed analyses of what Waldo saw during its mission. Mote scientists are studying the bloom to also understand what other types of microscopic algae are present along with the red tide algae.
Once Waldo was safely on board, the Mote team also collected water samples and and other data including temperature, depth, salinity and chlorophyll at multiple locations between the endpoint of Waldo’s mission and Mote’s Lab. Samples will be analyzed in the coming days to count any red tide algae cells to determine the whether red tide is present in these locations and at what level.
The USF robot “Bass” is still on patrol along the eastern edge of the bloom, collecting physical and optical data to support forecasting. Bass will look at deep waters of the bloom to better describe its southern boundary.
Mote and FWC scientists to keep watch on Southwest Florida waters
It is important to monitor south of the bloom’s last known edge (offshore of northern Pinellas County) because recent forecasts suggest it will move slowly south and southeast parallel to the coast. On Aug. 19, Mote and FWC scientists plan to collect water samples and additional data by boat from multiple locations along Southwest Florida’s coast. This sampling trip is part of the FWC-Mote Cooperative Red Tide Program. Together, FWC and Mote sampling efforts will cover a wider swath of ocean and provide more types of data for research at both institutions.
Mote and FWC will sample 16 coastal sites and four offshore sites between Tampa Bay in Pinellas County and San Carlos Bay in Lee County. FWC will cover a northern group of stations and Mote will cover a southern group. At all locations, the researchers will collect temperature, depth and conductivity data (to measure salinity) and gather water samples to count red tide algae cells. At select locations, additional data will be collected on other factors that relate to blooms, including waterborne nutrients, toxins, and pigments to understand what types of microscopic algae are present.
Red tide resources:
- Statewide red tide updates and info from FWC: http://myfwc.com/redtide
- Statewide updates in the HAB Bulletin from NOAA: http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/hab/
- Red tide information from Mote, including FAQs and the Beach Conditions Report: a monitoring system for red tide impacts on multiple Florida beaches: https://mote.org/news/environment-updates#RedTide
- Google Earth users can see robot Bass’ position at: http://ooma.marine.usf.edu/CROW/ (Waldo's name appears too; his mission is complete.)
- Learn about red tide on Facebook from this FWC-Mote page about Florida’s harmful algal blooms: www.facebook.com/flhabs
- Latest model forecasts from USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides at: http://cprweb.marine.usf.edu/