Tampa Bay Nutrient Red Tide Algae Study Gets Financial Support

Scientists studying how to reduce the nutrients that fuel algal blooms in Tampa Bay will soon start collecting data, and they now have funding to help fund their research.

Members of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have been in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory for months to prepare for their study on nitrogen in rainwater, stormwater and wastewater effluent. The goal is to ultimately determine which sources feed toxic red tide algal blooms in Tampa Bay in two dry seasons and two wet seasons.

RELATED: New study to determine which source of nutrient pollution is fueling the red tide the most in Tampa Bay

Marie lusk, an assistant professor in the Department of Soil and Water Sciences at UF, said she believes this study will help alleviate harmful algal blooms in the bay.

“Anything that gives us more information about where these nutrients come from, mainly nitrogen, anything that gives us more information about the physiology and growth of Karenia brevis and how it reacts to different sources nutrients in the urban environment, whatever gives us more. knowledge and understanding about it is one more step, ”she said.

The UF team, including PhD student Amanda Muni-Morgan – who is also behind this initiative – will be responsible for monitoring storm activity to collect rainfall and runoff from streets and sidewalks for analysis nitrogen and phosphorus in a laboratory.

Mote will then use those samples to examine near shore nutrient sources and the role they play in expanding summer blooms, like the super bloom in Tampa Bay this summer.

“Mary’s group are storm chasers. We are sort of flower hunters, ”said Cynthia heil, Principal Investigator at Mote and Director of the Red Tide Institute.

“From an earlier study, we know there are over 13, maybe 14 now if you add Piney Point, sources of nutrients for red tides,” she said. “These inputs near the shore are one of them. This is the next step to start taking a closer look at these nutrients near the ribs and start separating them. “

A recent $ 80,000 grant from Tampa Bay Estuary Program will expand the project in three ways, Lusk said.

First, researchers will be able to perform an expensive analysis called isotopic characterization of nitrogen in runoff that will determine exactly where it comes from: precipitation, pet waste, fertilizer, etc.

Second, they are also able to examine Pyrodinium bahamense, which is a dinoflagellate that blooms regularly in coastal Florida waters, including Tampa Bay, Florida Bay, and Indian River Lagoon, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Toxic blooms can contaminate fish and shellfish and threaten public health, as can the red tide organism Karenia brevis.

And third, the funds will open the door to an education program on the links between air pollutants and water quality. Materials will be available in English and Spanish to explain to residents how nitrogen in the atmosphere can contribute to water quality problems in Tampa Bay.

“Nitrogen is naturally present in the atmosphere,” Lusk said. “But we also have a lot of excess anthropogenic or man-made nitrogen that can be in the atmosphere, which can come from things like vehicle exhaust or emissions from power plants, things like that. … And it can come back down to Earth. “

Researchers plan to start chasing storms and blooms in the predominantly residential area of ​​Hillsborough and Pinellas counties this month.

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