FORT PIERCE, Fla.  Harmful algal blooms (HABs) of the toxin-producing dinoflagellate Karenia brevis occur regularly within the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the frequency of these red tide events and the amount of publicly available information, there persists a gap in knowledge about the organism itself, management actions, and the real and perceived health risks to Florida’s residents and tourists  

Soon, residents, visitors, businesses, throughout the state will be a part of a robust communication program developed by scientists designed to improve access to red tide information.  

Florida Sea Grant has the distinct honor as one of two recipients on record for the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Grant program with a $92,471 award. The first two HAB Grant Program recipients were announced on July 10 by the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI)an arm of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) 

The FWRI HAB Grant Program supports projects that address priority recommendations of the FWC-FWRI HAB Task Force with plans to provide competitive grant opportunities annually from this point.  

The Florida Sea Grant project will create a comprehensive communication plan for residents, visitors, and businesses for HABs occurrences. In Florida, these HABs, caused by a naturally occurring algal species known as Karenia brevis and found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, produce toxins that are harmful to people, wildlife and the economy, causing serious implications to many sectors of the sunshine state. 

The Development of a Red Tide Communication Plan for Florida will be brought to life through a multidisciplinary approach with collaborating scientists from UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS), hosted by Texas A&M University. 

Florida Sea Grant has been integral in bringing together scientists from various institutions to help advance the science of harmful algal blooms in Florida.

Lisa Krimsky

Florida Sea Grant has been integral in bringing together scientists from various institutions to help advance the science of harmful algal blooms in Florida. We are excited to expand these efforts and develop a communication strategy that meets the needs of Florida’s residents and businesses,” said said Lisa Krimsky, the project’s principal investigator, and a regional specialized water resources agent based in Fort Pierce, FL. This project is at the core of what Florida Sea Grant does, engaging diverse audiences in science-based solutions to support a healthy coastal environment and economy.”   

Krimsky is part of the Florida Sea Grant team of five Water Resource Regional Specialized Agents located across the state to lead and support water resource extension education programs. Krimsky’s efforts are focused primarily in southeast Florida, particularly along the Indian River Lagoon Estuary. Her programs help solve water resource issues that are critical to the economic development and environmental protection in Florida. 

Joining Krimsky, are co-principal investigators Elizabeth Staugler and Nancy Motes of UF/IFAS Florida Sea Grant, and Chris Simoniello of GCOOS. 

A statewide communication plan will improve the public’s access to and understanding of red tide information, allowing for improved decision-making during bloom events, reduced economic impacts to coastal communities, and improved quality of life with lower exposure to brevetoxins,” said Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Staugler, Florida Sea Grant agent and HAB liaison to NOAA, based in Charlotte County.  

Staugler specializes in ecosystem health with emphasis on citizen science-based research, communication of HAB detection/forecast information, and conveying algal ecology and bloom effects on ecosystems and people.  

The specific objectives of the project will: 

-Compile a review of current red tide communication and outreach products at the local, regional, and statewide level; 

-Evaluate the public’s perception on the value and ease of use of existing red tide communication resources;  

-Evaluate red tide information needs and wants, assess how demographics influence how red tide information is received and why certain delivery modes are preferred; 

-Develop a communication strategy for Florida red tides comprising short-term event responses and guidance towards a long-term educational campaign, with both approaches using multilingual and multimodal outreach materials. 

Updates will be provided to the Task Force throughout the duration of the projectTo learn more visit: https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/taskforce/ 

By: Lourdes Rodriguez, 954-577-6363 office, 954-242-8439 mobile, rodriguezl@ufl.edu